Sunday, 29 November 2020 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday we mark the beginning of a new liturgical year as well as the season of Advent, the time of preparation and spiritual purification for us to prepare ourselves properly for the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Now is a time of reconciliation between us and God, and for us to reexamine our way of life thus far.

As we mark the beginning a new year cycle and this blessed season of preparation, we enter into a time of reconfiguration of our lives and when we also take stock of what we have done and what we are going to do from now on, as we are about to celebrate once again, the joyous celebrations of our Saviour’s birth into this world. Is it going to be just yet another Christmas and another celebration for us? Another season and time of merry-making and fun, but not accompanied by true and profound change of heart, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Many of us have been seeing Christmas and its celebration all around us especially from the lenses of secular and worldly celebrations, as I am very sure that the Christmas festivities have already been in full force by now. As early as October and early November shops, shopping malls and many other places have been decked with plenty of Christmas decorations, themes and various other activities that are meant to prepare everyone for the festivities of the Christmas season.

However, many have easily forgotten of the true meaning of Christmas, where Christmas becomes just another holiday and time of merry-making that is bereft of its true intention and purpose. To many of us, Christmas is about exchanges of gifts, great food and tantalising meals, celebrations and parties. And while of course it is perfectly well and fine to celebrate, but we have often forgotten why it is that we are celebrating in Christmas.

We all knew well that Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and Our God. But, how many of us actually internalise that fact and understand how it is so important and significant for us? Too many of us have treated Christmas, year after year, again and again, just as a season and time to be merry and happy, in tandem with what the world has done, in their secular celebrations.

Do we really appreciate just how important Christmas is to all of us? Christmas, along with Easter that is to come in a few months’ time, together celebrate the very important event in our history, that is the salvation of mankind and the fulfilment of God’s long-held promises for each and every one of us, through Christ, His beloved Son, sent into the world as the ultimate gift for all of us. Without Christmas, there will be no Easter and its significance, and at the same time, without Easter, Christmas itself would have been of little importance.

Why is that so? That is because through Christmas, the Son of God and Saviour of all entered into this world, incarnate into flesh, born as the Son of Man through His mother Mary. At Christmas, we celebrate this newborn Baby, born the Saviour of the world and King of kings, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who was to be the One to make a New Covenant between God and His people, through none other than His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. Without Easter and the Passion that happened before it, then Christmas will be just another birthday of another man. It is Easter that gave Christmas its full meaning and significance.

That is because here we have the Son of God born and uniting Himself into the humanity He willingly took, that would eventually unite our sufferings and sins, and bearing all that burden together on His Cross that Christ became the source of all our salvation, our hope and the Light that dispels the darkness of this world surrounding us. Yes, and that is why, on this First Sunday of Advent, we focus on the theme of Hope, out of the four themes of Advent, ‘Hope’, ‘Peace’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Love’.

Our Christmas joy must always be accompanied by Hope, for Hope is what has been re-enkindled in our hearts following the birth of Christ, and in Him we see once again the Light of God’s hope, amidst our wretched conditions, the despair and darkness that are surrounding us. Once, by our sins we should have been destroyed and condemned to eternal suffering, but God showed that His love and compassion triumph even over all of these, and He has made His love manifested to us, through none other than His Son.

Do you all remember the most famous phrase from the Gospel of St. John, ‘That God so loved the world that He gave us all His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life?’. In these words spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself to Nicodemus the Pharisee, we heard of the proclamation of God’s love and His desire to see us freed and liberated from whatever chains and bondage that had been holding us back, that is the chains of sin and the bondage of death.

It is because of the Lord that we can hope once again, that beyond the sufferings due to sin and death, there is Light that dispels the falsehoods of evil and the despair and fear of darkness. There is Hope because God’s love has been made manifest in the flesh before us, that what was once intangible has become tangible, that God has truly loved us from the very beginning, and has always still loved us, always. And we also look forward to His Second Coming, when He shall return as promised to gather us all His faithful ones.

And now that we know all of these, how should we then proceed with our Christmas celebrations and festivities? It is not wrong to celebrate and be merry, as we should indeed and rightfully be joyful because of Christmas. However, we really need to ask ourselves, what our Christmas celebrations are all about. Is it about ourselves and our desires for good things, for expensive gifts and wonderful, tantalising meals and food, or is it about our joy because of the Hope that Our Lord Jesus Christ has brought us through His birth?

You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, that without the right mindset and focus, we can easily end up losing the entire meaning and purpose of our Christmas celebrations and joy. We can celebrate very well, but without appreciating the true and full meaning and importance of Christmas, then our celebrations are meaningless and empty. Christmas becomes mundane and ordinary just like how year after year people celebrate Christmas in a secular and worldly way, buying gifts and trying to outdo each other in decorating their houses and places.

As Christians, our Christmas celebration is especially important and meaningful because we celebrate this very crucial and pivotal moment in our salvation as mentioned and discussed just earlier. And consequently, our mindset and focus must properly reflect of this, or else we will end up falling into the same trap of commercialised and worldly Christmas celebrations, just as we have certainly been bombarded with all around us these past few weeks.

That is why, during this season of Advent that we begin today, we have to prepare ourselves, not just in material terms and physically like in preparing for all the parties and celebrations, but even more importantly, we have to spiritually prepare ourselves, for the Advent, or the coming of Our Lord. For it is this expectation of the coming of the Lord that gave this season its Name, from the term ‘Adventus’ which means ‘coming and appearing’. We have to focus on that Hope that Christ has brought us with His birth, and share that same Hope to one another, the Hope in the salvation of Our God.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by reaching out to one another and sharing the Hope that Christ has brought to us, be it to our fellow Christians or to any other out there, our friends and relatives, our acquaintances and even strangers and others we encounter in our daily lives. And this year in particular had been especially difficult and tough for so many people out there, enduring and suffering the extended effects of the pandemic, the economic troubles and other conflicts between nations that we are surely very familiar of all throughout this year.

Can we, as Christians, be bearers of Hope for the world, for our less fortunate brothers and sisters? If we ourselves have suffered and laboured in suffering this year, do not forget that there are definitely those others who have suffered even more and in even worse state than we are now. Let us restore the hope in others, by reaching out to them and helping one another in even small, little ways that we can do, to show the Hope of Christ through our actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those are just some ways that we can begin our Advent preparations well, and there are many other ways that we can make our blessed season of Advent meaningful, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas together. And this year, being known for its limitations and restrictions due to the pandemic, is perhaps a good time for us to reflect on our usual Christmas practices and celebrations, to ask ourselves once again, the fundamental questions of, ‘Why do we celebrate this Christmas?’ and ‘What is the meaning of Christmas to me and my family?’

Let us all enter into this season of Advent with solemnity and internal reflection, and let us refocus our attention in life, that we turn our gaze and focus once again on the Lord and the hope that He has brought to us, that in Him alone lies our salvation, and through Him, we can overcome the darkness that are affecting us, and through Him, our sufferings and pains, our troubles and difficulties will eventually be gone, and in Him, we shall enjoy one day, the eternal glory and true happiness with Him, forevermore. May God bless us all and our Advent activities. Amen.

Sunday, 29 November 2020 : First Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 13 : 33-37

At that time Jesus said to His disciples, “Be alert and watch, for you do not know when the time will come. When a man goes abroad and leaves his home, he puts his servants in charge, giving to each one some responsibility; and he orders the doorkeeper to stay awake.”

“So stay awake, for you do not know when the Lord of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight, when the cock crows or before dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him catch you asleep. And what I say to you, I say to all : Stay awake!”

Sunday, 29 November 2020 : First Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

1 Corinthians 1 : 3-9

Receive grace, and peace from God, our Father, and Christ Jesus, our Lord. I give thanks, constantly, to my God, fo you, and for the grace of God given to you, in Christ Jesus. For you have been fully enriched, in Him, with words, as well as with knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you.

You do not lack any spiritual gift and only await the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, our Lord. He will keep you steadfast to the end, and you will be without reproach, on the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus. The faithful God will not fail you, after calling you to this fellowship with His Son, Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Sunday, 29 November 2020 : First Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the son of man, whom You make strong for Yourself. Then, we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Sunday, 29 November 2020 : First Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 63 : 16b-17, 19b and Isaiah 64 : 2b-7

But You, o YHVH, are our Father, from the beginning, You are our Redeemer : This is Your Name. Why have You made us stray from our ways? Why have You let our heart become hard so that we do not fear You? Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your inheritance.

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down! The mountains would quake at Your presence. Let them witness Your stunning deeds. No one has ever heard or perceived, no eye has ever seen a God besides You Who works for those who trust in Him. You have confounded those who acted righteously and who joyfully kept Your ways in mind. But You are angry with our sins, yet conceal them and we shall be saved.

All of us have become like the unclean; all our good deeds are like polluted garments; we have all withered like leaves, blown away by our iniquities. There is no one who calls upon Your Name, no one who rouses himself to lay hold of You. For You have hidden Your face, You have given us up to the power of our evil acts.

And yet, YHVH, You are our Father; we are the clay and You are our Potter; we are the work of Your hand.

Sunday, 22 November 2020 : Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the very last Sunday in our current liturgical year cycle, and therefore we celebrate together the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King, the King of the Universe. Today we glorify our Lord and God, Who is the King of Kings and Lord of all. He alone is the Master of all creation and hence the entire Universe as its King.

At the end of this current liturgical year we are all reminded of the Kingship of our Lord and how each and every one of us are truly subject to His authority and power, for each and every one of us have been created by the Lord as His creatures. But many of us have not understood, appreciated or acknowledged Him as our King as well as the nature of His Kingship.

Yes, the Lord is King, but He is not like any kings of the world that we know of. He was not born into the world in riches and glory like the other kings and rulers of the world’s nations, in wealth and wonders, but in poverty and in the filthy stable of Bethlehem, not fit even for human habitation, and even less so for a king. He did not live in palaces and great houses, but in the wilderness as He Himself said that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head.

And before Pontius Pilate, during the moment of His Passion, when He was arrested and condemned to die by the Sanhedrin and brought before the Roman governor for final judgment, the Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as a King, and answering to Pilate’s questions of His kingship, He again said that He is truly a King, but His kingship is not of this world, referring to the fact that He is indeed unlike any other kings.

The Lord is the one and only true King, from Whom all authority, power and kingship came from. All the rulers and kings of this world gained their authority from the Lord, as the stewards entrusted with the care of God’s people, just in the same way that in spiritual matters, the Lord also entrusted the faithful to His Church, under the leadership of the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle, and the bishops.

Yet, many of the rulers of this world abused their entrusted power and authority, and like the parables which the Lord had used to teach the people, particularly those regarding stewards who had been unfaithful and lazy in the dealings of their works, many of these kings and rulers of the world did not do as they had been called and entrusted to do by the Lord, but instead, sought to gain for themselves for wealth, power and glory.

This was why many ended up becoming corrupt and tyrannical in their actions, causing suffering and harm on many people to satisfy their own selfish and greedy desires. Many had gone to conflict and wars in order to satisfy these desires, their pride and ego, just as our past century’s many deadly wars can show us. The two World Wars that the world had bled from, all had stemmed from those leaders who abused the power and authority entrusted to them.

Against all these, the Lord showed us all true leadership and kingship, one not founded upon pride, ego, greed, desire, and ambition, but rather love, compassion, care, selflessness and righteousness. The Lord shows us all that He is a King Who is always loving and caring towards all of His people, likened to that of a shepherd who loves and cares for each and every one of his sheep.

Shepherds at that time, as it is still today, are those who spent a lot of time taking care of their herd of sheep and other animals, and they knew their sheep well. This is why the Scripture readings today touch on the Lord as the Good Shepherd, as the Shepherd of the faithful, as we are the flock led by our Lord, the one and true Shepherd of all. And as the Good Shepherd, He knows us all well in and out, by each of our names and He knows all about us.

The Lord is showing all of us what true Christian leadership is all about, that as Christians, especially those in the positions of leadership, they all have to look upon the Lord’s own examples, in how He wielded His power and authority with justice, with care and love, concern and compassion on all those who have been put under His power, while dealing justly with others who have misbehaved and did wrong.

And this brings us to our Gospel passage today in which we heard of the account of the Last Judgment as the Lord foretold it Himself. At the Last Judgment, when all of creation shall be judged by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, as He returns into this world as a triumphant King, to finally claim all for Himself and to gather everything to Him, He shall be the Great Judge judging all of us mankind by our actions, deeds and by our faith.

The Lord said how the righteous will be separated from the wicked, and their deeds revealed before all. The righteous are those who have extended their love, care and affection for the needy, the poor and those who need for the attention and help from others, and the Lord shall bless and thank them for whatever they had done, saying that what they had done for those, they had done unto Himself.

In parallel, those who have been deemed as wicked and unjust had been judged because of their refusal to reach out and help, to show their love for those who need that love most, when they were perfectly in the position and were capable to do so. They were judged by their refusal to follow the example of the Lord in love, in care and in compassion towards one another. Instead, they have chosen to keep everything to themselves and in being selfish and greedy.

This is a warning and reminder that we should not forget that our Christian calling is to follow the Lord and His examples, and first and foremost, to obey the Lord’s commandments of love, that we are first and foremost to love the Lord, our God and King with all of our strength, and then to show the same love to one another, to our brethren, especially those who need that love, even more than we love ourselves. We should not allow our ego, desire and ambition to make us forget of our Christian calling and faith.

Today, as we all rejoice in our Lord, the King of Kings and King of the whole Universe and of all things, we are all called and indeed challenged, called to reflect on whether He is our King in all things, or whether our Christian faith is merely just a formality and the Lord is not truly the King of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls. If the Lord is truly our King, then all of us as His people, His beloved sheep and flock should all follow Him and His examples just as the sheep follow their shepherd faithfully.

Many of us have wandered off into the wrong paths like the lost sheep, and yet the Lord had patiently waited for us to return, and even went out all the way to look for us, wanting each and every one of us to be reconciled to Him. And therefore, let us all as Christians in our every deeds and actions, in everything we say and do, always be exemplary and good, always be just and righteous following the examples of our Lord and King.

Let us all be inspiration of faith for one another, and help each other to remain firm in our faith, and to keep steady in our path in our journey of faith. Let us all not be distracted or be dissuaded by false promises of desire, power, glory and all other things that can lead us astray. Let us put the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and King at the centre of our hearts and whole existence, that in everything we do, we will always glorify Him and praise Him at all times.

Let us also pray for all of our leaders, all those in the Church and in the secular leadership positions, that they may imitate the examples of the Lord in His humility and genuine care for all those under His care, that they too may be responsible, just and ultimately good rulers and stewards, protecting and caring for all those who have been put under their care and that they may resist against whatever temptations that try to lead them down the path of selfishness, greed and tyranny.

May the Lord, our loving and most wonderful King continue to bless each and every one of us, and help us in our respective journey, that we may grow ever stronger in our love and devotion to Him, just as He Himself has loved us all first with such great intensity and sincerity despite our sins and rebelliousness. May God bless us all and be with us, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 22 November 2020 : Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 25 : 31-46

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory with all His Angels, He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be brought before Him; and, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, so will He do with them, placing the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left.”

“The King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, blessed of My Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me into your home. I was naked, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me. I was in prison, and you came to see Me.’”

“Then the righteous will ask Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and give You food; thirsty, and give You something to drink; or a stranger, and welcome You; or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and go to see You?’ The King will answer, ‘Truly I say to you : just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it to Me.’”

“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Go, cursed people, out of My sight, into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels! For I was hungry, and you did not give Me anything to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not welcome Me into your house; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’”

“They, too, will ask, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, naked or a stranger, sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ The King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you : just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for Me.’ And these will go into eternal punishments; but the just, to eternal life.”

Sunday, 22 November 2020 : Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 15 : 20-26, 28

But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep. A human being brought death; a Human Being also brings resurrection of the dead. For, as in Adam all die, so, in Christ, all will be made alive. However, each one in his own time : first Christ, then Christ’s people, when He comes.

Then, the end will come, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after having destroyed every rule, authority and power. For He must reign and put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. When the Father has subjected everything to Him, the Son will place Himself under the One Who subjected everything to Him. From then on, God will be all in all.

Sunday, 22 November 2020 : Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul. He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life, I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 22 November 2020 : Last Sunday of Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 34 : 11-12, 15-17

Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them. As the shepherd looks after his flock when he finds them scattered, so will I watch over My sheep; and gather them from all the places where they were scattered in a time of cloud and fog.

I, Myself, will tend My sheep and let them rest, word of YHVH. I will search for the lost and lead back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak; but the fat and strong will be eliminated. I will shepherd My flock with justice.

As for you, My flock – says YHVH – I will distinguish between one sheep and another, and set apart rams and goats.