Tuesday, 1 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we enter into the season of Advent and begin this month of December, we are all called to take a step back from our usual busy schedules, and think of how we can make best use of this season of Advent. The time of Advent is a time for reconciliation with God, a time for redirection and reorientation of our lives. As we enter into this time of Advent, we are all called to find more time for God, and to prepare ourselves for His coming.

Yes, brothers and sisters, as we all should know that the essence of Advent itself comes from name, ‘Adventus’ which means the coming and appearing, with the connotation of expecting the coming of something, and in this case, what most of us probably knew is that Advent is the season of expectation for the coming of Christmas. However, Advent itself also has another connotation as a reminder for each one of us, that this expectation of the Lord’s coming is not just one of our commemoration of His past birth in Bethlehem in Judea, but even more importantly, that we also await His future second coming.

The Lord has revealed all of these to us through His disciples, He, the ‘Root of Jesse’ as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, as the descendant and heir of King David, the son of Jesse, to be the One to rule over the Israelites and the people of God forever. And God revealed that His plans and His promises were to be fulfilled through Christ, Who was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the city of David two thousand years ago, the Son of Mary, and the Son of God Most High.

But what we have heard in that passage from our first reading today is in fact a prophecy of not what had happened two thousand years ago, but it is a prophecy that is yet to be completely fulfilled, and which will be fulfilled at the Lord’s second coming, which is going to happen at a time that is preordained and determined by the Lord. As we have read from the Book of Revelations of St. John, part of what is about to happen have been revealed to us in that vision of the end of time.

Some among the Jews refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because to many of them, the Messiah as prophesied and foretold by the prophets like Isaiah was like a powerful, conquering King that will liberate the people of God and restore peace and harmony to the whole land, and indeed, to the whole world. This did not happen when the Lord Jesus was betrayed, arrested and condemned to death at the hands of the Romans, handed over to be crucified.

However, the reality and truth is that, the Lord shall complete everything and all that had been prophesied when He comes again, to gather all of His faithful ones and judge all the living and the dead, all of creation at the Last Judgment. He shall come as a conquering and triumphant King, defeating Satan and all the enemies of God and His faithful ones in one final victory. And this is what each and every one of us are looking forward to in our lives.

By His coming in the historical past, the Lord had brought the His salvation into this world, and revealed His truth and love, restoring hope to us all who have lived in darkness all these while, thus, showing us all the path out of the darkness and into the light. And by His promise of His return, and the New Covenant which He had made with us by His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the Cross, He showed us all the sure path to eternal life and true joy with Him.

This is what we are all truly celebrating, brothers and sisters in Christ, the hope that we have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world and all mankind. Christmas is not about our own selfish happiness and desires, or about our ego and pride, just as we often see how people bicker over Christmas celebrations and trying to outdo each other in making a grander celebrations. Who is it that we celebrate? It is Christ, and the Light of Hope that He has brought into our midst.

In this season of Advent, we are called to purify ourselves and to reorientate our lives, our thoughts and actions, so that we may properly celebrate Christmas, with faith and devotion, and appreciating fully just how important Christmas is to us, because through Christmas, God Himself has dwelled among us, Emmanuel, as He has revealed to us through His prophets. And let us all make ourselves truly worthy of Him, for the sake of His love for each and every one of us. Let us be true and genuine Christians in our every actions and deeds, at all times.

May the Lord help us to journey faithfully through this blessed season of Advent, and may He strengthen our faith and conviction to live our lives with ever greater commitment to serve Him and to glorify Him by our lives. May our Advent season be fruitful and may we all be sources of hope and inspriation to one another, through our faithful observation of this blessed time and season. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 10 : 21-24

At that time, Jesus was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, and said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and made them known to little ones. Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will. I have been given all things by My Father, so that no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.”

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said to them privately, “Fortunate are you to see what you see, for I tell you, that many prophets and kings would have liked to see what you see, but did not see it; and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

God, endow the King with Your justice, the royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Justice will flower on His days, and peace abound, till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted, with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor; He saves the lives of the poor.

May His Name endure forever; may His Name be as lasting as the sun. All the races will boast about Him; and He will be praised by all nations.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 11 : 1-10

From the stump of Jesse a Shoot will come forth; from his roots a Branch will grow and bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and power, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of YHVH.

Not by appearances will He judge, nor by what is said must He decide, but with justice He will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, His word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of His lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of His waist, truth the girdle of His loins.

The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over My holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of YHVH.

On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of Him, thus making His dwelling place glorious.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last 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 we heard from the Scriptures firstly of the account of the reaping of the Earth by the Angel of God as recounted in the Book of Revelations of St. John, and then in the Gospel the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people that the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple would come soon and also elaborated of the signs of the end times. Just as that destruction really came about as the Lord had spoken, it proved that whatever else He said about His coming will definitely come true.

In all of those readings, we heard of the coming of the time of reckoning and judgment of the world, typical of the readings at the end of the liturgical year cycle. This serves to remind us that we have to always be vigilant and not be complacent in living our lives that we do not end up falling into the path of sin and stray from the path that the Lord has shown us. It is very easy for us to be tempted and to be swayed away from the path of God.

In our first reading today, St. John recounted his vision of the Apocalypse or the end times, when the Lord commanded His Angels to go to the world and reap the harvest of the Earth. This is related to the parable of the Lord which was the harvest of the wheat and the weeds in which they were harvested when they were mature at the time of the harvest, and while the wheat were gathered and kept, the weeds were thrown into the fire and perished.

This means that the time will come when the time of reckoning is at hand for all of us, be it the living and the dead, when the Lord at His appointed time shall come again to judge the whole creation just as He has revealed and promised to us. And all those who have been faithful and righteous will be blessed while those who have been defiant and refused to believe in God will be condemned by their sins and wickedness.

That is why at the time of the judgment of the world in the vision of St. John, the same parable was repeated yet again to highlight just how the time of the harvest shall eventually come, the time of the world’s judgment, our judgment shall also come for us. And why does it say that the grapes were thrown into the winepress of the anger of the Lord? That is because likely there are just so much wickedness and evil in the world to bring about God’s anger against all those evils and evildoers.

Now the question is, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we want to be counted among those who are wicked? Or do we rather be counted among the righteous and the worthy ones? God has given each and every one of us the free will and the choice to choose whether we want to be faithful to Him or whether we prefer instead to follow our own path and forge our own ways and actions. If we had chosen to walk away from God, then know it that it is by our own choice that we shall be judged into eternal darkness.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives in the light of the certainty of the Lord’s return and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been good and faithful to the teachings of the Lord that He has revealed to us and taught us through His Church? Have we dedicated our live to Him as we should have done? If we have not done so, then it is not yet too late for us to change our ways and make a difference.

Let us today look up upon the examples of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions, all holy martyrs of the persecution of the faithful in Vietnam, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. St. Andrew Dung-Lac himself was one of the first local Vietnamese to be ordained as a priest amidst the very hostile environment in Vietnam at that time as the Vietnamese Emperor and his government were deeply suspicious of the Christian faith and its missionaries.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, the Christian missionaries and all the Vietnamese faithful faced bitter persecution and trials, and many of them were forced to choose between suffering and abandoning their faith. Many remained firm in their faith and conviction, choosing rather to suffer and even die rather than abandoning their faith and devotion to God. And the most difficult and challenging fate faced those priests and missionaries who laboured to serve the people and spread the message of the Gospel even through these difficult times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be more faithful to the Lord following the examples of our faithful predecessors, especially that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in holy martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. Let us be inspired by their great courage and dedication to the Lord, their wholehearted service of God that we too shall be counted among the righteous, the holy saints and martyrs of God.

Let us all walk in their footsteps and love of God ever more faithfully from now on. May the Lord be with us in our journey of faith always, that we may persevere through all the challenges and trials we face. May God bless us now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 5-11

At that time, while some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.” And they asked Him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

Jesus then said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come claiming My title and saying, ‘I am He, the Messiah; the time is at hand!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for all these things must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen.”

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 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 the Lord Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 14 : 14-19

Then I had this vision, I saw a white cloud and the One sitting on it like a Son of Man, wearing a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. An Angel came out of the sanctuary, calling loudly to the One sitting on the cloud, “Put in Your sickle and reap, for harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

He Who was sitting on the cloud swung His sickle at the earth and reaped the harvest. Then another Angel, who also had a sharp sickle, came out of the heavenly sanctuary. Still another Angel, the one who has charge of the altar fire, emerged and shouted to the first who held the sharp sickle, “Swing your sharp sickle and reap the bunches of the vine of the earth for they are fully ripe.”

So the Angel swung his sickle and gathered in the vintage, throwing all the grapes into the great winepress of the anger of God.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us through the Scripture passages, all of us are called to reflect on the need for us as Christians to be genuine in our faith and dedication to God. We should not be inactive, lukewarm or dormant any longer in our faith. It is only through real love and faith that we can follow the Lord truthfully and wholeheartedly. Otherwise our faith will be found wanting and empty.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Revelations of St. John, the vision that St. John received regarding the messages of the Lord sent through His Angels to each of the seven Churches of Asia, the seven most important centres of early Christianity at that time. And in those messages we heard how there were those who have kept the faith fully, not ‘soiling their white robes’ and this means that they had kept themselves pure.

This was contrasted with some others who had been lukewarm and had not been as dedicated in the living of their faith. The Lord reminded how the lukewarmness in faith and lack of effort and dedication in living that same faith has no bearing and meaning. As Christians we cannot be idle and lukewarm, in disregarding the Lord’s teachings and ways in order to pursue our own selfish worldly goals among other things.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the story of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with Zaccheus, a short man who was also a renowned and rich tax collector at that time. Zaccheus was very excited to see the Lord and tried his best, despite his physical shortcomings and other barriers, climbing up a tree just so that he could catch a glimpse of the Lord. The Lord knew Zaccheus and his thoughts, his faith and desire to seek Him.

Thus, He called Zaccheus and told him that He would grace his house with His presence. Zaccheus publicly declared his faith courageously and with proper dedication to the Lord. This was remarkable as he was a tax collector and was also seemingly a particularly notorious one at that, and tax collector being reviled and hated by most of the people for their actions and greed.

Yet, Zaccheus publicly showed his repentance and committed himself to the path of truth. He did not only disavow his path of evil and greed, but he also promised to undo the damages he had incurred, paying back four times as much to those that he had cheated. Regardless of the amount, it was truly remarkable for Zaccheus to commit publicly to his repentance and showed his faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen in today’s Scripture readings what it means for us to be faithful to the Lord as Christians. We should not be lukewarm and passive in our faith like what the Pharisees and many of the people of the Lord’s time, who were outwardly pious but had no real faith or love for God.

All of us should be like Zaccheus, a sinner and yet a sinner who loves God. His desire to seek the Lord, His sincere repentance and commitment to change his life is what each and every one of us should also aspire to as Christians, as God’s chosen and beloved people. And we should also seek inspiration from our holy predecessors on the path going forward in our lives.

Today we commemorate St. Elizabeth of Hungary, a princess of Hungary turned into religious icon and persona, who has been renowned for her great piety throughout her whole life. St. Elizabeth of Hungary grew up in a good and pious Christian environment, and this helped her to be pious and truly faithful as she became one of Christendom’s great persona, in her generosity and charity towards the poor and in her efforts to advance the cause of the Church throughout the kingdom.

In one of the most famous traditions about her, the ‘Miracle of the Roses’, St. Elizabeth, during one of her trip to bring food and sustenance to the poor, which had to be done in secret, happened to encounter her husband and his hunting party. She would not have wanted her secret to be known, as it might have brought opposition and difficulty for her, but miraculously, when she was asked to show what she was carrying in her basket, miraculously red and white roses filled her basket. This story convinced her husband in God’s protection of her, and apparently, led him to support her cause as well.

However, she did encounter trials and challenges through her life, as she lost her husband who went to the Crusade to the Holy Land and passed away along the way. She had difficulties but she remained firmly dedicated to her faith, committing herself to a vow of celibacy and holiness after her husband’s death even as this went against her family’s wishes. Despite their efforts to force her to remarry for political purposes, St. Elizabeth remained firm and strong in her convictions to the end.

The holiness of St. Elizabeth is an inspiration and model for all of us Christians to follow, that we may also be holy like her, and be courageous in living our faith just as Zaccheus and others had done, no longer being lukewarm or inactive in our Christian faith. Let us all discern carefully all of these and strive to commit our efforts and dedicate our lives to serve God from now on with greater zeal and generosity of love. May God bless us all and be with us through this journey of faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 19 : 1-10

At that time, when Jesus entered Jericho and passed through the city, a man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see Him because of the crowd.

So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, Who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received Him joyfully.

All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.”

Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”