Monday, 3 January 2022 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.

Monday, 3 January 2022 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 7-8, 10-11

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession.”

Now therefore, learn wisdom, o kings; be warned, o rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and fall at His feet; lest He be angry and you perish when His anger suddenly flares. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Monday, 3 January 2022 : Monday after the Epiphany, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 22 – 1 John 4 : 6

Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know He lives in us.

My beloved, do not trust every inspiration. Test the spirits to see whether they come from God, because many false prophets are now in the world. How will you recognise the Spirit of God? Any spirit recognising Jesus as the Christ Who has taken our flesh is of God. But any spirit that does not recognise Jesus is not from God, it is the spirit of the antichrist. You have heard of his coming and even now he is in the world.

You, my dear children, are of God and you have already overcome these people, because the One Who is in you is more powerful than he who is in the world. They are of the world and the world inspires them and those of the world listen to them. We are of God and those who know God listen to us, but those who are not of God ignore us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error as well.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, marking the important moment when Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, was revealed to the nations, to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish peoples, as represented by the Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men or even Three Kings, who came from afar, following the bright star, the Star of Bethlehem, in trying to find the Saviour promised by God to His people, the Israelites.

This great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord got its name from the word Epiphaneia, which is the Greek word for ‘manifestation’ and it can be interpreted with the meaning of God having revealed and manifested Himself before the peoples of all the nations, coming to seek Him and worship Him. No longer that He is just a King and Saviour for the Jewish people alone, as He has revealed before through His prophets in the past, that all the nations and the peoples from those nations will come together seeking the Lord, worshipping and praising Him.

As we all heard from our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the prophet mentioned how the Lord has shown His Light and Salvation to the people of Israel, and how not just the Israelites but all the peoples of all the nations will become God’s beloved people, and follow Him through the Light of His salvation, that is in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It was in Christ that God’s love has been manifested in the flesh, appearing before all of us, Emmanuel, God Who is with us, dwelling in our midst, all of His people.

Through Him, the world that has been in darkness, the darkness of evil and sin has seen a great new Light, the Light that pierces through the darkness of those evils and wickedness. God’s Light and Hope triumphed even over the power of sin and death, and by His coming, Christ brought unto us the assurance of God’s everlasting and enduring love for each one of us. He came to us to reach out to our hearts and minds, calling on us to follow Him and to turn away from our past evils, wickedness and sins. God has given us the way out of the darkness and into His new light.

I am certain that all of us are familiar with the story of the Magi and how they came after having travelled a great distance from their respective home countries, witnessing the great Star of Bethlehem that became their guide and hope, as they endured the long and arduous journey to come to seek the Lord. They finally found Him there in Bethlehem of Judea, a small town where the Lord and Saviour of all was born, placed in a manger in a place that was small and simple, possibly in a stable or any other similar place that was unworthy of proper human habitation, and less still for a King.

Nonetheless, He came into our world, to show His love for us, and through the Magi and their gifts, He revealed Himself to us and the gifts of the Magi also showed us Who the Lord truly is, that Child born in Bethlehem, as the Son of God, the Divine Word Incarnate and not just merely a little Child as how others would have perceived Him to be. The Magi, who are traditionally three in number, corresponding to their three gifts, and named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, offered the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Lord, paid homage to Him and worshipped Him.

Let us all go through the gifts one by one, beginning with the gift of gold. All of us know that gold is a precious metal that has been used for millennia in the making of precious items and ornaments, of crowns and other expensive items, particularly with regards to royalty and power. For gold is a great symbol of wealth, and it also represents the Kingship of Christ. This is because it was often that the use of gold was often restricted to royalty and only the kings in the past usually had the ability to display his riches and power in gold. It has therefore been a mark and symbol of majesty and power since time immemorial.

Then, gold has also been used in the making of idols, as many pagan idols and gods were made with the liberal use and ornamentations from gold. In the history of the Israelites themselves, I am sure all of us are familiar with how the people of Israel forced Aaron to make for them the golden calf idol when they thought that Moses had died or abandoned them on Mount Sinai. They worshipped that golden calf idol and abandoned their God Who had just liberated them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh not long ago. Yet, the gold itself has no fault, as it was how the gold was used that made it to be tainted by evil.

How so? The Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred artefact of the people of Israel, containing the two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron and the manna, placed in the Holy of Holies and symbolising the presence of God is made almost entirely from gold, and even the Holy of Holies itself were also constructed with ample use of gold. Gold therefore is both a symbol of royal authority, power and divinity, highlighting how the Child Jesus was no mere child but in truth is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of all the whole Universe.

Then, for the gift of frankincense, we all know how incense has been used for a very long time to offer worship to the divine, to various gods and idols. People from various cultures and origins always associate the pleasant aroma of the various incense blends with the aroma pleasing to their deities, and offered them on their altars. Frankincense itself has an even more significant meaning, as it is the highest quality incense, just as frankincense itself meant high quality incense. It is the purest incense of the highest quality and is reserved for the most solemn occasions.

Its offering to the Child Jesus served as a revelation to all of us that Jesus is not just a mere Man, but He is the Divine Son of God at the same time. He is the one Person with two distinct yet inseparable natures, of Divine and Human natures distinct but perfectly united in his one Person, in the same Child Jesus that the Magi had paid homage to. This offering of frankincense highlighted that divinity of Christ, which at that time was not yet visible behind the veil of His humanity. It is a reminder that Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who willingly embraced our human existence, to be born into this world and to make God’s love tangible and approachable to us.

And in another explanation, frankincense is also representative of the Christ’s role as the High Priest of all, a foreshadowing of His own actions later when He would be standing between us and death, offering on our behalf on the Altar of Calvary, the Altar of His Cross, both as our High Priest and as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice. This frankincense is the symbol of His office and role as the High Priest to deliver us all the redemption and forgiveness through His one act of supreme love by the self-sacrifice on the Cross. It is a prefigurement of the great work of His salvation for us.

Then, the last gift of myrrh by the Magi is a most peculiar and strange one, as myrrh is a kind of spice used in the embalming of the dead, and it was not meant to be offered to a living person and less still to be offered to a Child. Yet, it was a very powerful symbol of the Lord and what He would do in His ministry, again related to His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross. Although no one could have known it back then, but this was a prefigurement of Christ’s death, and how He would have to go through death in order to accomplish His mission.

Myrrh is also significant because in the various cultures, the embalming of the dead, particularly that of royalty and the nobility was symbolic of their desire to seek eternal life and way out of death. People had always feared death from time immemorial as the end of our earthly life, and because of that, people had always tried to seek ways to prolong their lives without success. And in some cultures in fact, the people believed that they could transcend death and became like the gods.

This highlighted how the Lord our God is so unique among all other beliefs and schools of thoughts out there, from all different faiths and religious beliefs, as when everyone else desired to transcend their mortality to become divine, Our Lord alone willingly humbled Himself to embrace our humanity and take up our human nature, to make His infinite and vast glory into the small and perceivable form of a small Child lying in a manger in Bethlehem. And not only that, as He also willingly later on embraced the worst of sufferings and pain, the scourges and the piercing of nails, as He was condemned to death on the most humiliating punishment on the Cross, for our sake.

As we have just heard and discussed, all the three gifts of the Magi, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are all very symbolic and serve to reveal to us all, to the people of all the nations Who this Child Jesus really was. He is the Almighty God and Ruler of all, the King of Kings and the Lord over all creation, the High Priest of all of us mankind, Who has offered on our behalf the most worthy offering, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, Who endured suffering and death for our salvation.

The Magi who came from the very far country to seek the Lord bearing the gifts actually represent all of us mankind, all the peoples who have the desire to seek the Lord and to find Him as their Light and salvation. It is a reminder that God came to us not only to save a certain group of people and to gather the children of Israel only, unlike what some among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have asserted. Instead, God is calling all the peoples to follow Him, to embrace His truth and love, the same truth and love that His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ has brought unto us.

The Magi followed the bright light of the Star that pointed them towards the Saviour. And this is a reminder for each and every one of us as Christians as we gather to remember the importance of the Epiphany to us. Through the gifts of the Magi, the gold, the frankincense and myrrh, we have been reminded of the nature of Our Lord’s Incarnation and coming into this world, all that He had done for our sake. Through His suffering and death, and by His glorious Resurrection, He has restored us back to life. And yet, are we following Him as the Star and the Light of our lives as well?

How many of us have disregarded the generous love that God has given us and rejected the kindness and mercy that He has shown us? This Christmas season we are constantly being reminded of all that God has done for our sake, and we should do our very best to focus our attention to Him and to glorify Him through our actions and service. Let us do whatever we can, even in the smallest things we say and do, so that our lives become a reflection of God’s Light, truth, hope and love in our respective communities.

In our world today, with so much suffering and difficulties encountered by us and many of our brothers and sisters, let us bring hope and encouragement to each other, and be each others’ pillar of support that we may endure the challenges that we may face together as one Church and one community of the faithful. We are all called to be the bearers of our Christmas joy and hope to all others, that God and His wonderful love and deeds may be known to all through us.

Let us all proclaim our great Lord and Saviour, the One Who has manifested and revealed Himself to the nations through the Magi, the Almighty God, Incarnate in the flesh and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother. Let us all proclaim Him before all the peoples with true faith and sincerity, so that more and more people may come to believe in the Lord through us. May the glory of Our Lord, He Who has manifested Himself and dwelled among us be with us, and may He bless us all in our every good efforts, works and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 2 : 1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the days of king Herod, wise men from the East arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw the rising of His star in the East and have come to honour Him.”

When Herod heard this he was greatly disturbed, and with him all Jerusalem. He immediately called a meeting of all high-ranking priests and scribes, and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they told him, “For this is what the prophet wrote : And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the clans of Judah, for from you will come a Leader, the One Who is to shepherd My people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called the wise men and asked them the precise time the star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with the instruction, “Go and get accurate information about the Child. As soon as you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may go and honour Him.”

After the meeting with the king, they set out. The star that they had seen in the East went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the Child was. The wise men were overjoyed on seeing the star again. They went into the house, and when they saw the Child with Mary His mother, they knelt and worshipped Him. They opened their bags and offered Him their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

In a dream they were warned not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another way.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 3 : 2-3a, 5-6

You may have heard of the graces God bestowed on me for your sake. By a revelation He gave me the knowledge of His mysterious design. This mystery was not made known to past generations but only now, through revelations given to holy Apostles and prophets.

Now the non-Jewish people share the Inheritance; in Christ Jesus the non-Jews are incorporated and are to enjoy the Promise. This is the Good News.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

O God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. 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.

The kings of Tarshish and the islands render Him tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts, all kings bow down to Him, and all nations serve Him.

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.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 60 : 1-6

Arise, shine, for your Light has come. The Glory of YHVH rises upon you. Night still covers the earth and gloomy clouds veil the peoples, but YHVH now rises and over you His glory appears. Nations will come to your Light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes round about and see : they are all gathered and come to you, your sons from afar, your daughters tenderly carried. This sight will make your face radiant, your heart throbbing and full; the riches of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.

A flood of camels will cover you, caravans from Midian and Ephah. Those from Sheba will come, bringing with them gold and incense, all singing in praise of YHVH.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Second Sunday after Christmas (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the second Sunday in the Christmas season, for all of us who are celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on its traditional date of the sixth of January. This Sunday as we have heard in the Scripture passages, we are again constantly being reminded of what we are celebrating in this Christmas season, that is celebrating the great appearing of Our Lord and Saviour in the flesh, Jesus Christ, the One Whom God has sent into our midst to be our Hope and the Light of our salvation, the Divine Word Incarnate.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of God’s salvation and promise of redemption being proclaimed and spoken before the people. At the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the fortunes of the people of God, the Israelites and their descendants had been at an all-time low, as they were facing great distress, humiliations, defeat and a lot of trials and troubles from different sources, one after another. All those things were caused by their own lack of faith in God and by their constant disobedience against God, preferring to walk in their own path than to walk in the path that God had set before them.

As a result, not only that the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom and carried most of the northern ten Israelite tribes into exile and destroyed their cities, but even the southern kingdom of Judah was soon to face its own twilight and end as well. The enemies of the people of God rose against them and due to their continued disobedience and rebellion against God, even to the persecution of the faithful prophets and servants of God like Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah was bound to be destroyed as well, which would later happen at the hands of the Babylonians.

But all the while God and the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed how the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem would become because of the evil deeds and the wickedness of the people, their kings’ bad influences and all of their infidelities, in worshipping pagan idols and demons, but God still in truth loved His people and did not abandon them. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because just as what we ourselves often experienced, it is the people who had consciously chosen to abandon God and His truth and love instead, and chose to walk the path of evil and sin.

That is why, through what the Lord has spoken and done for His people, He wants to show them that He still loves us despite all that we have done to hurt Him, in betraying and abandoning Him. He revealed how all of them would be gathered back from being scattered amongst all the nations. The Lord has shown His commitment and dedication to the Covenant He had made with us even when we have repeatedly disobeyed Him and betrayed Him. He still tried very hard to reach out to us and to help us to find the path to redemption.

To this extent, He has shown us His salvation through none other than Jesus Christ, His most beloved Son, Whom He had sent into the world, incarnate in the flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate as we heard in our Gospel passage today. In his Gospel, St. John the Apostle began his account with the most beautiful and detailed exposition of the truth and reality of the Lord God, the Word of God, Who was with the Father and is God, coming down into this world by the power of the Holy Spirit, indwelling in the womb of Mary, His mother, and became the Son of Man, born and revealed to all in Christmas.

Through Christ, the love of God has been manifested perfectly in the flesh and His love is no longer intangible. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, God’s love takes form and is approachable to us, and He came to us as He had promised, through the prophet Jeremiah and many others, to gather all of us back to Himself and to show us the path to eternal life with Him. God has not abandoned us and He has embraced us, through His Son, Emmanuel, God Who is with us. His coming into this world as we celebrate at Christmas is a truly significant event in our human history, and in the history of our redemption.

For through Him, we are no longer without hope and we have no more need to fear because while once we have been destined for destruction and damnation because of our sins, God’s love triumphs even over those sins and all the wickedness we have committed, and through His Son, Whose sacrifice on the Cross became the worthy offering for the atonement of all of our sins, God has shown us the path out of the darkness and into eternal life. He is indeed the Light for the people who are still living in the darkness, that is all of us sinners.

Yet, how many of us actually realise this truth, brothers and sisters in Christ? How many of us actually remember God’s love and see His love in the coming of His Son into this world? We do not have to look far beyond our own actions in life. How many of us celebrated Christmas without Christ Our Lord as the centre and focus of all of our celebrations? And how many of us spent our Christmas mostly in merrymaking, revelry and celebrations and forgetting all that God has done for us out of His enduring love? We cannot truly celebrate Christmas without Christ, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore this Sunday, as we continue to go through the Christmas season and as we continue our celebrations of the Christmas joy and exultation, we are called to remember the reason for all of our rejoicing and happiness. It is because of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem into this world that we have seen God’s light and salvation, tangible and approachable, and no longer just something that we cannot understand or grasp. This Sunday we should remind one another of God’s love made Man, in His ever generous love poured down to us in Christ His Son.

And because God has loved us so much, and given us the reason to rejoice much as the Israelites of old had received those glad tidings and hope amidst the darkness of their state then, let us all be the bearers of Christ’s light and hope in our communities today, spreading the joy that has come with Our Lord and which we celebrate this day and this season. Let our actions bring hope and encouragement to our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are sorrowful and without hope. Let us share our joy and celebrations with those who have little or no joy at all in their lives.

May the Lord, our Saviour and King, our loving God and Creator, Who has willingly come down to us in the flesh, be with us all and bless us in all things, so that our year ahead may be most blessed and wonderful. And may all of us draw ever closer to the Lord, as we commit our every living moments to serve and glorify Him, now and always. May God bless all of our works, efforts and endeavours, and may we have a truly blessed Christmas celebrations. Amen.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Second Sunday after Christmas (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in Him; life, which for human beings, was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him.

He came to His own, yet His own people did not receive Him; but to all who received Him, He empowers to become children of God, for they believe in His Name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man : they are born of God.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to Him openly, saying, “This is the One Who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me, for He was before me.”

From His fullness we have all received, favour upon favour. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made Him known : the One, Who is in and with the Father.