Wednesday, 3 January 2018 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 29-34

At that time, the next day John saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! It is He of Whom I said : A Man comes after me, Who is already ahead of me, for He was before me. I myself did not know Him, but I came baptising to prepare for Him, so that He might be revealed in Israel.”

And John also gave this testimony, “I saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove from heaven, and resting on Him. I myself did not know Him, but God, Who sent me to baptise, told me, “You will see the Spirit coming down, and resting, on the One Who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God!”

Alternative reading (Mass of the Most Holy Name of Jesus)

Luke 2 : 21-24

On the eighth day, the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed; He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived. When the day came for the purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God.

And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the Law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 19-28

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.

Saturday, 23 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”

They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

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.