Thursday, 8 December 2022 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Thursday, 8 December 2022 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Thursday, 8 December 2022 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Thursday, 8 December 2022 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that the Lord our God is our Rock and Foundation, and in Him alone we will find a firm and steady support for ourselves, regardless of whatever trials, hardships and struggles we may encounter throughout life. The Lord alone is the source of our true strength and without Him we shall have nothing and our existence has no meaning at all. Yet, many of us still chose to build our lives upon unstable and shaky foundations, based on worldly things, resources and matters, and not on the Lord and His providence. We have often left the Lord out of our lives and put Him aside when in truth He should have been at the very centre of our lives.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Isaiah regarding what He will do to them, in providing for them, protecting them and leading them into glory, rescuing them from their troubles and their enemies. They shall once again see happiness and true joy through God’s providence and love. Back then, during the time of the ministry and work of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God left in the land of Judah, the southern half of the once united kingdom of Israel, were facing great trials and challenges, as their enemies rose up all around them, threatening them and drowning them by their great power. Yet, the Lord reassured them that if they remained firm in their faith in Him and trusted in Him, God will always be by their side and they will be saved in the end.

At that time, the kingdom of Israel, the northern domain of the people of God, north of Judah had just recently been destroyed by the conquering and rampaging Assyrians who crushed the entire kingdom of Israel, subjugating its people to humiliation and exile, bringing many of them to the distant lands away from their homeland. Their constant refusal to listen to the Lord, their sins and wickedness had brought about that consequence, as they were all humbled from their haughty attitude against the Lord’s faithful, His many prophets and messengers whom they had persecuted and rejected. However, it did not mean that God did not love His people or forsake them. He still loved them, but those wayward ones indeed had to face their consequences first, and know that what they had suffered, came because of their own actions and choices.

Then, the Assyrians also came up against Judah after they had crushed the Israelites. King Sennacherib of Assyria brought a massive and powerful army against the kingdom of Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem itself. Conventionally, by the wisdom and understanding of the world, the people of Judah and Jerusalem were doomed, and they should have shared the fate of their northern brethren. Yet, while Sennacherib uttered blasphemies and nasty words against God and His people, the people of Judah, who had been faithful to the Lord by the leadership of their king Hezekiah, remained firm in their faith and were not swayed by the persuasions, coercions, threats or ridicule by the king of Assyria. The Lord did not abandon His people and He stood by them, exactly just as what we have heard in our first reading today.

That is because while Sennacherib boasted in the greatness of his worldly power, the might of his army and his vast armaments, the Lord reminded him and humbled him, telling him just how futile his boasting and how fleeting his power and glory actually were. The Lord sent His mighty Angels to stand guard over His City, and He sent them to crush the armies of the Assyrians, where the whole vast multitudes of Sennacherib’s army was destroyed, and the king of Assyria had to return back to his lands in shame. According to the Scriptures and historical evidence, he was assassinated by his own sons soon after, marking the most ignominious end for this king who had boasted against God and uttered blasphemy against Him. Meanwhile, the people of Judah and Jerusalem were saved and triumphant, under the power of their Lord and true King, God Himself.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard then of the Lord’s parable of the houses, in which He highlighted two houses built upon two different foundations, one of insecure and shaky sand, and the other of solid and firm rocky foundation. In that parable, the Lord Jesus highlighted how all those who had no real and genuine faith in Him are like those who built their houses upon the unsteady foundation of sand, and gave examples of those who called on Him and claimed to know Him, and yet in their hearts and minds, they had no place for God and God is not at the centre or the focus of their hearts and minds. The Lord reminded us all therefore that if we are truly to call ourselves as Christians, then we must indeed have genuine faith in Him, and we cannot merely be faithful on the outside, but is empty of faith inside.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter and progress through this season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, let us all therefore reflect on our faith and life, whether we have indeed been true believers of Christ and His truth, and whether we have made Him the firm foundation of our lives, or whether we have chosen to make other worldly things and matters as the foundations of our lives instead of God. We do not have to go and look far beyond what we can see in how many people celebrate Christmas. Christmas has become so secularised and focused on many worldly forms of pleasures and joys that we end up losing sight of what Christmas is all about, and what we are in fact celebrating. We must not forget that the Lord Jesus is truly the reason why we rejoice as we prepare for the glorious celebrations of Christmas.

That is why, let us all purify our hearts and minds, and clear our thoughts and discern carefully our way of living, and our preparations for Christmas in particular so that we may indeed be worthy to celebrate it with proper disposition, understanding and faith. Let us all lead by example through our lives so that we may help others to see the truth of God, and anchor our lives firmly on Him, our Rock and our Strength, our Foundation and our Salvation. May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He empower us all to remain faithful and committed in our Christian living, now and always, evermore. May all of us have a truly blessed and fruitful Advent. Amen.

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 21, 24-27

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock.”

“But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 117 : 1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the help of humans. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the might of princes.

Open to me the gates of the Just, and let me enter to give thanks. This is YHVH’s gate, through which the upright enter. I thank You for having answered me, for having rescued me.

Save us, o YHVH, deliver us, o YHVH! Blessed is He Who comes in YHVH’s Name! We praise You from the house of YHVH. YHVH is God; may His light shine upon us.

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 26 : 1-6

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah : We have a strong city, He Himself has set up walls and fortifications to protect us. Open the gates! Let the righteous nation enter, she who is firm in faithfulness. You keep in perfect place the one of steadfast mind, the one who trusts in You.

Trust in YHVH forever, for YHVH is an everlasting Rock. He brought down those who dwell on high, He laid low the lofty city, He razed it to the ground, levelled it to the dust. Now it is trampled, the poor and the lowly tread upon it.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that no matter how challenging and difficult the obstacles, trials and persecutions we may have to face in being Christians, as those whom the Lord had called and those who had devoted themselves to Him, we must always have faith in God and in the fact that in the end, the Lord will be triumphant. And all of us who remain faithful to the Lord will be justified and share in the triumph and victory of He Who conquers sin, evil and death. That is something which all of us need to remember, as we continue to progress through our lives and activities daily, so that we do not end up losing sight on the true destination that we will reach through Christ.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations, we heard of the details of the vision of St. John the Apostle seeing the great defeat of Babylon the great, the mighty enemy of all the faithful, and how the persecutions and oppressions against the people of God will finally cease and those who persecute them will face their just consequences and punishments. The Lord will not let those who are faithful to Him to suffer without good reason and without being avenged, and their blood and sufferings will be paid dearly by those who have inflicted hurt on their own brothers and sisters, and those will be thrown down and cast into the eternal darkness and annihilation together with the devil and all of the other forces of the wicked and evil, all the fallen angels, demonic spirits and more.

Some people back in the early days of the Church associated that Babylon with what is in fact a connotation to the time when the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and Jerusalem, a few centuries before the coming of Christ, and destroyed the city and its Temple, persecuting the people of God and bringing them into exile. That Babylon by the time of the Lord and afterwards would come to be associated then with Rome, and its bitter persecutions of Christians. That association became even stronger after the Romans, like the Babylonians in the past, destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple just less than four decades after the Lord Himself had predicted it, and there were many among the people of God who were killed or suffered because of that.

Hence, naturally Rome was seen as the great Babylon, and the Lord’s retribution and victory would be won against it. Indeed, later on after almost three centuries of persecutions, the Christian faith and Church was finally tolerated and the persecutions were mostly gone, and eventually the Roman Emperors themselves and the whole entire Empire would adopt the Christian faith as their faith. However, it also means that the vision of St. John the Apostle have not yet taken place yet, unlike some early Christians who would have believed that the events as recorded in the Book of Revelations to be happening immediately, or very soon afterwards. But only the Lord Himself knows the exact moment when all of that will happen.

The Gospel passage today essentially spoke of what I had mentioned just earlier, about the Lord Himself proclaiming to the people how the city of Jerusalem, its Temple and all the people inside it, will face destruction because of the forces arrayed against them in the coming years, which would indeed come true during the first Roman-Jewish war that came about because of the rebellions from a certain segment of the Jewish people against the Roman rule which eventually led to the great and bitter conflict culminating in the siege and downfall of Jerusalem, and how the magnificent Temple built just a few decades earlier by King Herod the Great was thrown down and destroyed right to its very foundations. Everything happened as the Lord had proclaimed, and He warned His followers of the signs of what would happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the lesson we then ought to learn from our Scripture passages today is that, while we may face daunting moments and trials, hardships and persecutions in our journey towards the Lord, but we must not give up our faith in God and we must not give in to the temptations, coercions and pressures to follow in the flow of the world, all the demands of those who seek to subvert the truth of God, and all those forces seeking our downfall and destruction. We should stand firm in our commitment to the path that God has shown and led us into, and follow the good examples set by our faithful and dedicated predecessors, all the saints and martyrs who had given their all to glorify God by their lives and examples.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, consisting of both the Christian missionaries who came to Vietnam to proclaim the Lord’s Good News and the local Christian converts and communities of the faithful. Like that of in the early days of the Church, the then Vietnamese government and authorities persecuted the Christians and the Church as they were highly suspicious of them because the missionaries came from foreign countries whom might be seen back then as attempting to sow dissent and act as agents to the foreign powers which back then had begun to interfere in the political and societal establishment of Vietnam and its neighbours.

To that end, the authorities persecuted Christians all throughout Vietnam, as people like St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who was one of the first local Vietnamese ordained to the priesthood, as well as the foreign missionaries, other leaders of the Church and more of the general Christian population, were gathered up, arrested and eventually put to death. Yet, despite the great challenges that they had to endure, most of those Christian faithful remained firm in their faith and chose to suffer and die rather than to betray their Lord and Master. Their courage and piety, their great dedication to God became inspiration for so many other people who are encouraged to remain firmly faithful to the Lord despite the challenges and trials facing them. Therefore, we too should be inspired and encouraged in the same way as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed zeal and conviction, with the strength, courage and spirit to dedicate ourselves, our every actions and deeds, our every energy for the sake of the Lord, for His Church and for His people. May the Lord continue to guide us all through this journey of faith, and may He empower us all to be ever stronger in faith and to draw ever closer to His grace and love, like that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”