Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today again from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we listened again to the message of consolation and hope from God, as the Lord spoke to His people for them not to worry and to place their trust in Him, for He Who loved them would take care of them and provide for them all that they needed. They would not need to be afraid anymore, for God would be their sure guarantee and strength amidst the challenges and trials in life.

At that time, the people of God suffered from the many opponents and enemies that surrounded them, at the time when the ancient kingdom of Israel had been splintered and the northern half, consisting of the ten tribes out of the twelve tribes of original Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians, who carried off most of the people into exile. And even Judah, in the south where the prophet Isaiah was active, was also afflicted, having the Assyrians almost on the brink of conquering it if not for the intervention from God.

God was reassuring them through Isaiah that He would not abandon them, and on the contrary, He would in fact give them the way out of their predicament, because of His great love for them. Unfortunately, as if we know more about the later history, after the time of the prophet Isaiah and the righteous kings Hezekiah and Josiah, the people of Judah reverted back to their sinful ways, pagan worship and disobeyed God. That was why they too, were brought to exile by the Babylonians.

But then, yet again, God never gave up on His people, despite them having disobeyed, betrayed, abandoned and refused to listen to Him repeatedly many times. God continued to love them and desires that they should be saved, by sending to them, again and again, prophets one after another, messengers and all those who cry out asking for the people to repent from their sins and return to God.

And as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, one such figure was Elijah the prophet, who was sent to the Israelites in the years even before the time of Isaiah, in order to call on them to repent from their sins. He travelled from place to place, and had to go against even the king and his powerful supporters, those who championed the worship of pagan idols like Baal and Asherah. He was rejected, oppressed and persecuted, but that did not silence him.

In fact, he spoke all the louder and performed even more actions for the greater glory of God. For his commitment and dedication, he turned many hearts and minds back to the Lord, when he managed to prove that the Lord YHVH is indeed the one and only true God. On the mount Carmel he went up alone against four hundred fifty priests of Baal, and he showed God’s glory and power when Baal did nothing. God sent fire from heaven to burn the offerings on Elijah’s altar, and from there, God’s work and truth were vindicated.

The last of the great messengers of God, that is St. John the Baptist, was often compared with Elijah. For it was said in various parts of the Scripture, that he had in him the spirit of the prophet Elijah, or even that he himself was Elijah born into this world again. For Elijah, if we read the second Book of Kings, did not die, but was taken up by God into heaven in a flaming chariot. Nonetheless, regardless whether St. John the Baptist is Elijah or not, the fact remains that the former experienced and worked in much the same manner as the latter.

Again, at the time when St. John the Baptist came into the world to prepare the way for the Messiah, many among the people were again wandered off not following the path of the Lord. Some of them, like king Herod and his supporters lived in ways of sin, disobeying and disregarding God’s commandments. St. John the Baptist spoke harshly of the king and dared to do so, when king Herod committed adultery openly with the wife of his brother.

And still yet, some others who were seemingly pious and faithful, have also wandered off course, such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Those people had a self-righteous attitude and looked down on others who they deemed to be less worthy than themselves. They liked to be praised for their show of piety, prayers and devotions in public, but in truth, they have allowed themselves to be overcome by desire and pride in their hearts and minds. God had no place in them.

St. John the Baptist was not afraid to rebuke the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law then, who came to him doubting his teaching and baptising authority. He called them rightly as brood of vipers, as those who were stubborn in their refusal to listen to the word of God. He had to suffer and even die in martyrdom at the hands of king Herod because of that, but all for the greater glory of God, and for the salvation of all of God’s people, fulfilling what the Lord had promised them.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a famous martyr of the Church, that is St. Lucy or St. Lucia the martyr and holy woman, whose life is again another reminder of the challenges and difficulties we will encounter as a follower and disciple of Christ. St. Lucy was a devout Christian who lived in the city of Syracuse during the time of the harshest persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Lucy dedicated herself to God and consecrated herself as a holy virgin before Him. But her mother who did not know of this intention and fearing for her family’s future due to her failing health, arranged for her to marry a wealthy pagan noble. But St. Lucy managed to convince her mother to seek the intercession of St. Agatha and to distribute their riches and possessions to help the poor. This was detested by St. Lucy’s pagan betrothed, who reported her to the governor.

St. Lucy was persecuted harshly and she was even sent to a brothel to be defiled. But miraculously, she could not be moved even by a team of soldiers when they were about to bring her to the brothel. In the end, she suffered more persecutions and was martyred by the sword. The courage and purity of St. Lucy has inspired many throughout the ages, and consequently, should be a great inspiration for all of us as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to devote ourselves just as St. Lucy, the prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist had dedicated themselves to God? They placed their complete trust in God, Who guided them to the right path and to eternal glory in Him despite their initial suffering on earth. Therefore, let us all endeavour to do the same with our own lives, and seek to glorify God through our actions from now on. May the Lord help us and be our guide in this journey of life. Amen.

Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day what we heard from the Scripture passages spoke a very clear message to us, reminding each and every one of us that our faith cannot be kept on the basis of our words and promises alone, but must be true actions and real, genuine showcase by those same actions, showing that we are not making empty and meaningless promises without any backing by our dedication to do what we say we will do.

First of all, now let us all look into the context of the Scripture passages today from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah and from the Gospel passage. The essence of what we have just heard is truly about how the people of Israel have always looked highly upon themselves, and in pride and boasting, they have always boasted of having been the chosen people of God. Similarly, the Pharisees, elders and the teachers of the Law all have pride in themselves as those who were educated and seen as the guardians of the laws of Moses.

However, in their pride, they have become boastful and conceited, and they forgot what it truly means to become faithful disciples and followers of the Lord. They have misused their position, power and authority for the wrong and wicked purposes. And for the case of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, while outwardly they seemed to be faithful and devout, but in truth, as Jesus Himself had pointed out, they were only serving their own purposes.

As we have seen as well, the Israelites put a great pride in being the descendants of Abraham, but they were not always faithful to God, and indeed, in many occasions, they abandoned Him for the allures of the pagan gods and idols such as Baal and Asherah, succumbing to the temptations of worldliness and refusing to obey the Lord, just as they had done when they worshipped the golden calf at Mount Sinai, just after God had liberated them from Egypt with His great power.

They often looked down on the pagans and those they deemed as sinful people, those who were tax collectors, those who were afflicted with diseases and afflictions like leprosy, paralysis, and those who were possessed with evil spirits, those who were prostitutes and very poor in the society. But they themselves were sinners, just as much as those people they have despised.

And while they were all talking and preaching about repentance and following the laws of God, they did not do what they have said and preached. Instead, they did the opposite of what they were preaching. That was why in another occasion, Jesus also rebuked these people by saying that while the people of God should listen to their words, they should not imitate what they were doing.

Then this is where it comes to us all as Christians. We profess our faith in God, but do we do as what the Lord had asked us to do? Have we acted in accordance with God’s laws and commandments? Or have we instead chosen to do what we like to do and ignore or reject what we do not like to do? Have we become like those who chose what they want to do because it is convenient to them and good for their standing in the world?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians and those who believe in God, we cannot pick and choose what we want and do not want to do, but instead we have to believe completely in the entirety of God’s ways and commandments, and we have to do something about it, that is to act in accordance to those ways. If we do not do so, then we will bring about scandal to our faith, as many others had shown, those who preached and talked one thing but acted in a different way.

Who will believe us and follow our lead if we do not practice what we preach? As. Christians, it is important for us to spread the Good News of God to other people, but if we are only all talk and have no action to back these up, then no one will believe in us. Instead, what we will receive is a rebuke from the Lord much as He had rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy.

Perhaps we should also heed the examples of today’s great saint, the holy martyr St. Lucy or St. Lucia, a renowned Roman martyr and virgin, who died defending her honour and faith in the Lord, refusing to compromise on her beliefs and ways, rejecting wickedness and sin even in the face of suffering and death. St. Lucy was born in Syracuse in southern Italy and spent her life there during the years of the great persecution of the faithful under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

She was born of a noble family, and vowed to remain in the state of holy virginity throughout her life. She persuaded her mother to donate much of her family’s wealth and possessions to the poor and the needy, as those who were generous and loving will receive the good graces from God. But this came to the attention of the local governor who persecuted her and forced her to offer sacrifices to the Emperor, which she refused.

And when the governor punished her to be defiled in a brothel, the soldiers sent to arrest her and bring her there were not able to move her, even when the whole company tried to pull her away. She was tortured and made to suffer greatly, but she maintained her faith and composure till the very end, and she foretold that all the persecutions of the faithful would cease soon, which did happen just a decade after her martyrdom.

Through the courage and the faith of St. Lucy, all of us should have seen how we ought to live out our lives in faith. Yes, we should devote ourselves to the Lord with true and real actions and not just with words. Let us all be charitable and be caring and loving to the poor and the needy, and be courageous to stand by our faith in God when the time and occasion rises to do so.

We should not be easily swayed by the temptations of the world, by the temptations of the flesh and of pleasure, but instead, let us all work together to become ever more devoted and good servants of our Lord in all of our words, actions and deeds. May St. Lucy be our intercessor before the Lord, praying for our sake that God will always bless us and guide us. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Matthew 21 : 28-32

At that time, Jesus went on to say, “What do you think of this? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said to him, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ And the son answered, ‘I do not want to.’ But later he thought better of it and went.”

“Then the father went to his other son and gave him the same command. This son replied, ‘I will go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what the father wanted?” They answered, “The first.” And Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you : the publicans and the prostitutes are ahead of you on the way to the kingdom of heaven. For John came to show you the way of goodness, and you did not believe him; but the publicans and the prostitutes did. You were witnesses of this, but you neither repented nor believed him.”

Tuesday, 13 December 2016 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 33 : 2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 and 23

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

But His face is set against the wicked to destroy their memory from the earth. The Lord hears the cry of the righteous and rescues them from all their troubles.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the distraught. But the Lord will redeem the life of His servants; none of those who trust in Him will be doomed.