Monday, 5 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, Jesus was teaching and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Monday, 5 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 5 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God Who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes.

There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Second Sunday of the season of Advent. We gather together this Sunday to prepare ourselves for the coming of the joyous celebrations of Christmas as we should have done throughout this past week of the Advent time. This Sunday marks the time when we have to reflect on whether we have indeed understood the true importance and significance of Christmas, and whether we are able to deepen our connection and relationship with God, through our spiritual preparations and willingness to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord into them. Through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures we have just heard, we are reminded to return our focus on the Lord this Advent and Christmas, and to rededicate ourselves to Him and to His cause.

This Sunday, as with all the Sundays of Advent, we focus on one particular Aspect of Advent, and that is Peace for this Sunday. Peace is an important aspect of our Advent and later on Christmas celebrations, as we remind ourselves that Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Whose Nativity or birth we commemorate in Christmas, is the Prince of Peace. The Lord’s coming will usher in the new age of peace, harmony and cooperation, and there will be no more discord between everyone. However, it does not mean that the Lord’s coming immediately will lead to cessation of all conflicts, wars and destructions caused by our actions in this world. Instead, what is promised and guaranteed is that, when the Lord comes again at the end of time, He shall bring unto us everlasting peace, as He will free us from the bondage of sin, evil and death for all eternity.

As we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the coming of the Messiah or the Saviour of God, Who has been prophesied to belong to the line and house of David, as Isaiah spoke of the Shoot that would rise from the stump and Root of Jesse. Jesse was David’s father, and hence one the ancestors of the Lord, as the Lord Jesus was born into the House of David as his Heir, just as the prophecy of Isaiah had mentioned. Through His foster-father St. Joseph, the Lord Jesus is the direct Heir and the One Who will sit on the Throne of David, as the King over all of His people. Back then, the people of God awaited the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was told to be the Son and Heir of David, not realising that a Baby born in Bethlehem that time, was indeed the long awaited Saviour.

That is because they expected their Saviour to be a mighty conquering King, sent by the Lord to end their misery and to gather all of them into a liberation campaign against their oppressors and rulers, reestablishing the glorious kingdom of the days of David and Solomon. They did not realise that while it is God’s intention to lead all of His beloved and faithful ones to eternal glory and peace, that will yet happen in the future and not at the time of His first coming into this world. That Child born in the poor stable in the outskirts of Bethlehem, rejected by all the innkeepers and others, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is therefore God’s instrument through Whom He would restore the link between Him and mankind, long sundered by our disobedience and sins, our wickedness and evils.

Through Christ, His own begotten Son, born into this world, Son of God and the Divine Word Incarnate, God willingly revealed Himself and the fullness of His love to all of us, restoring the true meaning and purpose of His Law and commandments, and restoring the Covenant which had been forsaken and neglected between Him and His people. Christ is the One mentioned by the prophet Isaiah as the One Who will be the Judge of all the peoples of all the nations, and He would indeed be a Sign to all of them, raised up high for all to see. No one back at the time of the prophet Isaiah all the way to the time of the Lord Jesus Himself could have foreseen what this actually meant, until the moment when the Lord took up His Cross, with all the sufferings and pains, the punishments due to all of us, and chose to be raised on that Cross, to be the salvation for the whole entire world.

Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, the salvation of all the peoples and the nations have been revealed and brought as assurance to us, because He willingly assumed the role as the Mediator of a New and Everlasting Covenant between us and God. He is the Eternal High Priest Who offered nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, as the Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb slaughtered and sacrificed on the Altar of the Cross, to be the worthy offering and sacrifice for the atonement of all of our sins. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we reflect on the Aspect of Peace of Advent in this Sunday, we are reminded that through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, we have been made as the sharers of a new and everlasting Peace between us and God.

Through the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood and through the shedding of His Most Precious Body, Christ Our Lord has become the fulfilment of all that the Lord has promised His people, just as St. Paul briefly mentioned it in our second reading today in his Epistle to the Romans. Through Christ, Whose birth we rejoice in and commemorate in Christmas, we see the power of God liberating all of us from the bondage and dominion of sin, evil and death, as by His incarnation and assumption of our humanity and existence, and by dying on the Cross, He shared with all of us the death to our past existence and sinful lives, and by His glorious Resurrection, He proved to us that death does not have the final say over us, and that there is life and existence beyond death, which we shall share with Him on the end of times, the last days, forevermore.

By His most generous offering of love on the Cross, the Lord Jesus our Saviour truly had brought His Peace upon us, the Peace that God has promised His people, the peace of knowing that we have been reconciled with God, and that we shall enjoy the bounty and blessings of eternal life and true joy with Him, at the end of our journey, if we are truly faithful to Him. While that peace is yet incomplete at the moment, due to sin still being present all around us in our world past, present and future, but we have to hold on to that faith, believing that at the time of His choosing, He shall come again in glory as promised, and will bring unto us the perfect and everlasting Peace, that will last and endure forever, when evil will finally be utterly defeated and crushed, and no more tears, sorrow or suffering will remain in the world to come.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we then need to do now is to make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves that we may worthily celebrate the upcoming joy of Christmas. Each and every one of us are reminded that it is often our preoccupations with worldly desires and glory, and the temptations all around us which often distracted us and misled us in the journey towards the Lord. In our Gospel passage today, we heard St. John the Baptist calling on all the people to return towards the Lord with faith, embracing His compassion and mercy, and to be changed in the heart and mind as they received baptism of water from him, as a sign of commitment to follow the path of the Lord. Many came to St. John the Baptist seeking to be baptised and showing their sincerity in embracing God’s love and mercy.

But there were also those who doubted him and refused to believe in him, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who came to St. John the Baptist and questioned him on the authority and the legitimacy of his actions, essentially questioning and doubting the works and wisdom of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, Who guided St. John the Baptist to do what he had done, in preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. It was therefore of those same people that St. John the Baptist rebuked with very strong words like ‘brood of vipers’ and telling them off for their pride and ego, by which they closed their hearts and minds against God’s truth, and misleading the people of God under their care by their own vanity, greed and desire for worldly power and glory. This same reminder is also directed at all of us, brothers and sisters, that we do not end up walking down the same path as they had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make good use of this time and season of Advent therefore to prepare ourselves well for the celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Let us all remember how our Prince of Peace had brought God’s Peace into our midst, returning the peace between us and God, and leading us on the way towards His everlasting peace, joy and glory. As we prepare ourselves to celebrate Our Lord’s coming into this world, let us not forget that we do not just remember His past arrival into this world, two millennia ago, but in fact we also rejoice because of His eventual coming in glory, that we all await, when He shall judge all the living and the dead, and bring all those whom He deems to be worthy, into His eternal kingdom of true bliss and happiness in His presence.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King, continue to guide us and strengthen us in faith, particularly during this time and season of Advent, so that each and every one of us may indeed make good use of this time and opportunity to reaffirm our faith in Him and to prepare ourselves well in all aspects so that we may indeed make best use of the upcoming time and season of Christmas, and celebrate it most properly and worthily, becoming inspiration for all of our fellow brothers and sisters, by our lives’ examples and good works. May God bless us all in our every good works, efforts and deeds, and may He bless us in our every endeavours for the greater glory of His Name. Let us bring God’s Peace into the midst of our communities and families, and may Peace reign forevermore in our Christian family. Amen.

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 3 : 1-12

In the course of time John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea and began to proclaim his message, “Change your ways, the kingdom of God is now at hand!” It was about him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said : A voice is shouting in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight!'”

John had a leather garment around his waist and wore a cloak of camel’s hair; his food was locusts and wild honey. People came to him from Jerusalem, from all Judea and from the whole Jordan valley, and they were baptised by him in the Jordan as they confessed their sins.

When he saw several Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he baptised, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who told you that you could escape the punishment that is to come? Let it be seen that you are serious in your conversion, and do not think : We have Abraham for our father. I tell you that God can raise children for Abraham from these stones! The axe is already laid to the roots of the trees; any tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”

“I baptise you in water for a change of heart, but the One Who is coming after me is more powerful than me; indeed I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptise you in Holy Spirit and fire. He has the winnowing fan in His hand and He will clear out His threshing floor. He will gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn in everlasting fire.”

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 15 : 4-9

And we know that whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, for both perseverance and comfort given us by the Scripture sustain our hope. May God, the source of all perseverance and comfort, give to all of you to live in peace in Christ Jesus, that you may be able to praise in one voice God, Father of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Welcome, then, one another, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Look : Christ put Himself at the service of the Jewish world to fulfil the promises made by God to their ancestors; here you see God’s faithfulness. The pagans instead give thanks to God for His mercy, as Scripture says : Because of that, I will sing and praise Your Name among the pagans.

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

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

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

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

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 11 : 1-10

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron of Missions and a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits renowned for his lengthy and great missionary journeys to different parts of the world, especially his works in Asia, in the regions of India and South Asia, then Southeast Asia and the Far East, in Macau, China and Japan. St. Francis Xavier gave inspiration to many others in how he dedicated his life and service to God, in his perseverance to continue the mission despite the challenges and hardships he encountered during his journeys, and his passion and love for his fellow brothers and sisters, in the genuine desire he has to proclaim the Word of God and His Good News to more and more of the people of God all around the world.

St. Francis Xavier was born in what is today Spain as Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in the town of Javier or Xavier which would later on made him known as Francis Xavier as we know him today. He was one of the companions of the Founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first members of the Jesuits, considered as one of its founding members. Back then, during the height of the Protestant reformation, St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered his companions and other like-minded people to commit themselves to the works of evangelisation and other ministries to spearhead the efforts in countering the terrible effects of the so-called reformation, which splintered the Church in many places into several factions and ‘churches’, and heresies and falsehoods were abound because of errant heretics and preachers.

The Jesuits were founded with the aim to help the Pope and the Church to oppose the tide of heresy and disunity, as well as to reform the Church in the right way. St. Ignatius of Loyola sent out the Jesuits in ministering both to the traditional areas of Christendom like in what is today Germany, the hotbed of the reformation, and also to those mission areas beyond Europe, where European explorers and adventurers made many discoveries of distant lands, all of which had not yet heard the message of God’s truth, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation. St. Francis Xavier was among those entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the Good News in the foreign and distant lands, and hence, he went forth, never returning to his homeland ever again.

He followed the long journey to the newly discovered areas, embarking on an extensive missionary journeys in parts of India, where missionaries had already laid some foundations earlier on, as well as areas of Southeast Asia like Malacca and the Spice Islands where he went to several islands and communities, preaching about God and gaining some people who were interested to know more about the Lord and became the first Christian converts in those areas. He did not always have it smooth though, as he did face rejection and hardships along the way, and in a well-known story about him, St. Francis Xavier almost met his end in a terrible storm in the sea, where the boat he was in was battered by waves and the strong wind. He prayed to God and thrust his crucifix into the waves, which then fell into the water and the storm stopped miraculously. A crab later on brought the crucifix back to St. Francis Xavier, who blessed it, and that crab later on always had a cross on its back.

That is just one of the many well-known stories regarding St. Francis Xavier, in his many efforts to serve the Lord through his time and work, in proclaiming the Good News to the furthest ends of the world. He went on to proclaim the Gospels in Japan, and was instrumental in laying the foundations for the later very successful Jesuit mission in Japan, which despite its termination later by the very intense persecutions under the Tokugawa Shogunate, for a period of about fifty years, the Church managed to flourish really well in Japan, with an estimated three hundred thousand Christians during the very height of the mission there, several decades after the passing of St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier himself passed away in Shangchuan Island just on the shores of China as he awaited the opportunity to enter China to begin a mission there. Some of other Jesuits like the famous Matteo Ricci would then continue what St. Francis Xavier had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the lives and works of St. Francis Xavier today, on his Feast day, all of us are called to reflect on our own respective calling and missions as Christians. Each one of us as God’s followers and disciples share the responsibility as the members of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to proclaim the message of God’s truth, His Good News and the Gospels of salvation to all the people whom we encounter in this world. St. Francis Xavier being the Patron of Missions and all missionaries serves as a reminder for all of us that we too share in this same mission and we must not have the misconception and misunderstanding thinking that the responsibility for mission and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ are solely that of missionaries and those ordained ministers alone.

On the contrary, every members of the Church including and even especially the laity have important parts to play in the works and ministries of the Church. If each members of the Church do not do their parts in the mission and works of the Church, or worse still, do things that are contrary to the teachings of the Church and bring scandal upon our faith, then it does not help the works of the Church’s missions in this world and can even jeopardise all the good efforts that had been put in place by the tireless efforts and hard works of all those who have committed themselves to the glory of God. Hence, that is why it is crucial that each and every one of us as Christians have to be genuine and true in our way of life that we have to practice our faith and show it through our every words, actions and deeds, in our every interactions with one another.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves to be a missionary Church, a vibrant and evangelising community of the Lord’s disciples, filled with the love for the Lord and with the passion to serve Him and to follow Him all the days and moments of our lives. Let us all follow the examples and inspiration from the passion and the commitment which St. Francis Xavier had dedicated his life to the service of God and to the proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel of salvation. Let us be exemplary in our way of life so that all those who witness our actions and works may indeed be convinced of God’s truth and His Good News that we and many other missionaries of the Church had proclaimed. If we ourselves have not lived in the way that the Lord had told and taught us to do, how can we then convince others to do the same?

May the Lord our most loving God continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may always remain firm in our conviction and dedication, walking ever firmly in the path that He has set before all of us. May God be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to be shining beacons of His light and truth, much as how St. Francis Xavier and the many other, innumerable saints had shown us their faith and light of God’s truth. May God bless our every works and efforts, and help us to persevere ever more faithfully in all the things we do for the greater glory of His Name. May He bless our Advent journey that we will always continue to grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and be prepared and ready to rejoice with Him this upcoming Christmas season. Amen.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.