Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are almost at Christmas and our wait for the great celebrations as almost over, and today is the last day of the season of Advent, the time which the Church has especially provided for us all to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christmas. Now, let us then ask ourselves if we are all truly ready to welcome the Lord and rejoice in Him this Christmas?

Have our Advent activities been fruitful, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we made good use of the time provided for us to have a profound change and preparation in our hearts and minds, in our way of life and in our predisposition to be able to celebrate Christmas worthily, with true joy and with the right focus and intentions? Are we still celebrating Christmas in the wrong way, by forgetting about the One Whom we ought to be celebrating about?

As we recall the Scripture readings we have just heard today, we should inspect ourselves and see how we have progressed through this Advent and in our own journey of faith. Our first reading which was taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel told us about the conversation between king David and his advisor, the prophet Nathan, about his desire to build a great house for the Lord, the idea which would eventually become the great Temple of Jerusalem.

However, God had a different plan, and told king David that it was not His will that the House would be built by him or during his reign as king, as instead, it would be his son, the future king Solomon, who would be the one to build the great house for God. Nonetheless, if we read through the other parts of the history, it was king David who laid much of the foundations of the effort, preparing much goods and materials necessary for the foundation of the Temple.

In this reading alone, there are a few things that we should take note of carefully. First of all, when God spoke to king David that it would be his son who would build the Temple of God, and how God would make the reign of David’s son secure, God was in fact speaking not just of the literal son of David, that is Solomon, but also foreshadowing of the One Who would be the fulfilment of all of God’s many promises, that is Christ, to be born as Heir and Son of David, Who would be the One to build the Eternal dwelling of God among His people.

And how did that happen, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was by His incarnation in the flesh, that the Divine Word and Son of God entered into this world and born as the Son of Man, through Mary, His mother. Through this singular act, of God becoming one of us, He has dwelled in our midst and built His House forever, the foundation of which is His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And just as the first Temple is the place where the people of Israel worshipped God and was the visible symbol of God’s presence among His people, thus the new and everlasting Temple in Christ which Our Lord Himself has built, is the focus and heart of the Church that He has established in this world, and is composed of all of us who believed in the Lord. All of these were made possible because God has loved us so much and endeavoured to do so much for us, that by His entry into this world, that we celebrate in Christmas, all of us have a new hope in Him.

In our Gospel today, we heard of the father of St. John the Baptist, Zechariah, who was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he sang with a great joy, blessing and thanking God for all that He has done for His people, not just that He has blessed him with a son, but even more so that because of that son he had, through the works that the son would accomplish in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, the world would be called towards God’s salvation and love.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, is this the same kind of joy that we have and which we are preparing for this upcoming Christmas? Or is our joy instead one that is empty and self-centred, and not centred and focused on Christ? Because Christmas is just tomorrow, let us ask ourselves, and indeed, remind ourselves, what is the true meaning and joy of Christmas to all of us. We should be joyful as Zechariah had been, with the right intention in heart and mind.

And just as I mentioned earlier, how king David prepared lots of things and materials to build the House of God, let us all the also prepare ourselves to have a wonderful and most meaningful Christmas celebration, not in the festivities and merrymaking, but rather by putting Christ at the very centre and heart of our celebrations, remembering God’s great love for us that made Christmas possible in the first place.

Let us share the joy and love of God in Christmas to everyone, and let us all bear witness to Christ, by doing our best to live as how we should be living as Christians, filled with God’s love and generously sharing this love with one another. And may God be with us always and may He bless our Christmas celebrations beginning tomorrow. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 67-79

Zechariah, filled with Holy Spirit, sang this canticle, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has come and redeemed His people. In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes.”

“He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy covenant, the oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.”

“And you, my child, shall be called prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, and to enable His people to know of their salvation, when He comes to forgive their sins. This is the work of the mercy of our God, Who comes from on high as a rising sun, shining on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guiding our feet into the way of peace.”

Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 88 : 2-3. 4-5, 27 and 29

I will sing forever, o YHVH, of Your love, and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

You said, “I have made a Covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish his descendants forever; I build his throne for all generations.”

He will call on Me, “You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.” I will keep My Covenant firm forever, and my love for Him will endure.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Samuel 7 : 1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When the king had settled in his palace and YHVH had rid him of all his surrounding enemies, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I live in a house of cedar but the Ark of God is housed in a tent.” Nathan replied, “Do as it seems fit to you for YHVH is with you.”

But that very night, YHVH’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, this is what YHVH says : Are you able to build a house for Me to live in? I took you from the pasture, from tending the sheep, to make you commander of My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, cutting down all your enemies before you. Now I will make your name great, as the name of the great ones on earth.”

“I will provide a place for My people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked men oppress them as before. From the time when I appointed judges over My people Israel it is only to you that I have given rest from all your enemies. YHVH also tells you that He will build you a house.”

“When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you; and I will make his reign secure. I will be a Father to him and he shall be My son. Your house and your reign shall last forever before Me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the messenger of God whom He has revealed through His prophets to be the one who would prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah, as we heard from the prophet Malachi in our first reading today, as the prophet spoke of the coming of the messenger who is also the prophet Elijah, to prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah.

It is timely for us today to listen to these readings from the Scripture to remind us of what this person and servant of the Lord had done for our sake, when he did what the Lord had commanded him to do, in all the works he had done, in calling the people to repentance and to turn away from their sins, and instead embracing the truth of God and prepare themselves to welcome the Lord’s Saviour Who was about to come.

And this servant of God was none other than St. John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the way for Christ, born of his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. It was this same Zechariah whom we heard from in our Gospel passage today, singing praises to God, thanking Him for all that He has done for His people, at the time when his son, St. John the Baptist was born. St. John the Baptist was born at the time when Zechariah and Elizabeth were both already very old and past the childbearing age.

At first, when an Angel of God came to Zechariah proclaiming how he and his wife would have a special child even in their old age, as the one whom God has promised to His people for a long time, Zechariah did not believe at first and doubted the Angel, saying that he and his wife could not have a child at such an age. As a result, he was struck dumb and could not speak until everything that the Lord has spoken came true, as Elizabeth became really pregnant and gave birth to St. John the Baptist.

What we have heard today in our Gospel passage was the moment of great joy and wonders that happened to Zechariah, as right after St. John the Baptist was born, Zechariah was freed from his dumbness. Zechariah gave out praise to God, and everything came to be as the Lord willed it. And that child would go on to become a faithful and dedicated servant of God, dedicating his whole life to the service of God, calling many people to repentance and to turn towards God, baptising them in the Jordan as a symbol of their renewal.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then what is the significance of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today? It is that each and every one of us should appreciate first of all just how much God had done for us, in giving us so great a gift of salvation, that through His Son, He has willingly come to dwell in our midst, embracing our humanity to be a Man, through Whom all of us have received the reassurance of new hope and new life in Him, guaranteed by nothing less than His own Blood and life.

God sent us all of His prophets and messengers, right up to St. John the Baptist, all with the intention to remind us and to help us to find our way to Him, that we may be touched in our hearts and minds, that we may be able to see the love that He has showered us with, and which He has generously given to us in Christ, His Son, which we celebrate with much joy in Christmas, celebrating the moment when His love has manifested in our midst in the flesh.

And because of this, then we are also then called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist and innumerable other followers and disciples of the Lord who have dedicated their lives and all for the sake of the Lord, especially today that of St. John of Kanty, as his feast day is celebrated on this day. St. John of Kanty was also known by his Latinised name of St. John Cantius, a great and renowned philosopher and teacher of the faith from what is now Poland.

St. John Cantius was remembered for his great contributions in the area of Catholic education and philosophy, being not just a priest but also a great Professor of theology at the famous University of Krakow. He was a brilliant and intelligent man, just as he was also pious and faithful in all of his deeds. St. John Cantius however had to go through trials and difficulties, facing false accusations and lies from his fellow academics and forced out of his teaching role in the university, and sent instead to a parish.

St. John Cantius was fearful and worried of the challenges he had to face in the parish that was beset with difficult tasks, and yet, he gave it his all and dedicated himself completely to fulfil the missions entrusted to him and did his best for the sake of his many parishioners, who eventually grew to love him and were touched by his holiness and tireless efforts to reach out and minister to them. Eventually he could return to his teaching role at the university and continued to dedicate himself to his last days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John Cantius was a great and intelligent man, and yet at the same time, he was filled with love for God, as well as great humility and also generosity and love for his fellow men. His great qualities and personal holiness should indeed become our inspiration and strength, our beacon of light and hope, that we should follow in our own journey of faith in our lives. Are we able to walk the path that St. John Cantius had walked on, brothers and sisters in Christ?

As Christmas is truly already upon us, just two days from now, let us all ask ourselves if we have made use of this season of Advent meaningfully to prepare us to celebrate worthily and meaningfully the upcoming joy of Christmas? If we have not done so, then perhaps we may want to recall again what the faithful servants of the Lord, St. John the Baptist and St. John Cantius had done, and remember that as God’s faithful people, all of us are called to be witnesses for Him in our world, and what better way to do so than to be exemplary in our Christmas celebrations, truly focused and centred on God?

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now, beginning from our upcoming celebrations of Christmas, that we should out God once again at the centre of our lives, our existences, our families and communities. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all in our journey of faith and Christmas preparations. Amen.

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”

They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4bc-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

The ways of the Lord are love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and precepts. The Lord gives advice to those who revere Him and makes His covenant known to them.

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for Whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts. Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching.

He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of YHVH comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this fourth and last Sunday of the season of Advent, we focus on the last of the four themes that we are focusing on this Advent, namely hope, peace, joy and love. And this Sunday therefore, we focus on the theme of love in preparation of Christmas. As we all know, love is the most important of all Christian virtues, and is in fact the very reason why we have Christmas in the first place.

For without love, there would not have been Christmas and all of its celebrations and joy. In turn, there would not have been peace on earth, or a new hope for all of us mankind, and joy would have been dimmed and out of reach for us, because God’s love has not manifested among us. But thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, the love of God has been manifested in none other than His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This has been clearly stated to us, in what the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee in one of the most well-known phrase in the entire Scriptures, from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only beloved Son, so that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.’ And this is in essence, what Christmas and all of its joy is all about, a celebration of God’s ultimate love for us.

That is why, after reflecting in the past three Sundays on the aspects of hope, peace and joy that Christmas has brought us and which we will celebrate again very soon, it is timely that on this last Sunday of Advent before the time of Christmas that we look into the very core of the Christmas celebration itself, the love of God made Man, the love of God coming to dwell among us in Christ.

And this is what the Scripture passages today have delivered to us, in the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation, beginning from the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah, in which the prophet Isaiah prophesied of the coming of the Messiah, clearly speaking of how the Messiah would come, through the sign of the Virgin bearing a Child, the One through Whom God would dwell among His people, ‘Emmanuel’, meaning ‘God is with us’.

At the time of the prophet Isaiah and afterwards, as the people awaited for the coming of the Messiah, the true meaning of those words in the prophecy of Isaiah was not fully understood, and it was only then, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Nazareth, upon a young woman and virgin betrothed to the local carpenter, Mary, the one who was destined to be the Mother of God and Saviour, that the fullness of God’s intentions was made bare to all.

The Archangel Gabriel was very clear, and he said that through the will of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary herself would bear the Son of God in her, God Himself incarnate in the flesh, just as St. Paul mentioned in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, as a core tenet and belief of our Christian faith, that God became flesh, assuming the full nature of our humanity and become both Son of Man, as well as Son of God.

This was what the Angel of God reiterated to St. Joseph in our Gospel passage today, when he hesitated to take Mary as his wife because she bad become pregnant before their marriage and before it was to be consummated. The Angel also made a link and reference to what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied earlier, a prophecy clearly well known to St. Joseph and all the Israelites, which right there and then was coming to its fulfilment.

And it was God’s love that made all these possible, as all of us must remember that even though we are looking forward to the coming of Christmas, but we must also not forget why Christmas exists in the first place. Christmas exists because of Easter, and all that is related to the Easter celebrations, namely the Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death on the Cross and finally, His glorious Resurrection.

It was Easter that made Christmas fully meaningful and it is by understanding fully the grand scheme of God’s plan of our salvation that we can better appreciate why Christmas is so important to all of us. It is not just merely another holiday or moment to celebrate, to exchange gifts or to expect good things from one another. It is not just a time for us to have parties or good food and drink, or to shop and buy the latest apparels and paraphernalia.

Sadly, this is what many of us believe, and what many of us embrace as we think of Christmas as merely just another good time and time to relax and enjoy ourselves, forgetting the very reason why Christmas exists and why we even should be joyful in the first place. We have relegated the Lord to the least important place in our preparations and celebrations, and we have overlooked Him in Christmas.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ has given everything to all of us, as He did not even hold back giving us the ultimate gift of all, that is the gift of His very own life, when He suffered and died on the Cross, willingly enduring all those pains and sufferings, bearing our sins and the consequences for our sins, so that all of us may live and not perish, as He Himself said to Nicodemus.

And it was because of all these that we can truly rejoice in Christmas! Indeed, if not for all that Christ has gone through for our sake, there would indeed be no reason to celebrate, because by our sins and wickedness, we would have been condemned to utter annihilation and destruction, eternal suffering and pain. Instead, Christ took all the pain and suffering to Himself, and through Himself, He offered us all the Way to eternal joy and life.

If the world had forgotten the reason for Christmas and the true joy and meaning, then should it not then be a challenge for us all as Christians to remind the world? What do I mean by this, brothers and sisters in Christ? I mean that we should show it in how we ourselves celebrate Christmas and prepare ourselves for the Christmas joy to come. It is how we then remind everyone Who it is we are truly celebrating about.

It does not mean that we should then reject everything that the world has celebrated about Christmas, but rather, we should celebrate in that manner in moderation, not to give in to excesses in all the consumeristic attitudes that are always prevalent during this season and time of the year. We should instead focus our celebrations on Christ, and the best way for us to do that, is to follow the example of Our Lord.

If God has loved us with so much love, and therefore brought us new hope, peace and joy through Christmas, then should we not then show the same love to one another? This is what in essence we need to do in our Christmas celebrations, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must celebrate the love, not the gifts; rejoice with our brothers and sisters, and not with all the glamour and bling of the occasion; love and forgive one another for anything that we have caused hurt to each other instead of being jealous or trying to outmatch each other in how we celebrate; reach out and share our joy and love rather than selfishly keeping all the joy to ourselves.

This is easier said than done, brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not then make it as an excuse then to be idle and to continue our lukewarm attitude towards Christmas. Let us all instead be beacons of light showing the path to one another, guiding each other and inspiring our fellow brethren to celebrate Christmas more meaningfully by turning ourselves once again to God’s love in Christ as the one and true focus of our Christmas festivities and celebrations.

May God continue to love us all as He has always done, and bless us all in our good endeavours, and may He help us all to prepare ourselves heart, mind and soul for the coming joy of Christmas that we may celebrate it well, and not to forget to share the love and joy we have with one another, especially with those who had no chance to celebrate. May God bless our Advent preparations for Christmas. Amen.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 1 : 18-24

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to disgrace her.

While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, she has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ fo He will save His people from their sins.”

All this happened in order to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet : The Virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and He will be called Emmanuel, which means : God-with-us. When Joseph awoke, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home.