Sunday, 17 December 2017 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

John 1 : 6-8, 19-28

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light.

This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognised the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”

And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”

And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!” Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptising, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?”

John answered, “I baptise you with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know; although He comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal.”

This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 1 : 1-8

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending My messenger ahead of You, to prepare Your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert : Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths.”

So John began to baptise in the desert; He preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey.

He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we remember the memory of the great saint and servant of God, St. John the Baptist and the moment of his Passion, when he suffered and died in the prison of king Herod of Galilee, echoing the Passion which his Lord and Master would suffer in His own Passion, His death on the cross. St. John the Baptist was arrested by king Herod because he criticised the king harshly for his adultery with his brother’s wife, Herodias.

King Herod has taken Herodias to be his own wife, after his brother’s death. In Jewish customs and in the laws of Moses, should a man dies without having a child with his wife, it was lawful and allowed for the brother of the deceased man to take the widow as a wife, as long as he was unmarried. Then, a child born from the union would be legally considered as the child of the deceased man. However, if we look more carefully at the Gospel passage today, we will be able to see that this was not the case for Herod and Herodias.

In the Gospel, we heard that the girl who danced before Herod and his guests was referred as the daughter of Herodias. This would mean that the girl was not the daughter of Herod and Herodias, but rather that of Philip, Herod’s deceased brother. And as Herod’s brother had a daughter with Herodias, his wife, it is therefore not lawful and an adultery for Herod to take Herodias as wife. And because he was the king of Galilee, such a wicked behaviour was particularly inappropriate for him, thus St. John the Baptist criticised him severely.

From what we have heard today, therefore there are two important things that we need to take note of as we remember the Passion of St. John the Baptist. First of all, all of us need to learn from the examples of St. John the Baptist, who remained strong and resolute through his mission as God’s messenger and herald, calling the people to repent from their sins and to change their ways so as to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

He did not even fear to call the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as brood of vipers, for their hypocrisy and lack of faith, for their doubt in God’s works as shown through St. John the Baptist himself, and later on through Christ. And accordingly, he did not fear either to rebuke a king for his lack of faith and adultery, for the sin which he had committed before God, for his lack of proper morality.

And even when he was imprisoned, he continued to remain steadfast, and neither begged for his release, but continued to rebuke the king who came regularly to visit him. St. John the Baptist is an inspiration to all of us, in how all of us should live our faith with devotion. He has shown us the example of piety, steadfastness and faith, as well as humility, when he humbly acknowledged that the Lord Who came after him became more popular than he was.

Then, secondly, all of us need to take note of what happened between king Herod, Herodias and her daughter during the celebration. King Herod was so fascinated by the dance done by the daughter of Herodias, presumingly captivated by her beauty or by the sensual moves made in the dances made at the time, that he made lots of promises in front of his guests, even to the point of promising that he would give her everything she wanted.

What does this mean brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must always be vigilant, keeping watch on our eyes, ears, and all sorts of senses, guarding ourselves against the temptations which the devil are placing in our path through all the worldly allures we received, just as the daughter of Herodias enticed king Herod to give her and her mother the head of St. John the Baptist. In that manner, the king sinned because he murdered the good saint and servant of God due to his failure to restrain himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep these things in mind as we continue to live in this world, that we will always strive to do what is right and just in the presence of God, and turning away from the temptations of this world. Instead, let us all walk in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist and seek to remain faithful to God as he had been faithful to the very end. May the Lord be with us, and may He give us the courage to live like His beloved servant. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o YHVH, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me; turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my hope; my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jeremiah 1 : 17-19

But you, get ready for action; stand up and say to them all that I command you. Be not scared of them or I will scare you in their presence! See, I will make you a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze, against all the nations, against the kings and princes of Judah, against the priests and the people of the land.

They will fight against you but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue you – it is YHVH Who speaks.