Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 6-8

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.”

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 146 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! How good it is to sing to our God, how sweet and befitting, to praise Him! YHVH rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; He calls each of them by name.

The Lord is great, and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond measure. YHVH lifts up the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Isaiah 30 : 19-21, 23-26

O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, He will listen; when He hears, He will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, He, your Teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see Him, and your ear will listen to His words behind you : “This is the way, walk in it.”

He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill.

The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when YHVH binds up the wounds of His people and heals the bruises inflicted by His blows.

Friday, 7 December 2018 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we come together listening to the word of God in which we heard about the coming of God’s healing, mercy and forgiveness, which we heard from the prophet Isaiah, the Psalm and the Gospel passage of today. We ought to look up to the coming of God’s kingdom of peace, love and harmony and put our hope in Him, especially during the time of preparation in this season of Advent.

First of all, in the reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard about the promise of liberation and salvation which would come to the people of God, Israel. It was a promise and hope that the people were looking forward to, especially if we understand the history and the context behind what the prophet Isaiah has proclaimed before the people of Israel.

At that time, during the latter years of the kingdom of Judah, the southern half and division of the ancient kingdom of Israel, while the kingdom was prosperous and led by the good and faithful king Hezekiah, but the northern kingdom of Israel has been destroyed and its people brought into exile and scattered by the Assyrians. And the Assyrians themselves came up all the way to Judah and besieged Jerusalem.

If not for God’s intervention that caused the Assyrians to leave the city of God aside after the Angel of God slaughtered almost the entire Assyrian army, the kingdom of Judah itself would have suffered the same fate as its northern brethren. And the kingdom and people of Judah also had many other often hostile and powerful neighbours who always sought for the opportunity to destroy them.

With the understanding of this historical context, now we should be able to appreciate better just how important and good the hope which the prophet Isaiah has given the people with what he proclaimed to them as recorded in the Book. That hope is anchored in the mind of the people of God with the expectation of the coming Messiah or Saviour that God has promised His people, the One Who was said that He would be the Son of David.

And in the Gospel passage today we heard just exactly what had been fulfilled in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of David and Son of God, Who came into the world to fulfil the Lord’s promises to His people. He healed all those who came to Him with sicknesses and problems, those who have been possessed by evil spirits and in other forms of trouble. He healed them all and provided them the fullness of God’s love and compassionate mercy.

Thus in the readings we heard today, we heard all that we should reflect on throughout this blessed time of Advent, in the lead-up to Christmas. Advent is a time for us to reorientate ourselves and our lives, and to refocus our attention and focus on God, the One Whom all of us are expecting in this season. We remember both of His historical coming into this world as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, all that He has done, but also the upcoming eternal kingdom of God at the end of time.

All of us are people who are afflicted and in suffering, just as the people of Judah in Isaiah’s time suffered from the various conditions mentioned earlier in today’s discourse, and just as the blind men in the Gospel and the other people with various problems who came to Jesus for healing and mercy. We are afflicted like them, because of our sins. Sin is the worst affliction of all, as sin strikes at the deepest part of ourselves, and there is no healing for sin, except for the mercy and forgiveness from God.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to go and seek God’s mercy, and reorientate our lives during the opportunity that God has given us during this season of Advent? Are we going to let this upcoming Christmas season be just like the other Christmas seasons that have passed, if we have not been celebrating it right, and with the wrong focus and intention? God is calling us to repent from our sins and to return to Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Ambrose, whose life and inspiration, whose dealings with sinners can be a good example for us to follow. St. Ambrose was the famous bishop of Milan, who was considered among the four original Doctors of the Church, for his great intellect and wisdom, his great leadership of the Church, both in Milan and beyond, and for his many other contributions to the Church.

St. Ambrose was born of a Roman noble family, and rose to the rank of governor of the province of what is now northern Italy, because of his many talents and good works. He was beloved by many of the people because of his great contributions and commitment to serve the people. And when the Arian heretic bishop of Milan died, St. Ambrose was chosen by acclamation to be the new bishop of Milan from all the people even when he was not even a priest yet.

St. Ambrose dedicated himself to the ministry of the episcopate and the shepherding of the people of God. He spoke out strongly against heresies and against all those who sought to oppose the good works of the Church. And in one notable event, St. Ambrose himself went up against the powerful Roman Emperor, Theodosius the Great, when the Emperor ordered a massacre in the city of Thessalonica in Greece.

St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor for the blatant act of sin in the massacre, in the killing of many innocents amidst the massacre. And the Emperor acceded to the demands of St. Ambrose for a public show of repentance and penance. The Emperor publicly admitted his errors in sackcloth, and was welcomed back into the Church by St. Ambrose, who thereafter continued to serve the people of God until his death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually to be closer again to God, as we prepare for the upcoming season of Christmas during this Advent. Let us all spend more time in prayer and devotion to God, looking up with hope towards God, in Whom alone lies the hope of eternal glory and salvation. May the Lord, through the intercession of His servant St. Ambrose, bring us ever closer to Him, that we may be worthy of the eternal life He has promised all those who are faithful to Him. Amen.

Friday, 7 December 2018 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 9 : 27-31

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He resurrected the daughter of the official, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about Him through the whole area.