Friday, 7 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For 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 his 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.

Saturday, 4 January 2020 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 35-42

On the following day John was standing there again with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and said, “There is the Lamb of God.” On hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. He turned and saw them following, and He said to them, “What are you looking for?”

They answered, “Rabbi (which means Master), where are You staying?” Jesus said, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where He stayed, and spent the rest of that day with Him. It was about four o’ clock in the afternoon.

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard what John had said, and followed Jesus. Early the next morning he found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means the Christ), and he brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas” (which means Rock).

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 19 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the Angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The Angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”

Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realised that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant.

For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 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 celebrate the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, remembering the moment when this very important saint suffered and endured martyrdom for his faith, for his never failing zeal and dedication to God to the very end, even at the cost of his life. And St. John the Baptist is one of the few saints in the Scriptures who have more than one feast day celebrated in his honour.

That is because St. John the Baptist played a very important and crucial role in the history of our salvation, as he is the Herald of the Messiah of God, the one who was prophesied to come just before the coming of God’s Saviour, the Promised One, in order to proclaim His coming to the world. St. John the Baptist himself was also a relative of the Lord, having been born to Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, and therefore St. John the Baptist is also a relative of the Lord Jesus.

And since his birth and youth, St. John the Baptist had been called by God to do His will, as he went on his journey and went into the wilderness, and when he was ready, proclaiming God’s imminent coming to His people, calling them all to repentance and to turn away from their sins. He brought the people to the River Jordan and baptised them with water, as a sign of their commitment to change their way of life and rejection of sin.

Then, St. John the Baptist had to go up against those who were powerful and influential in the community, beginning from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who doubted him and refused to believe in him, and even doubted and questioned the authority by which St. John the Baptist had performed his baptism and works among the people. And then, he also went up against none other than king Herod himself, the ruler of Galilee.

King Herod had led an immoral life as he took the legally married wife of his brother, Philip, who was still alive then and also likely with a daughter with the brother, as his own. Doing so constituted a very serious adultery and sin, and St. John the Baptist fearlessly confronted the king and Herodias, the wife of the king’s brother whom the former had taken as his own. As a result, Herodias in particular held a grudge against the saint and tried very hard to kill the holy man of God. She managed to get the saint imprisoned for what he had courageously spoke up against.

That was exactly how she managed to plot against the saint, by what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, when during a feast, Herodias tricked king Herod into giving in to her demands to have the saint killed and had his head placed on a platter before her, through the means of temptation and through her own beautiful daughter’s seduction before the king’s presence.

And in enduring the suffering, the imprisonment and eventually martyrdom, St. John the Baptist remained true to the mission which God had sent him into this world for, to the very end. He is truly a role model for all of us, God’s faithful people in how we should live out our lives with faith as Christians. All of us have been called by God to look upon the examples of this faithful servant who gave himself totally to God and devoted his life’s effort to glorify God.

Are we able to stand by our faith and our commitment to God in our everyday lives, even at times when the world itself may be against us? That is what St. John the Baptist had done, devoting himself to the cause and the mission God has entrusted to him. He did not give up despite the challenges and oppositions he had, and put his trust completely in the Lord, just as the prophet Jeremiah in our first reading today was reassured by God that He would be with him throughout the entire journey.

Let us all discern carefully and think in what way we can bring ourselves and others closer to God by our own examples and by our dedication to God. The truth is that, the best way to evangelise is through our own examples and our own obedience to God’s will. It is when others see that in our every words, deeds and actions we show our true faith and commitment, and that we mean our every words and actions, then naturally others will follow in our footsteps, just as the courage of St. John the Baptist had inspired many of us in our faith.

May the Lord therefore strengthen us in our faith that we may be courageous in faith and in life just as His faithful servant St. John the Baptist had done, in enduring all sorts of trials and challenges, and even martyrdom for the sake of his faith and dedication to God. Let us all follow his footsteps and be ever more Christian-like in our daily living from now on. May God bless us all and our good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 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.

Thursday, 29 August 2019 : 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.