Saturday, 23 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures telling us about the prophecy regarding the coming of a messenger who would prepare the way for the coming of the Lord’s glorious salvation as well as the fulfilment of that prophecy. In the first reading, we heard the prophecy made by the prophet Malachi, the last of the prophets recorded in the Old Testament regarding the servant of God.

In that prophecy, he spoke of someone who would come to straighten the path for the Lord, preparing the people for the coming of the day of restoration and reconciliation between them and the Lord. His prophecy was among the many prophecies and messages which the Lord has given to His people throughout time, and it spoke about St. John the Baptist, the messenger of God and Herald of the Messiah.

As we prepare ourselves to welcome the joy of the Christmas season, it is indeed a good time for us to reflect on the life and works of St. John the Baptist. His birth is the theme of today’s Gospel passage, as God’s long promised salvation was finally at hand. He was the one to prepare the way for the Lord, to make His paths straight, by his works among the people, through his baptisms at the Jordan, where he called the people to repent from their sins.

Now, let us ask ourselves, are we doing what St. John the Baptist has called on the people of his time to do? Yet, if we look at how we normally celebrate Christmas, we will see that many of us worry about many other things during Christmas, and not about what we really need to do with our lives. Many of us worry about how we will celebrate Christmas, what kind of food and gifts we are going to have, instead of remembering the true purpose of this celebration in Christmas.

When we celebrate Christmas, we are joyful not because it is just another holiday or day off from work, and also not because it is a time for us to go for holidays and have merrymaking and parties. Christmas is not just another festive season when we exchange gifts and enjoy ourselves with our families and friends. In truth, it is much, much more than all of those.

In Christmas, we remember the historical birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, through Whom God has revealed His grace and love, and by Whose sacrifice on the cross, He has redeemed all those who believed in Him and brought them to reconciliation with Him. But it is not just an annual remembrance of the time that has passed and has no significance to us.

That is because as the Lord Himself promised to us, just before He ascended in glory to heaven, that He will come again at the time of His choosing, when He will judge all the peoples, and those who are caught unprepared and living in a state of sin, and not being repentant, will be thrown into hell with Satan and his fellow fallen angels, where we will have eternal regret.

Each and every one of us as Christians need to internalise that call which St. John the Baptist made, and which the prophet Malachi prophesied about. ‘Repent, for the kingdom of God is about to come!’ is the message we need to listen to, and which we need to reflect upon. And we need to ask ourselves, what is it that we are doing or we have been doing to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord, if that is going to happen suddenly, for example, tomorrow. Are we ready for Him? More importantly, are we worthy of Him?

Let us all heed the examples and the piety of St. John of Kanty, a holy and devout servant of God whose feast day we celebrate today. St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius was a Polish priest, philosopher and theologian who was renowned for his many works and writings, but even more so for his deep devotion to the Lord, his charitable life and almsgiving to the poor.

He lived humbly and showed generosity towards his neighbours. He cared for those who are in need, and as a teacher and scholar, he also cared for the students who were in need of assistance, in the university where he was also working at as a professor and academic. His dedication to the Lord and to his fellow men and women inspired many others down the centuries even until this very day.

All of us should follow in his footsteps, and especially in our Christmas celebrations this year and henceforth. Let us not give in to the culture of excess, materialism and hedonistic attitudes, by celebrating Christmas with much glamour and fanciness, and yet without compassion, love and generosity. Instead, we should share our joys and blessings with others, especially those who are poor and in need.

Let us strive towards a more meaningful Christmas celebration, one that is centred on Christ, and not on ourselves. And rather than worrying on the wrong things, on superficial matters of Christmas celebrations, we should spend our time giving our love, care and attention for those who are in need, being more charitable and generous upon one another.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our path, that we may grow ever deeper in faith, and will be able to devote ourselves more wholeheartedly following the footsteps of our holy predecessors, St. John the Baptist, St. John of Kanty and many others, that we will be ready and be worthy when the Lord comes again, even if He does so suddenly, and we will be worthy of receiving His eternal glory and inheritance. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 23 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”

They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

Saturday, 23 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

The ways of the Lord are love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and precepts. The Lord gives advice to those who revere Him and makes His covenant known to them.

Saturday, 23 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for Whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts. Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching.

He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of YHVH comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.

Friday, 22 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day from the first reading we listened to the reading from the Book of the prophet Samuel, in which the young prophet Samuel was brought to the House of God, in fulfilment of the promise and vow which his parents had made when he was conceived in a miraculous way by God’s grace.

Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was one of the two wives of his father, Eliakim. She has not been able to bear any children, and by the standard and custom of that time, being barren of any children was a very big embarrassment for a wife and a woman. The more children a woman has, the more prestige and honour she was accorded to. And thus, Hannah was very distraught that she has not been able to bear any child at all.

She promised the Lord that she would dedicate and consecrate her firstborn child should He endeavour to allow her to bear a child, and her prayer was indeed heard. Samuel was her firstborn son, and she entrusted him after he was weaned to the Judge of Israel, Eli, and from then on, he became Eli’s student and eventually would succeed him as Judge and leader of the entire nation of Israel.

Hannah was so joyful and so filled with the Holy Spirit that she sang wonderfully from her heart, which we have as our Psalm today, the Song of Hannah. She was filled with righteous joy, because God has listened to her predicament and granted her heart’s desire. She was thankful that God has listened to her plea, as she was ridiculed and oppressed by the other wife of Eliakim, Penninah, who often looked down on her just because she had several children with him.

Then, in the Gospel today, we heard another joyful song, that is the song of Mary, the Magnificat, which she sang full of joy and filled with the Holy Spirit much like that of Hannah in the Old Testament. She was joyful because while she was merely a young and humble servant, a woman without much wealth or significance in the eyes of the world, but she was glorified by God and given the ultimate honour of being the mother of God and Saviour of the world.

In all of these, we can see just how great the joy that happened to the two women, Hannah and Mary. And it is this same joy that each and every one of us should also have in this season of Christmas, as we are just three days away from celebrating this momentous event in our history of mankind. But are we rejoicing for the right reasons? Are we rejoicing because we are happy to have a wonderful break and holiday from our usual busy life and work? Are we rejoicing because we are looking forward to all the festivities and the good food we are going to have?

These should not be the main reason for our joyous celebrations, as the main focus of our celebration and joy should be Christ, and we rejoice because of His coming into this world. Before He came, man long waited for the salvation that God had promised to His people, and they were waiting for the deliverance from the depredation of sin and death. Since He came into this world, a new hope had dawned on all of us, and through Christ, we are able to find our way to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore spend time to prepare ourselves wholeheartedly, that we may be able to celebrate Christmas meaningfully and with true joy, knowing that because of Christ, we have new hope and new life, and all of us who are faithful to Him, will not be disappointed, for He will lead us to a new life and a new existence, and we hope that we will be forever with Him in the glory of everlasting life. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 22 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour! He has looked down upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed.”

“The Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His Name! From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden.”

“He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

Friday, 22 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

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.