Sunday, 8 December 2019 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the Second Sunday in the season of Advent, and as we continue to progress through this special and blessed time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, we continue our Advent journey and this Sunday we focus on Peace, as the second in the four theme set for each of the Sundays of Advent. Peace is also a reference to Our Lord and Saviour’s title as the Prince of Peace, as it was prophesied that His coming would bring about true peace into this world.

And that is what has also been alluded to in our Scripture passages today, especially in our first reading today which was taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. In that portion of the Book, the prophet Isaiah was speaking of the prophecies of the time of the coming of the Saviour or God’s Messiah, of the coming of the time of peace so wonderful and great that even ferocious animals would come and sit together with their prey in harmony.

This message of peace must have been truly satisfactory and pleasing to the people of Isaiah’s time, considering that at that time, as it was often in the past, mankind have often been involved in conflicts and wars, and many had to suffer because of those conflicts, losing family members and loved ones, losing their properties, houses and possessions, being looted and having to see their cities, towns and villages destroyed.

All these had been how the world went by since the beginning of time, as the powerful and mighty preyed on the weak, and how the rich and influential ones manipulated and exploited the poor ones. Suffering, pain and sorrow that were created can indeed be traced to how we mankind abused the free will that God has bestowed on us, as we chose to act in ways that seek our own satisfaction and happiness, to fulfil our needs and desires and if need be, over the suffering of others.

That is why peace has often eluded many of us all these time because we are by our nature selfish, because of our disobedience and sins, the corruption of sin which led us to think about ourselves first and not about what others think or need. That was how wars had been fought over resources, prestige, glory, and the many other worldly things we often seek in life. When peoples and nations, their leaders and all those involved in the conflicts seek to gain things for themselves and not minding the needs and happiness of others, that is why people suffer and peace is broken.

If we look at our world today, peace is more elusive than ever, as there are more and more parties in conflict and fighting against each others, groups being set against each other and divided against themselves. Governments and kingdoms are set against one another, setting up groups and alliances working to thwart their opponents and their goals. We also see how civil wars and conflicts arise from time to time, again and again, and even many instances when governments are brought down by divisions and wrecked by infighting.

And all these while, the Prince of Peace, Our Lord Jesus Christ has been present in this world ever since He came to our midst over two millennia ago, in the small town of Bethlehem, when He came proclaiming the coming of the Lord’s true peace. Yet, if we realise, that He has often been ignored by mankind, rejected and unwanted, as the world continued on with mankind’s relentless pursuits of maintaining their selfish desires and wants. He has spoken the truth to us, and yet, He was silenced, put to suffer and die on the Cross by those who hated and opposed Him.

That was what the many prophets and messengers of God had also suffered from, and in the Gospel passage today, we also heard how the one who was the Herald of the Messiah, St. John the Baptist, also suffered from the same rejection and oppression the Lord has suffered. Many prophets of the Lord had suffered and had to endure scorn and ridicule just because they stood by the missions which God has entrusted to them.

We heard how despite all the works that this faithful servant of God had done, his courageous faith and effort in calling many people to repent from their sins and wickedness, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law still opposed the saint and made it hard for him, doubting him and refusing to believe in the words he had spoken, and even doubting him and the authenticity of what he had done and spoken before the people.

That is exactly why the Lord was unable to make any progress with those who still attached themselves to worldly thoughts and desires, those who allowed their selfishness and pride, their greed and their attachments to the world to close their hearts and minds against the Lord’s truth and love. And that was how the true peace of God remain elusive for many of us, as it had been for millennia, as most of us did not truly welcome the Prince of Peace into our lives and into our hearts.

In our second reading today, St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome and spoke of the peace of Christ and how the coming of the Lord into the world has brought forth the dawn of a new era of peace. And St. Paul also exhorted the faithful there to welcome one another and to make peace with each other, just as the Lord Jesus has brought the peace of God into the midst of the people He has touched, and thereafter passed on that same peace to those whom He has commissioned and called.

In Rome at that time, which was the cosmopolitan and populous capital of the mighty and expansive Roman Empire, there were numerous peoples of different origins and backgrounds, of different cultures and traditions, as besides the Romans who were the lords of the land, there were also Greeks, Syrians, Jewish populations, Gauls, Germans, the peoples of the Northern African regions, Thracians, Dacians, Berbers, Arabs, Persians and even many others, of many different nations and languages.

Many of these people did not exist peacefully with each other, and it did not help that many among the non-Roman populations, especially in the city of Rome, were slaves. And the Romans were the largest landowners and also slave owners. Even among the Romans themselves there were often wide disparity in the wealth and property they owned, and all these divisions and categorisations among the peoples often led to conflict and unhappiness.

And the Christian faith interestingly managed to bridge these differences even in the earliest days of the Church. St. Paul was in fact exhorting and reminding the faithful to put aside their differences, whatever past animosities and unhappiness they might have had towards each other previously and instead focus themselves on peace, and to live with one another harmoniously, bonded together by a new bond of love born from God. This is how God’s coming into the world has therefore transformed His people, from people divided by many differences and identities, into a united people by faith.

Division and conflict is typical of mankind corrupted and afflicted by sin, but as God entered into our lives and touched us, peace also entered into our midst. The question now is, are we allowing God to enter into our lives and transform us with His love, peace and goodness? Are we open in our minds and hearts to embrace the peace of God in our lives? The fact and reality is that as long as we remain attached to our many worldly desires, remaining selfish and self-centred, proud and egoistic, it will be difficult for us to find true peace in our lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Christmas we are all challenged to return to the true essence of Christmas, and that is welcoming Christ, our Lord and Saviour into our lives, so that we may truly live in harmony, peace and love with one another. This is what Christmas is all about, and what we should prepare ourselves for in this blessed season and time of Advent.

Instead of focusing on excessive festivities and parties, merrymaking and joy without truly understanding why we celebrate Christmas in the first place, let us all bring our joy and celebrations by first of all, making peace with all those whom we have probably been angry with, feuding with all these while. Let us all learn to forgive one another, just as the Lord Himself has forgiven us all first from our sins. This is how we bring peace into our lives, and only with peace then we can truly celebrate Christmas in its fullness.

Let us all be peacemakers and strive to live in harmony and unity with one another. Let us all strive to die to our pride and to remove from us the traces of ego and selfishness, and instead allow God to enter into our lives and transform us, so that through all of us and our good works, peace and harmony will reign once again in our world wrecked by wars and conflicts. Let us all bring the Peace of Christmas to everyone, beginning from ourselves and our own families, and then to our communities and then to all the peoples of this world.

May the Lord, Our Prince of Peace give us His peace, that we may come to celebrate this Christmas joyfully as one people, no longer bickering and fighting over trivial matters of the world. Let us all be genuinely concerned of one another and show genuine love in our actions and interactions with each other. May God bless us always as we continue through this blessed season of Advent and guide us in our journey of faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture and progress through the season of Advent, we are again constantly being reminded of God and His loving presence in our lives, how He is with us and providing us help for what we need, and how He promised all of His people that the time of His salvation will come, the time when all those who are faithful to Him will be gathered to God’s loving embrace.

In our first reading today, we heard of how the promise of God’s salvation to His people was being revealed as He spoke in the prophecy He relayed through Isaiah, His prophet. We heard of how the prophet Isaiah described clearly the coming of the time when the people of Israel will no longer be ashamed or suffer, those who are righteous will no longer be oppressed, and they will see the salvation of God.

The Lord will also heal His people from their afflictions and sickness, their pains and troubles, and give them the new strength and life in Him, blessing them abundantly as He has always done. It has all been fulfilled then through the Messiah or Saviour, Who is none other than Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today we heard how He healed all the multitudes of the sick who were brought to Him and how He cast out demons from them and blessed all of them.

We heard how He also opened the eyes of the blind, among many others, feats that are impossible for human beings, and only serve to show us all how truly Jesus is the Messiah of God, His own beloved Son sent into the world to save us all, His beloved ones. God showed forth His love and just how wonderful and patient that love has been through Christ, the fullness of God’s love manifested in our world. And through the Lord Jesus, God’s truth and love have been propagated through His disciples.

And we celebrate the memory of one of those who succeeded the Apostles and carried forth the loving examples of God’s love to us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra, a holy bishop who lived and ministered to his faithful flock in Myra in what is now Anatolia or Asian part of Turkey in the early century of the Church around the time of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in the early fourth century.

St. Nicholas was also in fact the origin of the now ubiquitous Santa Claus, which arguably had become much, much more famous than his original namesake. Many did not even know of who St. Nicholas of Myra was, or what his life and works had been like, as they were much more aware of Santa Claus, the modern day, sort of secularised and fictional depiction of St. Nicholas, an old man who is generous in giving, delivering gifts to the children and families on the eve of Christmas.

This came forth from the actions of St. Nicholas of Myra, who was remembered for his actions in giving to the children of his flock, caring especially for the poor and the unloved ones. St. Nicholas of Myra however, was also a fierce and courageous defender of the faith, a fact that even many among those who knew St. Nicholas of Myra did not really know. It was told that St. Nicholas punched the heretic Arius in the face when the latter spoke of his heretical thoughts and teachings so blatantly at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

The love which St. Nicholas had shown, which inspired the modern story and representation of Santa Claus is a reminder to all of us that as the disciples and followers of the Lord, we must always show love, care and concern in our lives and therefore bring forth the wonderful love that God has brought to us, to our own fellow brothers and sisters. But then, his courageous and fierce defence of his faith is also then a reminder for us to anchor ourselves in the Lord.

This means that, for every actions we do and for every words we utter and for every interactions we make to one another, we are all called to centre ourselves on God and put Him at the centre focus of our whole lives and existences. We are all called to give our very best to love the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him, as after all, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, God has loved us all so wonderfully in the first place.

Let us all pray that we can thus be strengthened in our faith and in our conviction and desire to love God from now on with all of our heart and with all of our strength. Let us all also then show the same love to our fellow brethren without fail as well, showing genuine and tender love in everything we say and do, at all times, following the good examples set by St. Nicholas of Myra and the many other saints whose lives have inspired us. Amen.

Thursday, 5 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminder through the readings from the Scripture that we have heard, to put our trust and faith in the Lord and to build our lives upon the strong foundation of our faith in Him. And especially during this blessed and holy season and time of Advent, all of us should refocus and redirect our lives and attention on the Lord, away from all sorts of distractions in life.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord reminding us of this through His teachings using the parable of the foundations, in which He used the comparisons between two houses built on two different foundations to drive His point to us. One of the foundations was that of sand, while the other foundation was of solid rock. The house that was built on sand did not last and was destroyed easily while the one built on rock remained firm.

This is a metaphor used to compare our dependence on either God or on the things of this world, with rock referring to the solid foundation of our faith founded upon the Lord and His Church, and the foundation of sand referring to the dependance on worldly things like money, status, fame, glory, pleasures of life among many others. To put our trust in the Lord is logically and truthfully therefore is the better choice.

However, this is where the parable also reminds us all that to be a disciple and follower of the Lord will not be something that is easy or trivial, but instead, we must be prepared and expect hardships, challenges and difficulties along our journey of faith and life. This is just how building a firm and solid foundation of rock is much more difficult, time consuming and challenging than building the foundation made of sand. This means that to be a disciple of Christ, it is likely that we will need to put in a lot more than if we just follow the ways of this world.

And exactly because of that, this season of Advent we are called to reflect on our lives and our actions thus far, how we have lived this life all these while. Have we led a life that is in accordance to the will of God or have we instead lived lives the way we want it to be, as how the world has often showed and taught us? Have we expected that the life of our Christian discipleship must be an easy one and therefore been idle in living our lives faithfully thus far?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today, we are getting even more and more challenges in life, and it is getting ever more challenging to be faithful to the truth of the Gospel of Christ. There are many temptations present in this world and in this life which often swayed many among us away from the path that the Lord has led us into, and instead, many among us are tempted to follow the path of ambition, desire and selfishness, the path that many of us are well aware and accustomed to.

Now, all of us are challenged to be true disciples of the Lord, not just in name but also in the fullness of our faith. We are all called to put our faith and trust in the Lord even though the path forward if we choose to walk down this path may indeed be quite more difficult than otherwise. But the Lord also assured us at the same time that all those who put their faith in Him, even though their lives and path may be difficult, but they can indeed be assured of a strong and truly firm support and foundation in the Lord.

Let us all make use of this opportunity that the Lord has provided for us, during this blessed season of Advent, that we may indeed turn to the Lord with a new faith and with a new conviction to live our lives following the path that the Lord has shown us from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to follow the path He has shown us. Amen.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the wonders of God’s love for each and every one of us, as we pass through this season of Advent, preparing us to celebrate worthily the joyous season of Christmas. God has loved us all so much that He has given us all the perfect gift in His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

That is why in our first reading today we heard of the beautiful vision and prophecy as relayed to us through the prophet Isaiah, of the wonderful promises of God as He promised all of His beloved and faithful ones that they will all enjoy the fullness of His bountiful blessings and the fruits of His providence, in a world where there is no more pain or sorrow, no more tears and sadness, no more suffering but only true joy and happiness with God.

That is the hope with which God has strengthened us all His people, giving us hope and strength at the times when life may be at our darkest, and when the outlook of things seems to be gloomy and without hope. The Lord gave us the encouragement to go through the sufferings and difficulties by letting us all know that it is in Him and through Him alone that we will be able to gain relief and true freedom from suffering and the sorrows of this world.

And we are reminded of this fact, and also of the love of God through what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, in which we heard how the Lord ministered to the multitudes of people who came to him, seeking to listen to His teachings and His words, or to be healed from their physical and bodily complaints and illnesses, to be cared for and protected from the attacks of the evil spirits and demons.

The Lord provided for their needs, healing them from their physical issues and also as presented in the Gospel passage, fed a large multitude of them with just a few loaves of bread miraculously. Through all of these, God wants us all to see just how precious each and every one of us are to Him, and just how great His love, His compassion and His desire to be reconciled fully with us are. And we are truly fortunate to have Him as our loving God.

Yet, it is sad that in fact, it is us mankind who have often disregarded God and abandoned Him, not listening to Him and preferring to follow our own ways and ideals rather than to follow the path that God has shown us. We spurned and rejected His love and His generous offer of mercy, even when He has constantly extended His generous love to us all these while. That is why many of us have been separated and sundered from Him, and many more are not living up to their faith as they should.

This Advent, all of us are challenged to reconnect and reconcile ourselves to the Lord, renewing our commitment to love God and to be more faithful to Him, that we may truly appreciate all that He has done for us, and as a result, we will also then grow to appreciate the true significance and importance of Christmas to all of us. It is at Christmas that we celebrate how God has given such a great and ultimate gift of love to all of us, His beloved people, that He gave us all nothing less than His own Son.

It is by His entry into this world, by assuming our humble humanity and existence that God has brought us all together as His faithful ones, and by His willing and loving sacrifice, taking up all of our sins and the consequences and punishments due to our sins, He suffered and died on the Cross and because of that, we are saved. It was because of Christmas that Easter is possible, and because of that, we should truly appreciate all that God has done for us, out of His enduring love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps today we can be inspired by the good examples of faith set by one of our dedicated predecessors, namely St. John Damascene or St. John of Damascus, one of the holy saints and priests of the Church who devoted his energy, time, effort and attention to serve the Lord to the best of his capabilities. St. John of Damascus lived through difficult times of the Church as the faithful were struck with forces from both outside and within, with pressures to abandon the teachings of the faith for other faiths and also for false teachings and heresies.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great role in opposing the heresy of iconoclasm in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire and Christendom, when the heretics under support from the Emperor and the secular authorities destroyed many precious and holy icons and images of the Lord and His saints, and the holy saint St. John of Damascus launched a particularly strong defence of the veneration of the saints and holy images.

This courageous and holy servant of God did not fear oppression or suffering just because he stood up for his faith as he truly trusted in the Lord and knew how much the Lord loves all those who are faithful and true to Him. St. John of Damascus did his best throughout his life to defend the true and orthodox Christian faith, becoming a paragon and example of sanctity and dedication to all of his fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John of Damascus, and also many others of our holy predecessors, saints of God? Are we able to appreciate just how much God has loved us all these while and how much He has done for our sake, that we truly should love Him in the same way? Let us all heed the great example of piety and sanctity that St. John of Damascus has shown us, and follow his examples in how we ought to live our lives with faith from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us as we progress through this blessed season of Advent, that we may truly be able to prepare ourselves wholeheartedly to celebrate the coming of Christmas, with fullness of faith in God and love for Him. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the memory of a great saint and servant of God, who is also commemorated as the Patron of all missions and missionaries, recalling the great contributions that this holy man had given throughout his many years of ministry to the far-off lands and regions, travelling from places to places bringing the Good News of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard or known of God.

St. Francis Xavier was a Spanish Jesuit who was also one of the founding and original members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order. He was remembered for his great missionary efforts and travels throughout many regions of Asia and the far eastern regions of Asia, from India to Southeast Asia and then even as far as Japan and many other parts of those areas, spreading the words of God to the people there.

At that time, Christendom was faced with many challenges both from the inside and from the outside, as the era of the Protestant reformation came about, causing many of the people of God to be splintered away and separated from the Holy Mother Church into the various heresies and false teachings, while the rise of the power of the Ottoman Turks threatened many parts of the Christian world from the outside.

The Society of Jesus was then founded at that time by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a courageous servant of God who gathered like minded to serve the Lord for His greater glory as is in their motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. Many people came to join the Jesuit order in the vigorous effort and campaign by the Church to stem the tide of the Protestant reformation and also to reinvigorate the faith among the people of God.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those whom St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered, and while quite a few of the Jesuits worked hard within the old Christian world, spreading the true faith to the people who have been swayed by false and erroneous teachings, there were many others led by St. Francis Xavier who ventured forth to distant lands that at that time were just recently discovered.

St. Francis Xavier represented the efforts of the Church to embrace those who have not yet heard of God’s salvation and truth, just as the Lord Himself had commanded His Apostles and disciples to do, as part of the Great Commission which He has entrusted to all of them. The Great Commission was a sending off from the Lord as He asked all of them to go forth to the many nations to bring God’s truth to them and to make them God’s own beloved people through baptism.

To that extent, St. Francis Xavier dedicated his whole life to missionary works, travelling far and wide at a time when travel was still hazardous and taking many months just to cross the oceans to reach the destinations. St. Francis Xavier thus travelled far from Europe, first of all to Goa in India, before travelling to Malacca and to the other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, laying the foundations of the Church and the faith among the many communities he visited, braving through even many storms and difficulties.

St. Francis Xavier also travelled to Macau and Japan, establishing the grounds for the faith and the Church in the latter and visiting the growing populations of Catholics elsewhere, going back and forth between India and the Far East throughout his many evangelising missions, and passed away just before he was about to enter China to evangelise there. His mortal remains and relics are now preserved in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus in Goa, India, where the faithful from all over Christendom often come to venerate this faithful and holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having gone through in quite a great detail on the life and works of St. Francis Xavier, all of us are also therefore called to reflect on his many contributions and efforts, his tireless attempts and outreach to bring the Good News to the reach of many of those who had not had the opportunity to listen to the truth of God, much as how the Apostles in the earliest days of the Church travelled to many places sowing the seeds of faith.

This is a reminder for us that the works of the Church and the Apostles were far from being completed, and rather, many of our predecessors throughout the years and many generations who had endeavoured and worked hard to continue the good works that the Lord had begun in His Church. St. Francis Xavier did just that, and showed us just what we should do with our lives in being wonderful witnesses of the Lord’s truth just as St. Francis Xavier himself had done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today we remember all those who have devoted their lives to the service of the Lord as missionaries, following in the direct footsteps of the Holy Apostles and the saints, like that of St. Francis Xavier, who is their patron. We have to pray for them and ask that the Lord will strengthen them and give them the courage and the ability to persevere through challenges and difficulties they may have to endure during their journey.

But at the same time, all of us as Christians are also then reminded of our own obligation and calling to be missionaries of the Lord, as each and every one of us as the members of God’s Holy Church are also part of the Lord’s Great Commission. We do not have to aim for great things or to think that we need to perform extraordinary deeds or laboured in the way that our holy predecessors like the Apostles and St. Francis Xavier had done.

Instead, what we need to do is to do our best in our each and every actions, in each and our every interactions in our daily living so that by our actions, words and deeds we become genuine and true witnesses of the Lord’s truth and salvation in wherever we are living, in our families and communities. Through this we can become missionaries of the Lord in our own way, working for the greater glory of God and making use of whatever goods and talents that God has blessed us with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew in us the faith which we have in the Lord and renew the zeal and love, the dedication and commitment we have towards Him, as we are shown the inspiring examples of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of mission and all missionaries. Let us all bear courageously and truthfully our faith in God in all things. May the Lord be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.