Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church rejoices together celebrating the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. On this day, we gather together to remember the glory and honour which the Lord gave to His beloved Mother, Mary, Blessed-Ever Virgin, who has received graces and blessings beyond all other women and all other children of God.

What is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? In order to understand this word, first of all we must distinguish it from the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven. For at the Assumption, declared in the year 1950 to be a dogma of the Church but has been believed since time immemorial, refers to the moment when Mary was bodily assumed in the body and spirit, into the glory of heaven without passing through the process of death.

This is different from the Ascension in that, while the Lord ascended into heaven by His own power, glory and majesty, and by His own will, but Mary was assumed into heaven by the grace and the will of God, and not by her own will or power. The Assumption of Mary was widely acknowledged by the Church teachings and tradition for many years before it was formally announced as a dogma in 1950, because of the Church fathers’ teachings on Mary, as the mother of God.

It is precisely because it was established definitively by the early Ecumenical Councils that Mary is none other than the mother of God, and not just merely the mother of Jesus Christ, the Man, since the divinity and humanity of Christ although separate and distinct but are united in Him, thus, if Jesus is both fully Man and fully God, we cannot say that Mary was just merely the mother of the human Jesus.

When the Lord Jesus was formed in the flesh in the womb of Mary, He was already fully Man and fully Divine. As such, the Divinity Himself has come down to dwell on the earthly body of man, such a glorious dwelling of God must be matched with a worthy vessel to contain His great majesty, glory and divinity. This is the mystery of God, Who is both infinite and omnipresent, and yet, at the same time, can be contained in His wholeness in a small host, the Eucharist, as well as in the body of a Man, born a baby through the Virgin Mary.

And if we look carefully at the accounts from the Scriptures, especially those presented in both the readings of the Vigil of the Assumption and this day itself, there is a lot of emphasis on the Ark of the Covenant and the Woman in the Book of Revelations. The Ark of the Covenant was where the two tablets of God’s Law, the manna and the staff of Aaron was kept, as the sign of the Holy Presence of God among His people.

The Ark was the centre and heart of the worship and celebrations of the people of ancient Israel. It was always carried around through the desert leading the people of Israel during their forty years journey towards the Promised Land of Canaan, and was placed in the richly decorated Tent of Meeting. The Ark of the Covenant itself was richly built and endowed in the most precious materials of the world, to signify the greatness of God’s Presence among His people.

The woman in the Book of Revelations, crowned with stars and adorned with sun and moon about her, is often alluded to Mary, whose depiction often showing her crowned gloriously with a crown of stars, the moon and the sun. The woman is also often associated with the Church, labouring in pain for the One Who was to rule the nations with power and authority. The Baby was none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

And the woman represents both Mary and the Church, for recently, Mary has also been recognised in her title of Mary, Mother of the Church. For she is the One Who bore the Lord and Messiah of the world in her womb for nine months, as the worthy earthly Tabernacle and as the Ark of God’s Presence. Mary has been chosen and blessed by God, to be given the singular grace of freedom from the taint of sin.

This is what we know as the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church upholds that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother without the taint of original sin, and therefore was free from the dominion and power of sin. And because sin is caused by the disobedience against God’s will, leading to suffering in this world and ultimately death, the freedom from sin also means, the freedom from death.

Thus that was why the Lord did not allow death to claim His mother, unlike all of us mankind who will eventually encounter death at some point in our lives, at the time of God’s own choosing and will. Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, for Christ came bearing the New Covenant between God and man. And as the Ark of God, Mary has been hallowed and prepared by God to be the one through whom He has entered into this world.

And if Mary did not sin, or that by the singular grace and will of God, free from original sin, then she should not be subjected to death, for death occurs only because of sin, and without sin, one should not die. Indeed, the Lord Jesus died, but not because of His own sins, rather, because of His own will and desire that through His death, He might unite all of us who believe in Him and share in His humanity, and bring us all into the new life He gives us, sharing in His glorious resurrection.

That is why, if God made very righteous people like Enoch and the prophet Elijah to come to Him directly without experiencing death, while they were still affected by original sin, all the more the Mother of God, conceived without sin and remaining ever pure and blameless throughout her life, should also be worthy to receive from God Himself, her Son, the crown of everlasting glory, not letting death to have any part of her.

In the end, the Solemnity of the Assumption has twofold meaning and significance for us all. First of all, through the dogma of the Assumption, we believe that Mary herself, more worthy than any other man, is the greatest of all saints, by the virtue of her motherhood of God and of her own great virtues in life, obedience to God and faith. And being in heaven, she is at the right hand of God, her Son, as His closest confidant as well as our own.

That is why many of us have special devotions to Mary, for she is just like our mother as well, listening to our petitions and prayers, asking her to intercede for our sake, just as she herself had done on the behalf of the wedding couple in Cana. We can trust in her and confide ourselves in her, just as we trust and confide ourselves in our mother’s love and care. If God, her Son, cares for and loves us all, it is only natural that Mary will also do the same to us.

Then, secondly, Mary is also the perfect role model for us all as Christians, for she obeyed the Lord completely and faithfully devoted herself to His will throughout her life. She followed the journey and ministry of her Son Jesus, Our Lord, all the way to the culmination of His earthly ministry in Calvary, the place where Mary herself witnessed with great anguish, her Son being crucified and died. Yet, she surrendered everything to God and trusted Him completely.

The Assumption is then a premonition and a revelation of our own future and upcoming fate, which all of us mankind should aspire to and look forward to. The glorification of Mary, assumed in the body and soul into heaven is a preview of our own glorious resurrection from the dead, when we shall leave behind our mortal and sinful past, to enter into the new life in God, in perfection of love and grace, without any more sin or sorrow.

Now, what we all need to realise is that, while indeed Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant, bearing the Lord Jesus in her womb, but each and every one of us who are members of God’s Church and having received the proper instruction in the faith, and found worthy to receive the Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are also God’s Holy Temple and Dwelling House.

Yet, while Mary was hallowed and prepared holy by God, just as the old Ark of the Covenant was hallowed and made with the most precious of materials available, but we mankind preferred to corrupt and to make dirty, what God had made good and wonderful in our own bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. Through the sins we commit in our daily life actions, we make ourselves unworthy of God, and the consequences of these, are very dire indeed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on this great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, can we reflect on our own lives as well? Are we able to think through our every actions and deeds, all that we may have done in contrary of God’s will, and caused by our greed and by our own wickedness? All these things that had led us into sin against God?

Let us all turn therefore towards God, and devote our whole attention to Him from now on, if we have not done so. Let us all look towards Mary, the mother of our God, by whose intercessions, we have been helped each and every single days of our life. Let us all imitate her examples, her piety and commitment to God, that we may also one day share in the same glory that God has given Mary, His mother, most blessed among women and most faithful among men.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, whom your Son has willed that you be worthy of assumption into glorious heaven, in body and soul, our beloved mother and guide, pray for us all sinners, now and always, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 39-56

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 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! He has looked 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.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 15 : 20-27

But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep. A human being brought death; a Human Being also brings resurrection of the dead. For, as in Adam all die, so, in Christ, all will be made alive. However, each one in his own time : first Christ, then Christ’s people, when He comes.

Then, the end will come, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after having destroyed every rule, authority and power. For He must reign and put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. As Scripture says : God has subjected everything under His feet.

When we say that everything is put under His feet, we exclude, of course, the Father, Who subjects everything to Him.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 44 : 10bc, 11, 12ab, 16

At your right hand, in gold of Ophir, stands the queen.

Listen, o daughter, pay attention; forget your father’s house and your nation.

And your beauty will charm the King, for He is your Lord.

Amid cheers and general rejoicing, they enter the palace of the King.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Revelations 11 : 19a and Revelations 12 : 1-6a, 10ab

Then, the Sanctuary of God, in the heavens, was opened, and the Ark of the Covenant of God could be seen inside the Sanctuary.

A great sign appeared in heaven : a woman, clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and cried out in pain, looking to her time of delivery.

Then, another sign appeared : a huge, red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and wearing seven crowns on its heads. It had just swept along a third of the stars of heaven with its tail, throwing them down to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman, who was about to give birth, so that, it might devour the Child as soon as It was born.

She gave birth to a male Child, the One Who is to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre; then, her Child was seized, and taken up to God, and to His throne, while the woman fled to the desert, where God had prepared a place for her. Then, I heard a loud voice from heaven : Now has salvation come, with the power and the kingdom of our God.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of St. Dominic, a holy priest and renowned saint of the Church. St. Dominic is remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, for his great missionary zeal and sanctity in life. He was particularly touched by the dangers of the Cathar heresy in southern part of what is now known as France. St. Dominic worked among the people who had been swayed by the Cathar or Albigensian heresy.

Concluding that it requires holy, dedicated and committed preachers and missionaries to convert the Cathar heretics and turn them back into the true faith, St. Dominic came to establish the religious order which would come to be known as the Order of Preachers, or Ordo Praedicatorum. This order would later on be more commonly known as the Dominicans after their famous founder.

St. Dominic never stopped labouring and working for the sake of God’s people, leading an austere and holy life thoroughly dedicated to God. Through the works that he and his many other fellow religious in the Dominican order had done, many of those who have fallen away into heresy had returned towards the Lord and were reconciled to Him.

St. Dominic has shown all of us what each one of us should be doing as Christians. There are many out there who are still lost from God, separated from the love of God and isolated away from the mercy and forgiveness of God. St. Dominic showed us of the need for us to reach out to these lost brothers and sisters of ours, or else they will be lost forever in damnation. Is this what we want to happen to them?

In the Gospel passage today, we heard about the faith which a Syro-Phoenician woman, a pagan according to the Jewish people, had in the Lord Jesus. She believed in Him wholeheartedly even when many others among the Jewish people failed to do the same. Among the Jewish people, they even doubted Him and opposed Him, refusing to believe in the truth that He has brought into the world.

The Syro-Phoenician woman came to the Lord asking for Him to heal her sick daughter, trusting in His power and ability to make her whole again. However, the Lord Jesus initially seemed to be unwilling to help her, and He appeared to be even very rude to her when He alluded to her being unworthy as compared to a dog unworthy of bread from the house master’s table.

But the Lord Jesus knew the faith that was in her heart, and He sees beyond just appearances alone. He was in fact pointing out to the people the meaninglessness of their racist and prejudiced attitude against the non-Jewish people or the Gentiles. At that time, the Jews, descendants of the people of Israel looked highly upon themselves and thought well of themselves as the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as God’s chosen people.

And thus, they looked down on others, the pagans and Gentiles, whom they considered to be unworthy of God and His salvation, unless they adopt their Jewish customs and traditions in its entirety. They thought that they alone deserved God’s love and mercy, and not any others. But they were wrong, and the Lord Himself pointed out the fallacy of their haughtiness and pride.

There were great faith amongst those who were non-Jewish and those who were considered as pagans. It is the fact that each and every one of us must realise, that no sinner is beyond God’s redemptive grace and love, and God freely gives to all of us, His love and mercy. And indeed, it is through us all, Christians and members of the Church, that God exercises His work of love and mercy among all of His people.

God is calling all of His people to be reconciled to Him, just as He proclaimed through His prophet Jeremiah. He promised healing and comfort for all of His people whom He would call from among the nations, after having suffered the effects of their disobedience and the consequences for their sins. He still loved each and every one of them, despite all of their trespasses and sins against Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we stirred in our hearts to bring God’s words and truth to all of our fellow brethren who are still living in darkness and ignorance of God’s saving truth? We are all called to follow in the path set by St. Dominic, God’s faithful servant, whose faith and great zeal had caused countless souls to be reconciled with God and found God’s salvation.

Are we able to commit ourselves as St. Dominic had done? St. Dominic had given his whole life and dedicated himself to work of charity and evangelisation among God’s people, even enduring difficult trials and tribulations along the way. The same trials and tribulations will be part of our lives as well if we decide to follow in his footsteps. But that is what the Lord has called us all to be, to be His disciples, carrying our crosses and following Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore devote ourselves wholeheartedly, and renew our faith and zeal for the Lord. Let us all no longer be proud and arrogant, thinking that we are better than others, but instead, let us all realise that we have the capacity and the ability to help all those who are still struggling in faith. May the Lord bless us all, and be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Dominic, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 15 : 21-28

At that time, leaving that area, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from the area, came and cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So His disciples approached Him and said, “Send her away! See how she is shouting after us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus, and said, “Sir, help me!” Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to puppies.”

The woman replied, “That is true, Sir, but even puppies eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.