Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Vigil Mass of the glorious Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this celebration and occasion, we are all reminded of the moment when Mary, the Blessed Mother of God was taken up body and soul into Heaven, to enjoy forever the glorious inheritance and the honour that she has been worthy of, as the Mother of God and faithful servant of the Lord, full of grace and love for God and for her Son, the Saviour of the world. Her Assumption into Heaven marks the end of her existence in this world as she entered into heavenly glory.

First of all, the Assumption does not equate to the Lord’s own Ascension into Heaven, as this is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the Assumption of Mary. The difference is that while the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven by His own power and will, being the Almighty God and All-Powerful Divine Word Incarnate, Mary was assumed into Heaven by the will of God, and not by her own will or power. She was taken up or assumed into Heaven rather than ascending on her own volition and power. That is the clear difference between that of the Ascension and the Assumption that we all need to know.

Then, we may ask and wonder what the significance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God is to us? The Assumption marks the occasion when Mary did not experience the lasting effect of death, but went on to assume her rightful place in Heaven at the side of her Son’s Throne, and she experienced that because she was first of all conceived without the taint of original sin, and according to tradition, remained free from sin throughout her life, and therefore because sin leads to death, and the latter is the consequence and punishment for sin, then sin has no hold or dominion over Mary. This is in conjunction with what we heard in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in Corinth.

Mary was conceived without original sin as the Church taught through the Dogma of Immaculate Conception, another Marian Dogma besides the Assumption itself. And this has Scriptural basis as we ourselves have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Chronicles, where King David of Israel was welcoming the Ark of the Covenant coming into the city of Jerusalem, to come to dwell with His people after having been placed in the Holy Tent of Meeting for all the years previously. That Ark of the Covenant contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Law of God passed down to Moses, as well as the staff of Aaron and the manna, the bread eaten by the Israelites during their time in the desert.

The Lord’s own Holy Presence descended onto the Ark of the Covenant, and in the Scriptures, in the Book of Exodus and others, it was mentioned how God’s Presence came and sit upon the Cherubim crafted upon the top of the Ark of the Covenant. As such, the Ark of the Covenant itself was crafted using the finest materials of this world, from precious metals and other materials, and God had also blessed and hallowed it. No one could touch the Ark of the Covenant, and even the High Priest could only come into the Holy Presence of God once a year. When a priest accidentally touched the Ark to prevent it from slipping during an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by David to move it to Jerusalem, that priest was immediately struck dead.

Then why is the comparison with the Ark of the Covenant? That is because Mary is the New Ark, of the New Covenant. As the Ark of the New Covenant, she has been hallowed, blessed and prepared by God, unique above all other of His creations, to be the most worthy vessel bearing His Holy Presence. For no taint of sin can come even close to the Sinless One, the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate, and when He came into this world through His mother Mary, being in her womb for nine months as all other human beings have experienced, the very vessel of His entry into this world ought to be as perfect and immaculate, as Mary herself, the Immaculate Conception.

If the old Ark was so precious and treated so respectfully despite it being made and crafted by the hands of men, then all the more that Mary is hallowed and blessed beyond all, since she was made by God Himself. And when the Archangel Gabriel hailed her as ‘Full of Grace’, this also refers to Mary as being completely free from sin even throughout her life, as for her to be the bearer of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, she has to be perfect and immaculate. What may seem to be impossible for us, is possible for God, Who willed in singular grace for Mary to be so created and maintained in a state of full of grace.

It means that Mary loved God so much and was always in state of perfection of grace, that she remained faithful completely to God and the taints of sin, of pride and worldly desires, of lust and greed and many other worldly vices had no hold over her. And because of this, as mentioned, Mary did not deserve death and neither should she succumb to it, because it would have been so ironic for the Mother of the Saviour to succumb to death when her own Son had been victorious and triumphant over death. Yet, according to tradition and agreement by Christian scholars, Mary still did die in a way, but how?

That is because, it was explained that Mary, when it was time for her to rejoin her Son in Heaven, having loved Him so much, she could not be separated from Him, and therefore, just as He had endured death temporarily, she also went through it momentarily. Apostolic traditions stated that when the appointed hour came, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.

When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.

The Assumption matters to all of us because first of all, now that Mary is in Heaven by her Son’s side, she became our greatest help and intercessor, constantly praying for us, her adopted children, for us all sinners who are still separated from her and her Son. The Assumption gave us the hope that through the Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, we may have the sure way towards the Lord and His salvation, by following Mary and her examples, and through her constant intercessions. She has always showed her maternal care to us, and it has been evident in multiple occasions how she appeared in various instances to different people, calling on us to repent from our sins and to return to God.

Then, not only that, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.

May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 15 : 54b-57

When our mortal being puts on immortality, the word of Scripture will be fulfilled : Death has been swallowed up by victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?

Sin is the sting of death, to kill, and the Law is what gives force to sin. But give thanks to God, Who gives us the victory, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 6-7, 9-10, 13-14

Then came the news, “The Ark is in Ephrata, we found it in the fields of Jaar.” Let us go to where He dwells and worship at His footstool!

May Your priests be arrayed in glorious mantle; may Your faithful ones shout in gladness. For the sake of Your servant, David, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Chronicles 15 : 3-4, 15-16 and 1 Chronicles 16 : 1-2

Then David gathered all Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the Ark of God up to the place he had prepared for it. David called together the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. And the Levites carried the Ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had ordered according to the command of YHVH.

David then told the leaders of the Levites to assign duties for some Levites to sing and play a joyful tune with their various musical instruments : harps and lyres and cymbals. They brought the Ark of God in and put it inside the tent that David had prepared for it; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.

And when David had finished offering the sacrifices, he blessed the people in the Name of YHVH.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 21 : 15-19

At that time, after Jesus and His disciples had finished breakfast, He said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these do?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus said, “Feed My lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Look after My sheep.” And a third time He said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus then said, “Feed My sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”

Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And He added, “Follow Me!”

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Galatians 1 : 11-20

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel we preached to you is not a human message, nor did I receive it from anyone, I was not taught of it; but it came to me, as a revelation from Christ Jesus. You have heard of my previous activity in the Jewish community; I furiously persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it. For I was more devoted to the Jewish religion than many fellow Jews of my age, and I defended the traditions of my ancestors more fanatically.

But one day, God called me, out of His great love, He, Who had chosen me from my mother’s womb; and he was pleased to reveal, in me, His Son, that I might make Him known among the pagan nations. Then, I did not seek human advice nor did I go up to Jerusalem, to those who were Apostles before me. I immediately went to Arabia, and from there, I returned, again, to Damascus.

Later, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. But I did not see any other Apostle except James, the Lord’s brother. On writing this to you, I affirm before God that I am not lying.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 28 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 3 : 1-10

Once when Peter and John were going up to the Temple at three in the afternoon, the hour for prayer, a man crippled from birth was being carried in. Every day they would bring him and put him at the Temple gate called “Beautiful”; there he begged from those who entered the Temple.

When he saw Peter and John on their way into the Temple, he asked for alms. Then Peter with John at his side looked straight at him and said, “Look at us.” So he looked at them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I have I give you : In the Name of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, walk!”

Then he took the beggar by his right hand and helped him up. At once his feet and ankles became firm, and jumping up he stood on his feet and began to walk. And he went with them into the Temple walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God; they recognised him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were all astonished and amazed at what had happened to him.

Wednesday, 22 June 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 5-17

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”