Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder yet again for us to look up to the Lord our God, our Shepherd and Guide, our Hope and our Light, the One Who has promised us His salvation and grace, and Who has willingly extended upon us His love and kindness, ever enduring and strong despite our constant disobedience and refusal to believe in Him and His love and truth. He has always loved us all despite our delinquent attitude and our hardened hearts and minds, and as our loving Father and Shepherd, He looked out for us, searched for us and did not give up on us, till the very end, seeking for us, His lost sheep and lost children, all of whom are in need of His help and guidance.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the call for the people of God to return to the loving embrace of their God, their Master, their Shepherd and King. The people of God had indeed been wayward in their ways, and they had been erroneous in their actions, but they were truly lucky and blessed to have the Lord by their side all throughout despite all the wickedness and the vile things that they had committed through life. The Lord loved them all, His beloved ones, whom He had loved since the very beginning, all those whom He had called from among the nations to be the first of those whom He loved and made to be His own flock, His own people. Through His promises and Covenant made and renewed through His servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and then Moses, King David and many more of the others among the people, God has made a flock and people for Himself, gathering them from the darkness of this world to His light.

But the people of God had not always been faithful to Him, and they had often chosen to walk away from Him, rejecting His love and kindness, worshipping pagan idols and gods, defiling the House and Temple of God in Jerusalem, its Altar and throwing down the Lord’s worship in His Holy of Holies. They had indeed behaved like the lost sheep, who have chosen to trod the rebellious path, running away from the flock and from their Shepherd, following the false illusions of worldly glory and desires, which ended up causing many of those lost sheep of the Lord to be scattered all around the world in the darkness of sin and evil. The Lord however never gave up on all of His lost sheep, calling on all of them to return to Him, sending His messengers and servants, the many prophets and all others who have borne the word of God’s truth and grace.

And although those same people persecuted the prophets and messengers of God, rejecting them and refusing to listen to the message which they had brought to the midst of the people of God, God still sent more of them regardless, and promised them His salvation and deliverance, and the words of hope with which He promised the Saviour and deliverance to come, which was therefore fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, into the world. Through Him, God sent us all the perfect manifestation of His love, as the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh, born into this world through Mary His mother and become the personification of God’s enduring love made tangible and approachable to us. He also proclaimed the coming of God’s salvation as it has been promised, and referred to Himself specifically as the Good Shepherd. The one and only true Good Shepherd of all, the one flock of God’s people.

And as the Good Shepherd, He shower His love and care for each one of us, seeking the last, the lost and the least among us who were still lost to Him, breaking barriers and seeking those who were distant from Him. Those like the crippled and paralysed, those who were sick and dying, those who were afflicted by demons and evil spirits, and all those who were wicked in their deeds, those who were cast aside because they were considered sinners and unworthy of God and His grace. He reached out to all of them, prostitutes, tax collectors, those who were afflicted with diseases and possessed by evil spirits, showing them all the love and grace of God. He showed them that all of them truly had their worth and called on all of them to follow Him, not excluding them and casting them out like what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done to them.

That is exactly what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people of the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd went out of his way, trying his best to look for the lost sheep. The Lord Himself is the Shepherd, going out of His way to try to find us all, His beloved ones who have been lost and separated from Him. Having seen the great love that God has for us, all of us should therefore embrace Him and seek Him with all of our hearts and might. Each one of us should return to Him and listen to His call, as He calls on us with the great call of His voice in our hearts and minds. We must not harden our hearts against Him any longer, but be willing to open the doors for Him to enter and for Him to find us and bring us back to His flock, that we too may have a share in His eternal glory.

Today, all of us ought to reflect upon the great examples set by one holy servant of God, our predecessor in faith, whose name may well be known by many of us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra. He is probably better known all around the world in a more secular occasion as Santa Claus, the ubiquitous figure always ever present during this time of the year, when we saw this bearded old man carrying plenty of gifts for children from his large and heavy bag, dressed all in red and white. Brothers and sisters, that is the fictional Santa Claus, who does not actually exist and who is actually a character inspired by the real St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, one of the early Church fathers and a truly devoted servant of God, as well as a faithful and loving shepherd to the flock entrusted to him by the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Himself.

St. Nicholas of Myra was remembered for his great care, dedication and love for his flock, the people of God under his care as shepherd, and he was known for his habit of coming to children and giving them gifts, which eventually over time gave raise to the legend of Santa Claus as mentioned earlier. St. Nicholas of Myra spent a lot of time visiting his people and parishes, and was a great role model of faith, spending a lot of time in prayer and in guiding the people under his care in finding their way back to the Lord, their Chief Shepherd, their Master, Lord and King. St. Nicholas of Myra was also known for his great devotion to God and to the true faith, opposing heresies and false teachings with all of his might. In an apocryphal story and tale, which may or may not be true, during the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, when the faithful bishops gathered and condemned the false teachings of the preacher Arius that had led to the terrible Arian heresy, St. Nicholas of Myra hit the arch-heretic in the face for his contempt of the Lord and for misleading God’s people as he spoke his words of falsehoods and blasphemies before the assembly of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the life and works of St. Nicholas of Myra, let us all therefore do our best to be inspired to follow his good examples, dedication and hard work in our own lives and works. Let us all do our best to love the Lord, our most loving God and Good Shepherd, and strive to follow Him and be fully reconciled with Him, embracing His most generous mercy and love. Let us all turn our hearts and minds back towards Him, and dedicate ourselves with renewed strength and vigour from now on that we may celebrate the upcoming joyful Christmas with true understanding and appreciation, and not indulge in the excesses of merrymaking and festivities. May God bless us all, in our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Matthew 18 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name; proclaim His salvation, day after day.

Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Isaiah 40 : 1-11

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.”

A voice says, “Cry.” and I say, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of YHVH blows upon it. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will forever stand.”

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.

Monday, 6 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded of the healing and liberation that God is bringing us through His Saviour, His own only begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him, all of us have received the guarantee and assurance of salvation, through our faith in Him. He has revealed to us God’s most amazing and infinite love, and His desire to forgive us our sins as well as reconciling us to Himself.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard how God reassured His people of the coming of salvation for all of them, and God Himself will come to succour them and to provide for them. He shall bless them and reveal to them His love and all that He will do for them. All of these eventually will come true through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. Through the coming of His light into this world, He reveals the Way of Holiness as mentioned, the Way of Light out of the darkness of evil and sin.

It was a most reassuring message that the Lord gave to His people, especially to those who still remained faithful to Him despite the history of many disobedient and rebellious actions that the people of God had done in the past years, decades and centuries. He still remembered them and loved them, and sent prophets and messengers, one after another to help them, to guide them to the right path, ever patiently hoping for them to return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

That was exactly what happened on our Gospel today, the coming of His long promised salvation, in the person of Jesus Christ, Who revealed the truth of God to the people, and healed a paralytic man brought upon Him through the roof, because there were simply so many people that were assembled around the Lord to listen to Him. I am sure many of us knew this well-documented miracle, as the Lord told the paralytic that his sins had been forgiven, and made him to be able to walk and move freely once again.

Yet, as we heard from that same Gospel passage, the Lord’s actions were not truly welcomed by some among His own people, especially the powerful elites, the members of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were among the very influential persona in the community of the people of God. Those people were unhappy, displeased and even infuriated at hearing the Lord forgiving the sins of the paralytic man, not knowing that it was indeed well within His power and right to do so. They hardened their hearts and minds against God, refusing to believe in the truth. They had even charged the Lord of blasphemy for having done what God alone can do.

Ironically, those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were supposedly the most intelligent, knowledgeable and understanding of the truth of God as contained within His Law and in the words of His prophets. They were the guardians and caretakers of God’s Law and commandments, and the teachings and words of the prophets were kept by them, even by heart. Yet, when seeing everything unfolding exactly as how the prophet Isaiah himself and the other prophets had mentioned, they still refused to believe in God.

It was this same attitude that God had to face for so many years while patiently sending His people His prophets and messengers, reminding them of His love and truth. Yet, He never gave up on us and kept trying to bring us to Himself. And we should also compare the attitudes of the Pharisees to that of the companions of the paralytic man, who had so much faith in the Lord that they were willing to climb up with the paralytic man to the roof, a no small feat, and helped the man to reach the Lord to be healed.

The question that all of us should ask ourselves is, who do we want to be like? Do we want to behave like the Pharisees in their ways, in refusing to humble themselves to the Lord and in keeping their pride and arrogance? Or do we want to be like the paralytic man and his companions instead, who sought the Lord, our Salvation and Light, our Hope and Prince of Peace with true and genuine faith? This is something that we have to ponder carefully in our hearts as we continue to prepare ourselves in this blessed season of Advent, for the coming of the joyous Christmas celebrations.

Today, all of us should be inspired by the faith and dedication, the good examples and virtues shown to us by our holy predecessor, whose feast we celebrate today, the renowned St. Nicholas of Myra. Many of us may recognise him more as the origin of the ubiquitous Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas and many other personas that were inspired upon the original saint. However, many of those personas did not tell us anything at all about who the true St. Nicholas of Myra truly was. He was a truly devoted man of God, who loved God with all his heart and also did the same for his fellow men.

We may see St. Nicholas of Myra more as an elderly bishop who truly loved children and liked to give them presents. This he actually did as part of his pastoral works and approach among his flock, from which eventually sprang, the legend of St. Nicholas, that eventually was corrupted into Sinterklaas and Santa Claus. But the true St. Nicholas of Myra was not just a loving shepherd to his flock, but an ardent and faithful defender of the faith.

He was an ardent defender of the true faith in the midst of the Arian heresy and schism caused by the priest Arius, during the heated debate and discussions at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. He stood up against those who sought to corrupt the true faith and pervert the truth of God for their own worldly desires and ambitions, as the heresiarch Arius and his supporters had done. In one tradition, it was even told that the faithful St. Nicholas hit the heresiarch when the latter in his speech spoke such utter falsehood that it enraged him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the Scripture passages today and reflect on the life, courage and examples showed by St. Nicholas of Myra and many other saints, let us all be inspired by the genuine faith that others had for God, and the love that they also had for Him. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves thoroughly to God, and dedicate ourselves and our efforts to serve Him for His greater glory?

May the Lord be our Guide and Strength, and may He give us all the courage to remain faithful throughout our journey of life. May God be with us all, and may He empower us all in our everyday lives, that we may ever be inspirations ourselves in how we live our faith, at all times. Amen.

Monday, 6 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, Jesus was teaching and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Monday, 6 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 6 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God Who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes.

There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture and progress through the season of Advent, we are again constantly being reminded of God and His loving presence in our lives, how He is with us and providing us help for what we need, and how He promised all of His people that the time of His salvation will come, the time when all those who are faithful to Him will be gathered to God’s loving embrace.

In our first reading today, we heard of how the promise of God’s salvation to His people was being revealed as He spoke in the prophecy He relayed through Isaiah, His prophet. We heard of how the prophet Isaiah described clearly the coming of the time when the people of Israel will no longer be ashamed or suffer, those who are righteous will no longer be oppressed, and they will see the salvation of God.

The Lord will also heal His people from their afflictions and sickness, their pains and troubles, and give them the new strength and life in Him, blessing them abundantly as He has always done. It has all been fulfilled then through the Messiah or Saviour, Who is none other than Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today we heard how He healed all the multitudes of the sick who were brought to Him and how He cast out demons from them and blessed all of them.

We heard how He also opened the eyes of the blind, among many others, feats that are impossible for human beings, and only serve to show us all how truly Jesus is the Messiah of God, His own beloved Son sent into the world to save us all, His beloved ones. God showed forth His love and just how wonderful and patient that love has been through Christ, the fullness of God’s love manifested in our world. And through the Lord Jesus, God’s truth and love have been propagated through His disciples.

And we celebrate the memory of one of those who succeeded the Apostles and carried forth the loving examples of God’s love to us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra, a holy bishop who lived and ministered to his faithful flock in Myra in what is now Anatolia or Asian part of Turkey in the early century of the Church around the time of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in the early fourth century.

St. Nicholas was also in fact the origin of the now ubiquitous Santa Claus, which arguably had become much, much more famous than his original namesake. Many did not even know of who St. Nicholas of Myra was, or what his life and works had been like, as they were much more aware of Santa Claus, the modern day, sort of secularised and fictional depiction of St. Nicholas, an old man who is generous in giving, delivering gifts to the children and families on the eve of Christmas.

This came forth from the actions of St. Nicholas of Myra, who was remembered for his actions in giving to the children of his flock, caring especially for the poor and the unloved ones. St. Nicholas of Myra however, was also a fierce and courageous defender of the faith, a fact that even many among those who knew St. Nicholas of Myra did not really know. It was told that St. Nicholas punched the heretic Arius in the face when the latter spoke of his heretical thoughts and teachings so blatantly at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

The love which St. Nicholas had shown, which inspired the modern story and representation of Santa Claus is a reminder to all of us that as the disciples and followers of the Lord, we must always show love, care and concern in our lives and therefore bring forth the wonderful love that God has brought to us, to our own fellow brothers and sisters. But then, his courageous and fierce defence of his faith is also then a reminder for us to anchor ourselves in the Lord.

This means that, for every actions we do and for every words we utter and for every interactions we make to one another, we are all called to centre ourselves on God and put Him at the centre focus of our whole lives and existences. We are all called to give our very best to love the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him, as after all, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, God has loved us all so wonderfully in the first place.

Let us all pray that we can thus be strengthened in our faith and in our conviction and desire to love God from now on with all of our heart and with all of our strength. Let us all also then show the same love to our fellow brethren without fail as well, showing genuine and tender love in everything we say and do, at all times, following the good examples set by St. Nicholas of Myra and the many other saints whose lives have inspired us. Amen.

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Matthew 9 : 27-31

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He resurrected the daughter of the official, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about Him through the whole area.