Thursday, 12 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and the New World, widely venerated and celebrated not just in the American continent but also now all over the world. This devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe had its roots in the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the site of Tepeyac hill near Mexico City today, where Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a native American, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.

At that time, about five hundred years ago, just recently after the discovery of the New World, the American continent and the arrival of the Christian faith to the New World, Our Lady appeared on the ninth of December on the year 1531 to St. John Diego who was a native peasant who saw Our Lady speaking to him in his native tongue and explaining to him who she was and asked him to build a church over at that site in her honour.

Over the next few days, the apparition at the site of the Tepeyac hill continued and St. John Diego corresponded with the local bishop on the matter of the miraculous appearance and the vision he experienced of Our Lady. The Archbishop did not initially believed St. John Diego and it was only after St. John Diego again experienced the vision and related to him what he had seen, that the Archbishop inquired St. John Diego to go to the apparition of Our Lady to ask of her for a miraculous sign that could prove her identity.

At that same time, St. John Diego’s uncle was very sick, and as a result, St. John Diego was unable to meet Our Lady at the appointed time, and had to delay the meeting to the next day, and on that day, St. John Diego initially tried to avoid meeting Our Lady because he was still concerned of his uncle’s condition and then he was also ashamed of his failure to fulfil what she had asked of him in meeting her the previous day.

That was how then there was another encounter between Our Lady and St. John Diego as she chided him for not having put his trust in God through her intercession. In the words that are now famous, Our Lady spoke to St. John Diego, “Am I not here, I who am your Mother?” as a kind reminder not only to St. John Diego but also to all of us that we can indeed put our trust in her as our mother and the mother of our Lord, God and Saviour.

Then, Our Lady arranged some flowers and put them into the cloak worn by St. John Diego, flowers that are not common or native to the place, and asked him to bring them to the Archbishop to be shown as a sign. When St. John Diego came before the Archbishop bearing the flowers and showed him the miraculous flowers, what attracted the attention of everyone and the Archbishop was the image of Our Lady herself, imprinted on the cloak worn by St. John Diego.

From this tilma or cloak, we now have the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as it had been for the past almost five centuries. The original tilma is still enshrined within the great Basilica now standing at the very place of the apparition, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to which many millions of pilgrims and visitors came every year, devoting themselves and seeking for the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we celebrate this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we are called to reflect on what we have just discussed earlier on about the occurrence of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. John Diego and the faithful, we should realise how all of us need to have greater faith in God through our greater love and devotion to Him as well as to His mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. Just as she reminded St. John Diego to seek her and to ask for her intercession, we should also do the same.

For Mary, the Mother of God is indeed the one closest to her Son in heaven, being placed at His right hand as the Queen Mother of Heaven, much like king Solomon of Israel placed his own mother Bathsheba by his side. Through Mary, the greatest and most wonderful and blessed of all the saints and by her intercessions for our sake, probably countless souls have been brought closer to God by His grace, and saved from eternal damnation through her many works and efforts.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we going to seek recourse to our blessed Mother? Or are we going to overlook and ignore her as what we have done all these while? Let us all look upon our blessed Mother, whom Christ our Lord had in fact entrusted to us from the Cross just as He entrusted her to His beloved disciple St. John the Apostle, representing all of us the members of His Church. Let us all devote ourselves to God ever more deeply and lovingly by deepening our own devotion to His blessed mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, most blessed and honoured among all women, the greatest of all the saints and the Holy Mother of God, pray for us all sinners, that your Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ may look kindly upon us and have mercy on our wretched souls and beings. May you continue to intercede for us all, o Lady of Guadalupe, most blessed and loving mother of us all. Amen.

Thursday, 12 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

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!”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Luke 1 : 39-47

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!”

Thursday, 12 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

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.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-8

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more.

The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone. YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up.

YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts. He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour. The earth to its pillars belongs to YHVH and on them He has set the world.

Thursday, 12 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

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.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10c

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.” But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.”

Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel, for God-is-with-us.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, each and every one of us are reminded that we can indeed put our complete and undivided attention and trust in the Lord, for it is in Him alone that we will find true joy and comfort, and we will not be disappointed should we decide to put our faith in Him, as He is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He has made with us.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard the prophet Isaiah spoke again regarding of the promise of good life and salvation which all of us will receive from God, and in today’s passage, the prophet spoke of just how mighty and all-powerful God is, and everything is possible for Him, as He is truly almighty and omnipotent in all things. And yet, this almighty and all-powerful God wants to love each and every one of us mankind, whom He has made to be His own people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus Himself said, as He called all of us to Him, offering His yoke to us, as the lighter yoke than that of the yoke of the world, and calling on us all who are weary and heavily burdened, that He will give us rest. This is indeed a message that brings great comfort to all of us just as how it must have brought great relief to all those who heard Christ right there and then.

Yet, if we notice carefully, the Lord did not say that He will immediately remove from all of us all obstacles and make our lives easy and good. In fact, by using the term ‘yoke’ which is the burden used to bind the cattle and beasts of burden at that time, the Lord indirectly referred to the fact that for those who follow Him, there will be trials and challenges to come, and to be a faithful Christian we must be prepared to stand up for our faith and defend it.

But this is still better compared to the alternative path, in which we may not suffer as much for now, and we may enjoy the journey more and be pleased more for now. That is because while the path of the Lord may seem to be more challenging and difficult for us to walk, but in truth, it leads us into the true and eternal rest in God, when we will receive the fullness of the inheritance, happiness and glory that God has promised us all.

On the other hand, if we choose the other path, the path of worldliness and the path advocated by the devil, it may seem to be less challenging and easier, and we will likely be more accepted and have more peace in life, but all these are just deceptions to prevent us from realising that this path is leading us into damnation and eternal suffering in hell. And this is why many people ended up falling into the same temptation and fell away from God’s path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent we are all called to reflect on our lives and how we have lived them thus far. Have we been walking faithfully with God and putting our trust in Him, or have we instead sought the comforts and good things in life that as Christians we have been lukewarm in living our faith and been inactive and dormant in embracing our faith in God?

That is why today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Damasus I, whose feast we are celebrating today. Pope St. Damasus I was the Pope and leader of the Universal Church at a time when there were plenty of challenges and difficulties facing the faithful and the Church, as there were many heresies and false teachings threatening to divide the Church among many other issues.

Pope St. Damasus managed and led the Church through those difficult years. He spoke out firmly against the heresies and those leading the Church and the faithful into them. Pope St. Damasus had his hands full in managing all these issues and yet he continued to do his best to serve the faithful in his role as Pope and leader of the Church. He wrote extensively and also supported St. Jerome in compiling the Latin version of the Bible, namely the Vulgate.

Pope St. Damasus also worked hard to maintain good relations with the Church leaders in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, and he even played a major role in the resolution of the leadership and succession disputes in the Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria. Truly, we can see just how busy Pope St. Damasus I must have been at that time and the kind of immense trials that he had to endure in being faithful to God and to the missions entrusted to him, yet he remained true to his faith and dedicated himself wholeheartedly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of Pope St. Damasus I, in being faithful to God and in putting our trust in Him, that we may walk courageously in the path that He has shown us even despite all the challenges and trials that we may have to face along the way. May the Lord guide us and help us throughout this journey and may He bless us all always. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.