His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pontiff celebrated the Solemn Requiem Mass for His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI assisted by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, His Eminence Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, Rome on Thursday, 5 January 2023 at 9.30 am Central European Time (8.30 am UTC)
Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on this day we mark the occasion of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which also marks the last day of the entire Christmas season in our liturgical calendar and year. It means that after the more than two weeks of celebrations since Christmas Day, beginning tomorrow, we shall enter into the Ordinary Time of the year. Of course traditionally Christmas is still being celebrated all the way up to the second day of February, the fortieth day since Christmas, marking a traditional forty days of Christmas season. But this day marks that transition from our focus and emphasis on the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, and into His ministry and works in this world, with the moment of Baptism marking that significant new beginning and change.
If we recall our Scripture readings of the previous days, it was leading up to this moment of the Baptism of the Lord, when the early life stage of Our Lord, growing up from a Child to adulthood ended, and then, the Lord finally entered into the beginning of the mission and works that He had been sent into this world for. That Baptism at the Jordan marked the moment when He was also revealed yet another time, to St. John the Baptist and those present at His baptism, Who He really is. The Lord Jesus indeed had no need for purification or baptism, but yet, He still shared in the same Baptism that all of us as members of the Church had gone through, not because of His sins or impurities, which He had none, but because He wanted to share with us His death and Resurrection, to bring us into the promise of eternal glory and life.
The Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan symbolically marks the beginning of His ministry of bringing all of us, the lost sheep and flock of God back to Him, because Christ is our Good Shepherd, Who has come into this world to seek for us and to gather all of us back into God’s loving embrace. He has gathered all of us, and shares with us our human existence and life, so that, by also sharing our common Baptism, He may lead us all through the waters of death and rebirth, just the way the people of Israel went through the Red Sea, walking through the water, from their slavery in Egypt and the desolation they had there, into the freedom that God had promised them, and the promise of happiness and joy in the Promised Land that God had promised them and their forefathers.
Now, as we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are all called to remember the moment of our own baptism, when we were received into the Church whether as infants or as adults. If we were too young to remember any details because we were baptised as infants, then we should go and find out more about that important moment from our godparents and/or those who were there to witness our baptism, especially while they are still around us. The moment of baptism is something that is essentially as important as our own birthdays, just as the Lord Jesus said in one occasion to Nicodemus, the faithful Pharisee, that to be His followers and disciples, is like one that is born again through the Spirit, and baptism is that moment marking our rebirth into this new life and existence.
How about us? Do we remember our baptism and do we keep it as an important event in our lives? Do we celebrate it the way we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord today in this Feast day? Or do we just let it be a mere footnote and another event in our lives, and not paying more attention to its significance and importance to us? All of us as Christians must recall our Baptism with the same vigour and zeal just as we rejoice and celebrate this Feast today, and also remember the baptismal promises that we have made then, and renewed every year at Easter. Many people could not even remember the date and time of their baptism, and this tells just how little importance we assign to that moment which should have been a truly groundbreaking, memorable and watershed moment in our lives and existence in this world.
The reason why we remember our baptism is also not just so that we recall what we have promised, but also a reminder that we have to continue carrying on the way of life that is expected of us as baptised Catholics, as members of the Lord’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Baptism is not the end of our journey as Christians, especially for those of us who went through the process of initiation into the Christian faith through a period of discernment and catechumenate, and it is not the pinnacle of our Christian journey. Rather, baptism marks that new beginning in our lives in which we have begun a new path of life and existence, dedicating it all to Christ, and striving our best to follow Him in our path of life. Just as the Baptism that the Lord Jesus experienced at the Jordan began His ministry formally, our own baptism should be the point marking the new beginning of our lives.
It means that we are all called towards a better and holier existence, one that is more attuned to the Lord and to His ways and His truth. We are all called to answer God’s call in our lives, making good use of whatever provisions and gifts, blessings and graces that He has given to each one of us. As Christians, we cannot be idle believers, as those who are idle and do nothing at all, are those whose faith are lukewarm and without sincerity, and in the words of St. James, faith without good works and deeds is essentially a dead and useless faith, the faith of a hypocrite that does nothing for the person, and is of no use when we have to account for ourselves on the Day of Judgment. The Lord has given us all His blessings, graces, various talents and abilities so that we may make good use of them for the benefit of others, our fellow brothers and sisters all around us.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice today in this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, let us all spend some time to reflect on whether we have been truly faithful to God in our actions and deeds, in our way of life and believing in Him. If we have not been truly faithful and devoted to Him, then the time is now for us to really consider and discern our path going forward in life, and we should spend the time to think of how we can better glorify God by our lives and actions, in each and every daily moments and at all opportunities. Let us all strive to draw ever closer to God and to remain firmly committed to walk the path towards His salvation and grace, fulfilling and ever being mindful of our baptismal promises. May the Lord, by Whose Baptism we have been saved, through His suffering and death on the Cross, and by His glorious Resurrection, empower us and strengthen us that we may always ever be faithful to Him, now and always. Amen.
Liturgical Colour : White
Matthew 3 : 13-17
At that time, Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by Him. But John tried to prevent Him, and said, “How is it, You come to me? I should be baptised by You!”
But Jesus answered him, “Let it be like that for now; so that we may fulfil the right order.” John agreed.
As soon as He was baptised, Jesus came up out of the water. All at once, the heavens opened and He saw the Spirit of God come down, like a Dove, and rest upon Him. At the same time, a voice from heaven was heard, “This is My Son, the Beloved; He is My Chosen One.”
Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9b-10
Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord glory and strength, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.
The voice of the Lord makes the oaks shudder, the Lord strips the forests bare, and in His Temple all cry, “Glory!” Over the flood the Lord was sitting; the Lord is King and He reigns forever.
Liturgical Colour : White
Isaiah 42 : 1-4, 6-7
Here is My Servant Whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight. I have put My Spirit upon Him, and He will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise His voice, proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed He will not crush, nor will He snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will make justice appear in truth.
He will not waver or be broken until He has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for His law. I, YHVH, have called You for the sake of justice; I will hold Your hand to make You firm; I will make You as a Covenant to the people, and as a Light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.
Acts 10 : 34-38
Peter then spoke to Cornelius and his family, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and does good. And this is the message He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace He has proclaimed through Jesus Christ, Who is the Lord of all.”
“No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him.”
Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Church celebrates the great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, marking the occasion when the Lord revealed and manifested Himself to all the nations through the representation of the Three Magi or the Three Wise Men, who came all the way to Bethlehem after long and arduous journey, seeking the Star of Bethlehem marking the birthplace of the Saviour. This Solemnity and Feast, also known as Theophany especially amongst those from the Eastern Church traditions remember the time when God ‘Theos’ manifested Himself before His people, a term known as ‘Epiphaneia’, that has the meaning of revelation, as He came forth bringing the Light and Hope to the nations, just as He has promised through His prophets and messengers.
This day, we remember how the Three Magi went on the long journey from distant lands, with the very bright Star of Bethlehem as their guide, leading them towards Bethlehem where the Lord was born. This great Solemnity of the Epiphany marks the revelation that God’s salvation was not only meant for the Jewish people, unlike what some among the Jews back then believed, but His salvation was extended to all of mankind, to people of every race and origins. The Lord loves all of His beloved people, all those whom He had created, the children and descendants of the first man, Adam and his wife, Eve. Hence, it is why the Lord revealed His love to all of His people, manifested in the Child Jesus, born in Bethlehem, at that moment just over two millennia ago which we have been celebrating throughout this Christmas season.
The Three Wise Men, the Magi came to the Lord bearing three gifts, of gold, myrrh and frankincense. Each one of those gifts are themselves symbols and signs that reveal to all of us Who that Child born in Bethlehem truly was. Each of those gifts represent an aspect of the Lord, as the Saviour and the Divine Word of God Incarnate. Gold, frankincense and myrrh are all precious goods and they were also precious back then as well. All of these were brought by the Three Magi from distant lands, bearing those gifts to honour and worship the Holy One born on that day in Bethlehem. The Magi were likely wise and learned men who could read the signs and the stars, the omens of times, and hence, they could surmise the rough identity of the Saviour from what they read from the signs of nature.
Through God’s grace and wisdom, those Magi came to Bethlehem presenting the three gifts that inadvertently, and unknown to them, reveal the true identity of the Lord and Saviour when all three were combined together. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are gifts that are fit for a King, a Divine Being and a High Priest, as well as a Suffering and Dead Messiah. All these represent just exactly Who this Child Jesus was, as He laid there in the manger before the Three Magi, who came to Him paying homage and worship. That small, little and vulnerable Child is the King of Kings, promised to all the people as the King Who will lead them into triumph and victory, as well as the Divine Word of God, incarnate in the flesh, one fated to bear the whole weight and burden of our many sins and the punishments due to those sins, to suffer all these for the sake of our salvation.
First of all, gold has been well-known to us as a very precious metal that is highly desired in many civilisations, among many cultures and peoples. Gold has been used as means of exchange and as monetary goods and means of wealth and possessions for many millennia. And gold has often been reserved for the rich and powerful, especially to the royalty and kings. In some cultures, Hence, the gift of gold presented by the Magi highlights the truth that Jesus Christ is indeed a King, the King over all Kings, worthy of praise and honour, all glory and power. Jesus Christ is also the one and only True God, manifested in the flesh as the Son of Man, and He is the only one worthy of worship and adoration, just as many civilisations and cultures honour their idols and gods with gold and lots of offerings of made of gold and its derivatives.
Then, frankincense is used as the finest quality of incense, which is very expensive and precious, and reserved only for the purpose of the worship of the Divine. The frankincense offered by the Magi to the Child Jesus marks Him as the Divine Son of God and not merely just a Man or a Prophet, and not only that but He is also the High Priest of all the faithful, all the people of God. As the High Priest of all, He offered on our behalf the most worthy sacrifice of all, made not of any mere animals or offerings of this world as how the old Israelite customs and the Law had done, but with His own Most Precious Body and Blood. Yes, Christ has offered Himself as the only worthy offering that is sufficient to redeem us from the massive multitudes of our sins, faults, mistakes, iniquities and more. Through His offering of Himself, as the Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb, He has bridged the previously unbridgeable gap existing between us and God.
Then lastly, the gift of myrrh may have indeed been very strange for a Child, as myrrh was a precious and expensive spice but it was used for the anointing and preparation of the bodies of the dead. Yet, it was that gift of myrrh which became a revelation of what this Child, this Saviour from God would do for our sake. Christ, the Child to Whom the Three Magi offered their gifts including the peculiar gift of myrrh, would have to suffer and die for the sake of everyone in the whole entire world. He had to bear His Cross, in offering Himself as the Paschal Lamb of offering, beaten and crushed, tortured and made to endure the worst humiliations and punishments for our sake. All these happened so that by His wounds, and by His broken Precious Body and outpoured Precious Blood, all of us may be saved, redeemed and pardoned from those sins.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as the three gifts of the Three Magi showed us all, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Lord, the Holy Child born in Bethlehem had revealed Him to the nations, to all of us. We all have indeed received the knowledge and truth that the same Messiah we celebrate this Christmas, the Child Jesus, is truly our King of Kings, our Almighty God, the Divine Word incarnate in the flesh, born as Man, so that by His sharing of our human existence and nature, He might unite us to Himself and by sharing with us His suffering and death on His Cross, He may then share with us His glorious Resurrection. Yes, all of us have received the promise of resurrection and eternal life, from the Lord Himself, and as long as we are faithful to Him and put our trust in Him, we shall be assured of all these.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate in this glorious Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord today, let us all therefore reflect on the One Whom we are all celebrating about, that is Christ Himself, God manifested in the flesh as the Child, the Son of Man born in Bethlehem. Let us all celebrate the love of God made Man, that through Him and all of His great works in our midst, dwelling amongst us, we may indeed receive the assurance of eternal life and joy. The Lord has also called all the people of all the nations to follow Him, and assured everyone, every single children, sons and daughters of mankind to come to Him. His salvation is no longer limited to just those whom He first chose, the Israelites and their descendants, but He revealed that all the while, He wants every single one of us to be saved, all because He loves us, without prejudice and without bias, all of us equally beloved by our Creator and Master.
Just like the Three Magi in the past, let us all therefore come to seek the Lord with all of our efforts and hearts, our minds and might. Let us all be faithful to the Lord and follow Him, like the Three Magi making the intense effort in walking the long journey from their distant homelands to seek the Saviour through the Star of Bethlehem. Are we all able to do the same as they had done? They were not believers at first, but saw the signs that God had sent into this world, followed those signs and came all the way to Bethlehem to pay Him homage and to worship Him. They represent all of us mankind, all of whom have been scattered all throughout the world, but through the grace and love of God, Who has sent us Christ to be our Good Shepherd, to gather us all from the ends of the world to Himself, to find our way to God.
May the Lord, Who made Himself visible and Who has revealed Himself to all the nations, be with us all and continue to call upon us to follow Him. May He continue to guide us all through the path of grace and His love and truth, so that we may follow Him, with all of our hearts and minds, and be truly saved. Just as He has promised and assured us through His suffering, death on the Cross and finally through His glorious Resurrection, He has shown us the light of His hope and the grace of eternal life that will be ours if we keep strong our faith in Him, and continue to walk faithfully in His Presence and remain firmly committed to His path. May the Lord, our glorious and mighty God, Who revealed Himself to all the nations, be with us and bless our every good deeds and efforts, all of our endeavours for His greater glory. Wishing all of us a Most Blessed and Holy Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord! Amen.
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.
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.
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.
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.