Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded that we have to listen to His words, obey His Law and commandments, and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us to walk in, and distance ourselves from the excesses of worldly temptations and desires, all of which can lead us down the wrong path and end up in damnation and eternal suffering. God has revealed to us His love, shown to us in the manifestation of His Son in this world, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and we ought to listen to Him, and everything that He has revealed to us and taught us through His Church. We must not harden our hearts and minds anymore, but be more receptive to listen to His truths.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord as spoken through Isaiah to His people telling them of everything that they could have enjoyed if they had not rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him, His Law and commandments as they and their ancestors had done. The glory of the people of Israel and the kingdom of the days of David and Solomon as recorded in the Old Testament would have endured and persisted, because if the people of God had remained firm in their faith in God, God would have continued to bless them and guide them, and He would have protected and guarded them even more, that their realm and dominion would have been secure, and they would not have been humiliated and suffered the way that they had endured by the time of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry.

By then, the glorious days of the kingdoms of David and Solomon were long past, and what remained was just a remnant of that glorious past, as the people of God were becoming shrunken and lesser, and having endured centuries of strife and never-ending struggles with one another, as they became divided and torn into different parts. Much of the ten tribes of the Israelites who separated themselves from the dominion of the House of David had also been scattered all around the world, when the Assyrians crushed and destroyed their kingdom just mere years prior to the time of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry. The lands of the Israelites, the people of God were made barren, and pagans and foreigners were made to dwell in the lands where they once dwelled, as a reminder of the folly of their rebellion and disobedience against God.

Thus, God reminded all of His people of their folly and lack of faith, and hence actually urged them to do something to stop them from being stubborn and foolish any further. He called on all of them to follow Him once again, and to obey His Law and commandments once more. As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord lamented the lack of faith in His people, as they hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to believe in Him and His servants, even after they had witnessed the wondrous miracles and heard the great words of Wisdom and truth presented clearly to them. They continued to disobey God and preferred to follow their own ways, indulging in their own desires and personal, worldly ambitions, which is why the Lord again warned them all to turn away from that dangerous path, lest it be too late for all of them.

This is a likely reference to how back then, at the time of the Lord’s ministry, many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the elders and the influential members of the community of God’s people had rejected the Lord and refused to listen to Him, no matter how convincing and full of Wisdom and truth the Lord’s words had been. Ironically, being those who were most knowledgeable and accustomed to the teachings and words of the prophets, those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law should have been the first ones to recognise the truth and wisdom present in the words and teachings that the Lord Jesus brought to us all. Yet, they allowed their personal desires and ambitions to distract them and harden their hearts and minds, as they became fearful and afraid that the Lord would eclipse them and their influence, and end the privileges they enjoyed all those while.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard from the passages of the Scriptures, we are all therefore reminded of the importance for us to have faith and trust in God, and to be careful and vigilant against the temptations of our flesh and body, and the allures of worldly glory and ambitions, all of which can draw us further away from God and His path. If we are not careful we may end up walking down the same path that the people of Israel and all those elders, Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, in not following God and His ways, and instead walking down their own path towards ruination and damnation. We must be careful because the lures and forces of sin can truly be very powerful, and we may not be able to resist them unless we continue to deepen our faith and relationship with God.

Today, we should perhaps look upon the good examples of faith and dedication to God as shown by St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, also known as St. Juan Diego, the saint whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. John Diego was known as the one who witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, now well known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. John Diego was one of the early Christian converts from among the native peoples of the region now known as Mexico, where he became a devout follower of Christ, and was known for his exemplary life and virtues. Back then, it happened that St. John Diego was passing by the area known as the Hill of Tepeyac when the Mother of God appeared to him, and spoke to St. John Diego in his own native language, revealing herself to be the Mother of God.

No one initially believed what St. John Diego had said, and they disregarded him when he conveyed on them the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe about her identity and also her request that a church be built in her honour at the location of her Apparition. Then, at the next time when St. John Diego was supposed to meet Our Lady of Guadalupe, his uncle was very sick and St. John Diego had to get his uncle to meet a priest for the Sacrament of the Sick. And later on, St. Juan Diego tried to take another way, as he was ashamed of having failed to meet the Lady as he was supposed to, only to meet her on his way again, and she told him why she did not entrust his uncle and himself to God through her, with the words now well known as ‘Am I not here, I am, who am your mother?’. This serves as a reminder to all of us how the Lord has indeed entrusted His own Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe to be our mother as well.

Then, Our Lady of Guadalupe told St. John Diego to show a sign to the local bishop, and asked him to collect some flowers that appeared there at the site of the Apparition that were not native to the region, miraculously appeared there, and then St. John Diego gathered them using his tilma or cloak. As he brought the flowers and showed them to the bishop, what stunned the bishop and all the other witnesses present was not just the unusual flowers, but the fact and evidence that the very image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary herself was imprinted on the tilma that was worn by St. John Diego. Everyone who saw that miracle believed, and through the great occasion, many became believers and followed the Lord, all thanks to His mother and also through the faith and dedication showed by St. John Diego in faithfully living his life and in obeying God’s will.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, let us all therefore reflect on our own way of live and the state of our current existence. Are we too lax in how we live our lives that we allow the temptations of worldliness and the pleasures all around us from swaying and misleading us down the wrong path? Or have we walked faithfully in the path that the Lord has shown us? If we have not listened to the Lord and if we are still easily swayed by the worldly temptations to sin, then we should make good use of this reminder and this time of Advent provided for us to change our way of life and to reconnect with God, by following the good examples of the saints, particularly that of St. John Diego today whom we commemorate, together with our loving mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has always watched over us and prayed for each one of us, all these while.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen each one of us in our resolve so that we may draw ever closer to Him and be more courageous to live our lives worthily in the path that He Himself has shown us. May all of us have a good and blessed season of Advent, that we may make good use of that time to serve the Lord with ever greater zeal and sincerity, and love Him all the more. Amen.

Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Isaiah 48 : 17-19

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel : I, YHVH, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from My presence.

Thursday, 9 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures in which we heard of the assurance which He gave to His people that He would always be with them and all of them would be comforted and blessed by God, their humiliations and sufferings would be overcome. This is the message of hope that all of us are being reminded of as we continue to progress through this season of Advent and are by now almost halfway through this season and time of preparation for Christmas.

Our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah was a reminder for the faithful people of God in the kingdom of Judah, the place in which Isaiah did his works and ministry. God reminded His people that He would not forsake or abandon them, and still loved them all despite everything wicked and terrible that they had done unto Him, in their disobedience and rebelliousness, in their sinful actions and lives. At that time, the people of God had long lapsed away from the faith, although from time to time, they repented and returned to the Lord.

The people of God had suffered many setbacks, hurdles and challenges from the defeats they experienced at the hands of their neighbours and enemies. They had been brought low and made to submit before those who had defeated them and crushed them. This was because they had little faith in God, and they had chosen to abandon Him and ignore His truth, laws and teachings, and preferred to follow their own paths and sought help from the pagan idols and other earthly source of consolation instead of trusting and depending on God.

But God was still patient and loving towards them, no matter what. The fact that He still sent them His messengers and prophets, and cared for them from time to time was a sign of just how devoted God has been towards the Covenant that He had made and renewed with us. The Lord has always tried to reach out to us, and yet many of us deliberately ignored Him and turned away from Him, not listening to His calls and disregarding His efforts to love us and to care for us, and we have spurned and rejected His love and mercy that we have been given so generously.

Yet, God still sent us His servants, and as we heard in our Gospel passage today, He sent John, namely St. John the Baptist as His Herald to proclaim His coming into this world and to prepare the path for Him. He revealed to all of us the truth about God’s love for us when He Himself appeared in our human form and existence, and despite all of our infidelities and our sinfulness, He still lovingly picked up His Cross, embraced us and forgave us our sins. And He did so by suffering for our sake, enduring the pain and sorrow of the Cross, that is the punishments for our sins.

As we progress through this season of Advent, indeed all of us are constantly reminded again and again that God has always loved us and He has given us this assurance of His love through Christ, Whose coming into this world we commemorate and celebrate this Christmas. This season of Advent we are invited to spend the time to reflect on this truth about God’s love for us, and we are also called to reflect on how each and every one of us have responded to His love, mercy and generous compassion.

Today, all of us should look upon the example of our holy predecessor, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, also known as St. Juan Diego in how we can live our lives as Christians more genuinely and wholeheartedly. St. John Diego was also the one who received the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her apparition in Guadalupe in what is today Mexico, now very popularly known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. John Diego was a truly humble and devout man who committed himself to God and to His Blessed Mother, and we can follow his examples.

St. John Diego was a convert Native American who was known as a devout and good person, to whom one day the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe chose to appear to, at the Hill of Tepeyac, where now the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands. As a religious neophyte then, he passed by the site and saw the Blessed Lady of Guadalupe revealing her identity and asking him to let the local bishop know about it and to build a chapel there dedicated in her honour. At first, the local priest did not believe St. John Diego, and he was asked to return to the apparition to ask more info and asking for a sign.

After a few apparitions, as he was delayed by his uncle’s sickness and embarrassed of having been delayed and late to meet the Blessed Virgin, he tried to go by another way, only for her to appear before him again and chiding him, why he did not put his trust and recourse in her, saying in the now famous words, ‘Am I not here, I who am your mother?’ This is recalling how the Lord Himself had entrusted us to His mother Mary from His Cross, and at that time, His mother Mary came to us through the apparition to St. John Diego to call us to be reconciled and reunited with Him, through the conversion of many souls.

Then, St. John Diego was told to gather the flowers gathered there, which miraculously appeared even while they were not in season, and then using his cloak, to bring them to the local bishop to fulfil the request the latter made for a heavenly sign for the truth about the Apparition. No sooner that St. John Diego revealed the flowers before the bishop that his tilma or cloak amazed everyone including the bishop, as an image not drawn by human hands were imprinted, bearing the image of the very same Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Mother of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the life and faith of St. John Diego, his encounter with the Blessed Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the message of that encounter are reminders for all of us to refocus our attention and our lives back towards God. God’s love had been so evident throughout our lives, and He has even sent His own Mother too to remind us of His love. Through Our Lady of Guadalupe, many were converted and touched by the Lord, saved and brought into God’s embrace.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we still going to be stubborn like many of our predecessors in refusing to believe in God’s love and in ignoring Him and His constant loving call towards us? Are we going to continue to refuse to acknowledge His generous love and compassion that He has kindly extended to us? Let us make good use of this season and time of Advent to discern these carefully and see how we can prepare ourselves better so that we may truly come to understand God and His love, and be willing and worthy to welcome Him truly into our hearts and beings as we celebrate Christmas in the coming days. May God bless us all and may He strengthen each one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 9 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Matthew 11 : 11-15

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you this : no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among sons of women; and yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered; and violent men seize it.”

“Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy : all the prophets and the Law. And if you believe Me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Thursday, 9 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Psalm 144 : 1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab

I will extol You, my God and King; I will praise Your Name forever. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o YHVH, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom; and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign, and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures, from generation to generation.

Thursday, 9 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Isaiah 41 : 13-20

For I, YHVH, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you : “Fear not, I am your assistance.” Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail. I am your Redeemer, says YHVH, the Holy One of Israel, your Helper.

I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth : you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in YHVH and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none. Their tongues are parched with thirst. But I, YHVH, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a land of springs.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine – that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of YHVH has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures that first of all showed us the nature of our loving God towards us, from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah showed the prophecy of God’s love for His people, in how He will guide all of them back towards His grace, and will no longer be separated from them.

As we proceed through this season of Advent, approaching the time of Christmas, let us all use the time provided for us in order to reflect on our lives and on our actions. Many of us have fallen away from God’s grace and walked in the path of sin. We have not put God as the focus of our lives, but rather, we become distracted with the many temptations of life.

We have become like lost sheep, scattered and having no idea where to go, just like the people described by Jesus in the Gospel passage today, as ‘sheep who are without a shepherd’. And thus, at that time, because there were so many people who had become wayward in their ways and sinned, they have lost direction in their lives and sought the Lord to bring them back to the way of truth.

The Lord Who loves each and every one of His people had mercy on them, and had pity because He saw those people who would be doomed to damnation should they continue in their present path. Thus, if we read through the Gospels, the Lord spent a lot of time teaching the people and calling them to abandon their old ways of sin and embrace God’s ways.

But at the same time, He also mentioned how the labourers are few while the harvest is plentiful. This means that, while there are indeed vast potential for God’s work and grace to be done among the people, with many souls waiting to be saved, yet there are only few people who are willing to step forward and take up the mantle of the hard work of those who serve the Lord and preach His Good News.

What does all these mean for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that first of all, each and every one of us should do our best to turn towards the Lord, and especially during this season of Advent, we are constantly reminded of the need to prepare ourselves for the eventual coming of the Lord Jesus and also eventually the final Judgment. We should do our best to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, by turning away from sin, resisting the temptations to sin, and by doing what is right in the sight of God.

However, that is not all that God had asked us to do. All of us are also called to heed what the Lord Jesus had mentioned in the Gospel passage, ‘Ask the Master of the harvest to send labourers to gather His harvest,’ and also, ‘Go, instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.’ All of these are set to remind us of the obligations we have as Christians to reach out to those who have not yet known God, or those who have lapsed in their faith.

How do we do that, brethren? We should not think that we need to do many wondrous and ambitious large-scale works. Rather, we should begin from ourselves, from our immediate family, friends and acquaintances. We should role model our faith through our actions and by devoting ourselves to God in everything. We should help the Church in its works of evangelisation, by becoming beacons of light through which many others can see God and His light through us and therefore believe.

We should also heed the examples of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. St. John Diego or also known as St. Juan Diego was a saint who lived a few hundred years ago in Spanish America, at the place where now the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located at. St. John Diego was a native of the land, a convert from his previous pagan faith, who witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Guadalupe.

St. John Diego has always been a righteous person, living his life humbly and gracefully. Through him, Our Blessed Mother delivered her messages to the people, calling on them to repent from their sins and wickedness. And when they doubted St. John Diego and his accounts about the apparition, Our Lady showed him a sign through his cloak or ‘tilma’ in the local language.

It was told that Our Lady asked him to gather some flowers at the site of the apparition, and present them to the local bishop. When St. John Diego presented the flowers, which are not local or seasonal to the area, the bishop was amazed as the very likeness of Our Lady herself was imprinted on the cloak of St. John Diego. Many came to believe in this miraculous occasion, and many people repented from their sins and were saved.

The story of St. John Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe should inspire all of us to do what we can in order to be faithful disciples of the Lord, by encouraging one another to live righteously in accordance with God’s ways. Let us all be good messengers of God, delivering the truth of the Lord through our righteous life, that we may convince more and more people, that less and less souls may be lost from God.

Let us be lost sheep no longer and help those who are still lost that they may find their way to the Lord, their Good Shepherd. Let us be His faithful labourers, to help Him gather the rich harvest of this world, that is the salvation of the souls of our fellow brothers and sisters. May God help us in these endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

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.”