Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture passages we are all called to reflect on those words we received and which we have heard, that we may continue to hold on to the hope we have in the Lord, in His light and truth, and in our genuine desire to be reconciled and be reunited with Him. We are all called to focus our attention on the Lord as we continue to progress through this season of Advent, this blessed time of preparation and renewal that is meant for us to rediscover our faith in the Lord.

We heard in our first reading today the words of the Lord through His prophet Isaiah, in which He spoke of the coming of the good times in the future, the time of His providence and reckoning. God spoke to His people reassuring them on the coming of the days of rest after the long periods of challenges and trials. The Lord will bless all those who have persevered in their faith and those who have devoted their time and effort to love Him and to commit themselves to the works that the Lord has entrusted to them.

Contextually, the people of God at the time of the prophet Isaiah as I mentioned before earlier in the week, had been suffering humiliation, oppressions and challenges from the pressures exerted by the great powers of the region, their neighbouring states and others because of their disobedience, wickedness and lack of faith in God. Those sufferings were the just consequences of their wrongdoings and their fortunes then were at an all-time low. But God did not abandon them and still cared for them.

That was why He sent prophets and messengers to them, to show them the way and to lead and guide them through their journey so that they may know how to find their way to the Lord. God revealed to them that in the end, His love for them shall endure and they shall see His great love being shown at the end. The people of God shall not be disappointed if they place their faith in God, unlike if they place their faith in the worldly things which they hope to give them consolation and support. That is because His promise and grace is everlasting while the world is not.

In today’s Gospel passage we have also heard the Lord carrying out His works and missions all over the whole land, performing miracles, healing many people who came to Him, caring for the needs of those who were searching for fulfilment and longing for His truth. He spent much time and many hours among all of them, showing them how much God loved them and committed Himself to them. The Lord truly remembered His people and cared for them despite their infidelities and wickedness. He has always been patient in reaching out to them and wanting to be reconciled with them.

He mentioned how the harvests of the Lord were plentiful but there were few labourers to collect them. And what does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that in this world, there are numerous opportunities for us to bring forth the truth of God, His light and hope among many of those who still remain lost to the Lord. God has bestowed on us all Christians with the truth, and He has shown us what it means to be beloved by Him, and it is up to us to do as He has taught us to do.

Many people have yet to believe in God simply because in many of us who are Christians and consider ourselves as such have not truly believed in God ourselves, in our words, thoughts and actions, many of which have shown lack of faith and even things that are contrary to the Divine truth and love of God. This is why we often ended up causing others to turn away from God and even have misunderstandings of God’s works and truths in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to be missionaries and good examples of our Christian faith in our respective societies and communities. Through us and our actions, God reveals His truth to more and more people, and with that, He may touch the hearts and souls of many more people that they may be stirred to follow Him and entrust themselves to Him. And the same can be said to all of us as well, especially those among us who are lukewarm in our faith.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. St. John of Damascus was a renowned Church father and theologian, a monk and teacher of the faith who was well-known for his commitment to God, his piety and dedication to the Lord. St. John of Damascus was credited with a lot of works on treatises of the many aspects of the faith, on our relationship with God, the love and actions of God, as well as the nature of the Holy Trinity and others.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great holiness, his love for God and also concern and compassion for his fellow brethren. He was indeed a role model for many Christians through his words, works, actions and many other examples of his virtues. He was also most influential in the opposition against then raging heresy of iconoclasm which was supported by the Emperor of the Roman Empire and the highest echelons of those who were in power, even among the clergy.

Through his passionate defence of the truth of God, his commitment to God and his truth, his tireless efforts and works, among all the many other contributions he had made, we all can see how we ourselves can become model Christians ourselves, in what we do, in what we act and say, so that in all things, we may indeed be exemplary and be inspiration to others just as how St. John of Damascus is an inspiration to us and many others out there.

Let us all seek the Lord, our loving God with renewed faith and zeal. Let us all grow ever more in faith and devotion, following the great examples set before us by St. John of Damascus and the many other holy men and women of God. May the Lord be with us all in our journey and may we all put our trust more in Him, Who alone is our hope and light. Amen.

Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 5a, 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, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

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, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

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, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded that God will be our Redeemer and He will liberate us from all of our trials and troubles. He is our Hope and the Light that will lead us the way out from the darkness. The Lord is what we should be focusing on, and we should dedicate ourselves to Him just as He has dedicated Himself to us and loved us so much, all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, of the prophecy about the Lord’s salvation, the coming of the time of His glorious days when He will bring forth all that He has promised to us, His beloved people. In that prophecy, the Lord promised that He will lead His people from their predicament, from their fallen state and from their wretched existence.

Hence, with all these prophecies, from Isaiah and the other prophets, the people of Israel, who had faced lots of trials and tribulations, challenges and troubles, they truly looked forward to the coming of the salvation of God, in the Messiah or Saviour that the Lord had promised to them. They have all suffered and endured much humiliation because of their own sins and disobedience, and therefore, they yearned and longed for that liberation.

This then relates to our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the account of the Lord’s healing of the two blind men whom He encountered during His ministry. Those two blind men sought for the Lord and begged Him to heal them from their blindness. To be blind is truly a very terrible experience, and imagine that now we are able to look at all the wonders of the world, and not to be able to see all of that, is truly horrible.

And the Lord asked them, whether they believed in Him and in what He could do for them. Through their faith, and their commitment to their belief in Him, the Lord healed them from their blindness, opened their eyes and restored their ability to see once again. Therefore, they have been freed from their physical darkness, allowing them to see the light and the world again. Imagine someone who have suffered for so long in the darkness, without hope and without light, now finally able to see again, there must be such a great joy in them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go through this season of Advent, we look forward to the great celebrations and joy that will come in Christmas, as an important reminder of why we ought to celebrate joyfully because in Christ, we have seen the Hope and the Salvation promised to all of us, all these that had been prophesied by the prophets and which the Lord Himself had revealed to us. He has shown His love in person, by reaching out tot us, touching us and healing us from all of our predicaments.

Just all those blind men suffering from their blindness, we all too are suffering from the affliction of our sins. Even though we may be perfectly healthy in our body and physique, but our souls are still afflicted and corrupted by sin, which is a disease that afflict us, strike at us, and unless we rid ourselves of these afflictions, they will drag us down the path to damnation. Fortunately for us, the Lord loves each and every one of us, and is willing to forgive us our sins and heal us from our afflictions.

The question is then, are we willing to embrace the Lord’s love, mercy and forgiveness? Or do we prefer instead to continue living in the darkness and sin? The Lord wants to forgive us our sins, but do we want to be forgiven? Let us see the examples of those two blind men. They were healed because they believed in the Lord and had faith in Him, and they wanted to be healed. Unless we are willing to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, there can be no forgiveness, as we must accept the forgiveness and act in repentance of our past sins to be fully forgiven.

This season of Advent through the Scripture readings we are all constantly being reminded to love God because of the love that He Himself had shown to us all these while. We are all called to redirect our focus and attention on Him, and prepare ourselves so that we may truly celebrate Christmas with full appreciation of its importance. Let us fill ourselves with the joy of expectation of the Lord’s coming, remembering first of all His coming in the past, the coming of His salvation, and also then His promise of return at the end of time, when He will lead us all His faithful into His eternal kingdom.

How do we make best use of this season of Advent? It is by deepening our spirituality and our relationship with God. We can look upon the examples of the saints, all those holy men and women who had gone before us, and by whose lives God had been glorified. Today in particular, we celebrate the feast of one of those holy saints of God, namely St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. He was a truly devout and faithful servant of God, whose lives and actions were truly exemplary and should serve as inspirations for all of us to follow.

St. John of Damascus lived in Syria which was why he was often called after the city of Damascus where he lived for most of his life. At that time, as a Christian living in Syria under the rule of non-Christians, St. John of Damascus was born into a family of Christian courtiers of the rulers of the Umayyad Caliphate, which capital was in Damascus. He was a renowned polymath and philosopher with wide range of knowledge in various topics.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great intellect and service to the Caliph in Damascus, and he was also known for his great faith and wisdom, as a priest and monk in a monastery in that area. After leaving the public service, he dedicated himself to a life of prayer and devotion, and his many writings on the matters of the faith were very influential in his defence of the true faith especially at that time against the false heresy of iconoclasm, supported by the Roman Emperor himself and his nobles.

St. John of Damascus wrote fervently and courageously even against those who opposed the true faith, not fearing for himself. He did what he could to prevent more and more souls from falling into the wrong paths, and he dedicated the latter half of his life doing that and leading a prayerful and pious life as a priest and monk. His contributions to the Church were enormous, and he continued to inspire many people long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John of Damascus? Are we willing to dedicate ourselves to serve the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly as he and the multitudes of other saints had done? Let us all ponder on these questions and ask ourselves, what are we going to do especially during this blessed season of Advent in order to prepare ourselves well for the coming of Christmas.

Are we going to continue living just as per usual? Celebrating Christmas just as usual, in the same manner as how others have celebrated it all around the world? Or are we going to have a profound change in how we live our lives, and re-centre our whole existence around God, the true Light and Hope of Christmas? Our true Joy and the source of our Salvation? Let us all seek the Lord this Advent with renewed vigour and strength, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

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.

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Isaiah 29 : 17-24

In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down – those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.

Therefore YHVH, Abraham’s Redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob : No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of My hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify My Name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the wonders of God’s love for each and every one of us, as we pass through this season of Advent, preparing us to celebrate worthily the joyous season of Christmas. God has loved us all so much that He has given us all the perfect gift in His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why in our first reading today we heard of the beautiful vision and prophecy as relayed to us through the prophet Isaiah, of the wonderful promises of God as He promised all of His beloved and faithful ones that they will all enjoy the fullness of His bountiful blessings and the fruits of His providence, in a world where there is no more pain or sorrow, no more tears and sadness, no more suffering but only true joy and happiness with God.

That is the hope with which God has strengthened us all His people, giving us hope and strength at the times when life may be at our darkest, and when the outlook of things seems to be gloomy and without hope. The Lord gave us the encouragement to go through the sufferings and difficulties by letting us all know that it is in Him and through Him alone that we will be able to gain relief and true freedom from suffering and the sorrows of this world.

And we are reminded of this fact, and also of the love of God through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard how the Lord ministered to the multitudes of people who came to him, seeking to listen to His teachings and His words, or to be healed from their physical and bodily complaints and illnesses, to be cared for and protected from the attacks of the evil spirits and demons.

The Lord provided for their needs, healing them from their physical issues and also as presented in the Gospel passage, fed a large multitude of them with just a few loaves of bread miraculously. Through all of these, God wants us all to see just how precious each and every one of us are to Him, and just how great His love, His compassion and His desire to be reconciled fully with us are. And we are truly fortunate to have Him as our loving God.

Yet, it is sad that in fact, it is us mankind who have often disregarded God and abandoned Him, not listening to Him and preferring to follow our own ways and ideals rather than to follow the path that God has shown us. We spurned and rejected His love and His generous offer of mercy, even when He has constantly extended His generous love to us all these while. That is why many of us have been separated and sundered from Him, and many more are not living up to their faith as they should.

This Advent, all of us are challenged to reconnect and reconcile ourselves to the Lord, renewing our commitment to love God and to be more faithful to Him, that we may truly appreciate all that He has done for us, and as a result, we will also then grow to appreciate the true significance and importance of Christmas to all of us. It is at Christmas that we celebrate how God has given such a great and ultimate gift of love to all of us, His beloved people, that He gave us all nothing less than His own Son.

It is by His entry into this world, by assuming our humble humanity and existence that God has brought us all together as His faithful ones, and by His willing and loving sacrifice, taking up all of our sins and the consequences and punishments due to our sins, He suffered and died on the Cross and because of that, we are saved. It was because of Christmas that Easter is possible, and because of that, we should truly appreciate all that God has done for us, out of His enduring love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps today we can be inspired by the good examples of faith set by one of our dedicated predecessors, namely St. John Damascene or St. John of Damascus, one of the holy saints and priests of the Church who devoted his energy, time, effort and attention to serve the Lord to the best of his capabilities. St. John of Damascus lived through difficult times of the Church as the faithful were struck with forces from both outside and within, with pressures to abandon the teachings of the faith for other faiths and also for false teachings and heresies.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great role in opposing the heresy of iconoclasm in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire and Christendom, when the heretics under support from the Emperor and the secular authorities destroyed many precious and holy icons and images of the Lord and His saints, and the holy saint St. John of Damascus launched a particularly strong defence of the veneration of the saints and holy images.

This courageous and holy servant of God did not fear oppression or suffering just because he stood up for his faith as he truly trusted in the Lord and knew how much the Lord loves all those who are faithful and true to Him. St. John of Damascus did his best throughout his life to defend the true and orthodox Christian faith, becoming a paragon and example of sanctity and dedication to all of his fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John of Damascus, and also many others of our holy predecessors, saints of God? Are we able to appreciate just how much God has loved us all these while and how much He has done for our sake, that we truly should love Him in the same way? Let us all heed the great example of piety and sanctity that St. John of Damascus has shown us, and follow his examples in how we ought to live our lives with faith from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us as we progress through this blessed season of Advent, that we may truly be able to prepare ourselves wholeheartedly to celebrate the coming of Christmas, with fullness of faith in God and love for Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Matthew 15 : 29-37

At that time, from the place where Jesus healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman, He went to the shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up into hills, where He sat down. Great crowds came to Him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. People carried them to the feet of Jesus, and He healed them.

All were astonished when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed, and the blind able to see; and they glorified the God of Israel. Jesus called His disciples and said to them, “I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way.”

His disciples said to Him, “And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They answered, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

Jesus ordered the people to sit on the ground. Then, He took the seven loaves and the small fish, and gave thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to His disciples, who distributed them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover pieces filled seven wicker baskets.