Anita D’souza and Sherwin S.
The Dawn Mass novena started on Saturday 16 December at St Peter Apostle Mission Parish, Hoppers Crossing. The Mass was celebrated by Fr Greg Bourke, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music provided by Samoan Choir.
In his homily Fr Greg spoke of the theme of Advent which is waiting and expecting the Baby Jesus. He went on to say that often we wait and wait and expect and plan things in our life but something unexpected may happen which is what God may want for us and it would be good if we wait for what He may reveal to us.
He gave an example of how the dawn masses in St Peters Mission Parish has grown over the years and even though it is a Filipino tradition, how the different cultures migrating to this country have embraced and celebrate this tradition in large numbers today. He spoke of different cultures having different traditions of waiting in Advent and they meet here at St Peters. It is in this way that God is revealing to us more and more about our wonderful faith which is lively and sometimes can challenge us. But it's a faith that communicates to us the wonderful promise that God is with us, Emmanuel which means that God dwells with us.
Reflection: Do we wait for God or is it that God is waiting for us? Let us enter into this novena in the Advent season with an appreciation that everything that comes to us is God's promise that he is revealing to us through our wonderful Catholic faith and He is Emmanuel - God with us.Day 2
Day 2 of the Dawn mass novena celebrated by Fr Thang Vu, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by Himig Pinoy Choir.
Fr Thang invited the children to the altar, he explained the rose candle is traditionally lit on the Third Sunday of Advent, known as Rejoice or Gaudete Sunday. The day takes its common name from the Latin word Gaudete ("Rejoice"). He told the children our faith is a joyful faith because we have Jesus in our midst. Jesus is the joy of our lives and he prayed for them to grow in love, knowledge and caring for one another.
In his homily Fr Thang referred to the theme of joy in the readings today but he focused on the word 'Witness'. Prophet Isaiah, Mary and John the Baptist were all joyful witnesses to what God had done and will do for his people.
Referring to the first reading, Prophet Isaiah gives joyful witness to what God has done to bring back his people home from exile. This joy extends not only to the oppressed and poor people of Israel but to people of all nations.
Mary the mother of our Lord Jesus gave joyful witness when she sang a song of praise 'The Magnificat' when she visited Elizabeth her cousin magnifying the name of God for all that he was doing and will do for his people.
Fr Thang then spoke of today's Gospel (Jn 1: 6-8, 19-28) where the word 'witness' appears four times. Referring to John the Baptist he said he is a great advent figure for us because he was a witness and he came to testify to the Light which is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He not only prepares the way for Jesus but is a great example to us to live our Christian vocation and be a true witness of our Christian faith and stand up for our faith and the truth about God and Jesus who became flesh and lives among us. Reflection: Am I a true and joyful witness to our society and people around me by recalling what God has done for meDay 3
Day 3 of the Dawn Mass novena celebrated by Fr Aurelio Fragapane, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music provided by the Youth Band.
In his homily Fr Aurelio spoke of how God is waiting at every moment to come into our lives to help us to see the truth and take the right decisions in our lives. He spoke of how St Joseph in today's Gospel followed the angel of the Lord who appeared in a dream to him and took Mary home. This time of Advent is not only a preparation for the birth of Christ which took place over 2000 years ago, but it's a reminder that Christ comes to us every moment of our lives. We need to be aware and ready and truly present to allow God to be born in our hearts again.
How many times we reject God, every moment that we fail to love, every time we fail to welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit the prisoners, we reject God.
He went to say the laws of society may change and pressurise us but do we really understand what our faith is. It's not really about changing laws but changing hearts and changing ourselves and being a witness as a community of the Body of Christ. New life comes to us in Jesus. That life needs to be lived now and we can do it together to be a witness to wake up this world.
We are a people of Hope and Joy and despite the challenges and darkness in our lives, we ought to be living our lives as we have the hope that Jesus our Saviour is coming! Christmas is about rejoicing that God has saved us from darkness and liberated us from our sins. So whatever happens around us does not matter and we should not be upset or discouraged because ultimately we have the victory in Christ. Reflection: Do we truly understand who we are, because unless we understand who we are, then we do not know where we are going and if we do not know where we are going, how can we lead others to Christ if we ourselves have lost the way.
Day 4 of the Dawn Mass novena or Simbang Gabi was celebrated by Fr Jude Pirotta, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by the Footsteps Choir.
In his homily Fr Jude referring to today's Gospel of the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist, spoke of the idea of waiting that permeates this account of the Gospel. As devout Jews, Zechariah and Elizabeth had long prayed and hoped for a child and now being in their old age it seemed impossible. This story of Elizabeth and Zechariah serves as a strong reminder for us of what it is like to live with hopes and dreams while having to wait for God to respond to our prayers. A wonderful theme of this event is though there was a delay in God hearing their prayers, they did not give up on God and continued to live in faith and in service of God.
He went to say that waiting is a part of life, we wait for the birth of a child, we wait at the doctors, we wait for our exam results. Life does not unfold as quickly as we want. But it is important what we do while we wait. And we can learn from Elizabeth and Zechariah who kept on living their faith, continued praying and serving God. Also it is important to remember all the wonderful things God has done for us in the past and renew our hope in God and hold on to Him. Reflection: The question for us today is how do we respond when God delays or fails to meet our hopes. Do we give up on God because we think God has given up on us or do we continue to trust and to serve God while we wait.Day 5
Day 5 of the Dawn Mass novena or Simbang Gabi was celebrated by Fr Shabin Kaniampuram, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by the Alliance of the Holy Family International (AHFI).
Fr Shabin's homily was based on Luke's Gospel 1: 26-38 and he spoke of Mary receiving this message from God through the angel Gabriel that she is specially chosen to be the mother of the Son of the Most High - Jesus and she accepted that great news with great joy. Thus Mary becomes the symbol of Joy or Rejoicing. Mary rejoices always because she strongly believed in the word of God and she believed that this message was truly from God. And she shared that joy with everyone around her. She sings the beautiful Magnificat 'I rejoice in God my Saviour'. Mary always moved forward because of her strong faith and deep conviction. This passage invites us to move forward and proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ to the secular world.
"The Lord is with you", "do not be afraid", these words were given not only to Mary but to each one of us Christians, not to be afraid in any circumstance in our life. The Lord says I am with you, I am journeying with you. Reflection: This Advent let us reflect on this message of joy and rejoicing. Let us rejoice with Mary whatever the circumstances in our life. Like Mary let us be strong in the conviction that the Lord is with us. Let us not be afraid to proclaim and profess our faith in Jesus Christ to all we meet.Day 6
Day 6 of the Dawn Mass Novena (Simbang Gabi) was celebrated by Fr Joselito Asis, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by the choir Domini Chorum.
In his homily Fr Joselito spoke of the Visitation from today's Gospel (Luke 1: 39-45) which narrates that the Blessed Virgin Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth. Inspite of her own situation where Mary was with Child in her womb, she was more concerned for her cousin. Elizabeth's reaction to Mary's visit shows us that she experienced great joy by the visit of Mary. The joy extended to the babies in the womb and to the people around.
He then went to say that visitations are always moments of encounter and joy. For eg when we visit a relative or a friend especially someone who is sick or living alone, it brings great joy to that person. Visiting is a gesture of concern and love and it means we remember and value that person.
Fr Joselito then went on to say that the greatest visitation happened when the Word of God was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, when God came as man and thus embraced our humanity. Reflection: During this Christmas season let us resolve to visit a person, a family member or friend whom we have not visited for a long time. The joy that our presence brings can be the most beautiful gift we can give to others at Christmas.
Day 7 of the Dawn Mass Novena (Simbang Gabi) was celebrated by Fr Jose Guiterrez, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by the Shepherds of Christ choir.
In his homily Fr Jose spoke of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth from today's Gospel where Mary sings the Magnificat, a beautiful canticle of joy where she proclaims the greatness of the Lord and all the good things He has done for her in her life.
Fr Jose went on to say that on reflecting on Mary's situation it would not have been easy for her to go through this being a very young girl, unmarried and pregnant. But she still had the courage to say 'yes' to the Lord and fulfil the mission that was given to her.
He spoke of how Mary visited Elizabeth and in his view she visited her to maybe talk to her and receive encouragement that she could truly fulfil this mission that God had given her. And when she met Elizabeth, who did not stop praising her and telling her that she was most blessed- the chosen one and that she had believed in the Promises of God, Mary responded by singing the Magnificat. Fr Jose concluded by saying we too may have this person in our life whom we go to when we have a problem or are in trouble and need comfort and strength. Reflection: Let us give thanks to the Lord for all those people who have helped us throughout this year, for the friend that we have who cheers us every time we are down, for the people who have been comforting, encouraging and supporting us. Let us give thanks for all the Elizabeth's in our life.
Day 8 of the Dawn Mass Novena (Simbang Gabi) was celebrated by Fr Pius Kodakkathanath, Fr Sunil Joseph, Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by the Filiorum Dei choir.
Fr Sunil in his homily spoke of the first reading Malachi 3:3 which says: 'He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver'. He explained by narrating of how the silversmith refined silver. The silversmith needed to hold the metal silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. He not only has to sit there holding the silver, but he has to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it is in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. How does he know when the silver is fully refined? The answer -"when he sees his image in it!"
He went to explain how God is very close to us throughout our lives. 1 Peter 5:7 says "Cast your burdens on me because I care for you". The Lord is always near to us in our struggles and he watches over us like the silversmith as we are being refined and purified.
At Christmas we celebrate the gift of Jesus from the Heavenly Father to us. It is only in Jesus that we have our hope and our salvation. Reflection: Jesus comes to us not only at Christmas but at every celebration of the Eucharist where we are called to come close to him, to experience him, to receive comfort and consolation and we are called to share this gift of Jesus with others.
Day 9 of the Dawn Mass Novena (Simbang Gabi) was celebrated by Fr Vincent John and assisted by Deacon Charles. Music was provided by St James Music Group.
In his homily Fr Vincent spoke of today's Gospel of the Annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Mary's response 'I am the servant of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word' reveals her faith, obedience and surrender to the will of God. Mary's words display a willingness to believe what is not immediately apparent and her readiness to be of use in risky and even painful ways. These words changed not only Mary's life but the life of the whole world as her 'yes' to God opened the doors of salvation to mankind. Reflection: What can we learn from Mary's 'yes'? Are we ready to surrender to God as Mary did. Are we willing to obey the will of God in our life, especially when trials or changes come our way. Are we ready to let God Emmanuel be with us. Fr Vincent urges us to be enthusiastic witnesses for Christ in our daily life and follow Jesus without any fear just as Mary did. By our 'yes' to God we too will be changed and so also many lives.