Saturday, 8 January 2022 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to be good and committed Christians who do our part to care for one another, in reminding each other to live good and virtuous Christian lives at all times, distancing ourselves from sin. All of us are called to be part of the missionary outreach and works of the Church, for the salvation of many more souls, for us to be great role models for our fellow brethren at all times and in every opportunities.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, we heard the Apostle exhorting the faithful people of God to follow the Lord and His path, to be faithful to Jesus Christ, the One Whom God has sent into our midst, God’s own beloved Son incarnate in the flesh, and born of His mother, the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary. The Lord has shown us the path of freedom from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of death. By His suffering and death, He has purchased for us the redemption for all of our multitudes of sins.

In that same passage, we heard how sin can lead to death, for sin is caused by our disobedience against God and our refusal to obey His will. And since we have rejected the Lord of life, Our Master, then it is only right and just that we have to suffer the consequences of our sins, that is death. But death is not the final fate for us unless we have consciously rejected the Lord right to the very last moments of our lives, refusing all the opportunities and the generosity by which God had given us the chances time and again to repent and turn away from our sinful ways.

When St. John mentioned that not all sins lead to death, this highlighted the fact that Christ Our Lord has freely given His love and merciful compassion to us. He has reached our even to those who have condemned Him to death and made Him to suffer, praying for them all and forgiving them their sins and their faults. He has given even the worst of sinners the chance to find redemption and the path to eternal life through His compassionate love. He came into our world, to our midst to look for us all, to find those who have been lost to God due to sin.

Yet, it was our stubbornness that had led us astray and prevented us from finding our way back to Him. Our continued attachments and desire for worldly temptations and sins eventually led us back into a wicked life and a state of sin, from which God kept on calling us and trying to bring us out, to allow us to return to Him. He has prepared the path and the place for us with Him, but everything in the end depends on us and whether we are willing to accept His love and compassionate mercy. Too often that we have rejected His love and mercy, brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah worked hard for the glory of God, and when the Lord came and revealed Himself, and gained more and more followers, he humbly receded from the public popularity and allowed his Lord and Master to become more important than he was. When some of his disciples confronted him regarding this, he humbly mentioned how it has been his purpose from the very beginning to serve his Lord and Master, the One for Whom he had been sent into this world, to prepare His way before His coming.

In that way, St. John the Baptist was very happy that the Lord was gaining more follower and attention, and he was happy that everything went as it should be. He did not do all his works, the baptisms and others for his own sake and glory, unlike what many other people would have done. He did everything all for the greater glory of God, and gave his whole life to serve the Lord and to follow Him, and show the path to His salvation to all who followed him and were willing to listen to him. He is truly an example that all of us can and should follow.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the great examples of faith and dedication showed by St. John the Baptist, let us all strive to walk humbly from now on before the Lord, dedicating ourselves to follow Him and to be faithful to Him in all things. Let us all appreciate all the love and compassionate kindness, the mercy and forgiveness that God has shown us all these while. Let us embrace God’s love through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, and strive to become ever better Christians, ever better disciples of Our Lord from now on. May God be with us all, and may He remain with us in His love for us, always. Amen.

Saturday, 8 January 2022 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 22-30

At that time, Jesus went into the territory of Judea with His disciples. He stayed there with them and baptised. John was also baptising in Aenon, near Salim, where water was plentiful; people came to him and were baptised. This happened before John was put in prison.

Now John’s disciples had been questioned by a Jew about spiritual cleansing, so they came to John and said, “Rabbi, the One Who was with you across the Jordan, and about Whom you spoke favourably, is now baptising, and all are going to Him.”

John answered, “No one can receive anything, except what has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him.’ Only the bridegroom has the bride; but the friend of the bridegroom stands by and listens, and rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice. My joy is now full. It is necessary that He increase, but that I decrease.”

Saturday, 8 January 2022 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to the Lord a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker, let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name and make music for Him with harp and timbrel. For the Lord delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night on their couches. Let the praise of God be on their lips, this is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!

Saturday, 8 January 2022 : Saturday after the Epiphany (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 5 : 14-21

Through the Son of God we are fully confident that whatever we ask, according to His will, He will grant us. If we know that He hears us whenever we ask, we know that we already have what we asked of Him.

If you see your brother committing sin, a sin which does not lead to death, pray for him, and God will give life to your brother. I speak, of course, of the sin which does not lead to death. There is also a sin that leads to death; I do not speak of praying about this. Every kind of wrongdoing is sin, but not all sin leads to death.

We know, that those born of God do not sin, but the One Who was born of God, protects them, and the evil one does not touch them. We know, that we belong to God, while the whole world lies in evil. We know, that the Son of God has come and has given us power to know the truth. We are in Him Who is true, His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God, and eternal life. My dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Friday, 7 January 2022 : Friday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to remember the love of God and all that He has done for our sake, which He has shown us and revealed to us through none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. He has revealed to us just how fortunate we are to have been beloved in such a way by our Lord. God has always been kind and compassionate to us, and His love was what made His action possible, in sending us our salvation through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, we heard of the words of the Apostle concerning all that God had done for our sake, through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In that passage, we heard St. John speaking of how Christ has been acknowledged through water and through Blood and the Spirit of God. This was a reference of everything that we have received from Him, and how He has revealed Himself and God’s salvation, through His baptism at the Jordan, His crucifixion and death, and finally through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

First of all, at the time of His baptism at the River Jordan by St. John the Baptist, the Lord has been proclaimed by the voice coming down from Heaven, as He was immersed in the water, and a Dove came to rest on Him, the Holy Spirit descending from the Father into this world through Jesus, the Son. The Father’s voice spoke the truth about the Man Who was baptised that day, that Jesus is indeed His Son and the One Whom He had promised to send into our midst, so that we may be saved from our fated destruction.

Then, at the moment of His crucifixion, as Christ bore His Cross, and was nailed to that Cross, enduring for us the punishments and the consequences that we ourselves ought to have suffered, He spilled His Most Precious Blood, which came down to us, as the Blood that washes us away from our sins. At that same time, when the soldiers were told to break the legs of those who had been crucified, Jesus was already dead, and one of the soldiers, later known as St. Longinus, took a spear and hit the side of the Lord with it, and immediately blood and water poured forth from it, a proof of God’s Love that endured even through His death on the Cross.

And lastly, the same Holy Spirit that had come down upon the Lord was also sent to the Apostles and the other disciples just as the Lord Himself has promised them, as tongues of fire descending on them at Pentecost, fulfilling what He has promised them and revealing to those who have received the Spirit, the fullness of truth of God’s love for us mankind and His saving grace. Through all these signs therefore we have been made aware of the most wonderful love that God has given us, through His most beloved Son, Whose coming into this world has given us all a new hope.

In our Gospel passage today, we then also heard from the Gospel of St. Luke regarding the healing of a man suffering from leprosy. The Lord wanted to heal him, and immediately, He cured the man from the leprosy. Leprosy was then a very dreaded disease that according to the old Law and customs of the Israelites would have led those who were suffering from it to be forced to live away from the rest of the society, to wander off in the wilderness until they could prove that their disease had been completely cured.

This is yet again another reminder for us of the most generous and wonderful love of God which He has kindly and generously shown us from the very beginning. God has reached out to us and make Himself approachable to us through Christ, and we ought to remember during this the blessed time of Christmas. We celebrate the most generous and amazing love God has bestowed on us, everything that He had done for us through His Son. We all rejoice because the Light of our Hope has come upon us.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Raymond of Penyafort, also known as St. Raymond of Penafort, a renowned Dominican friar and priest who was instrumental in the codification of the laws of the Church that remained in force for many centuries, as well as his many contributions to the Church in the areas of theology and Catholic education, and in a most well-known miracle, he was also instrumental in the conversion of King James I of Aragon, who lived in a state of sin with his mistress and repeatedly refused to dismiss her.

St. Raymond of Penyafort sailed away from the city on his cloak, in a great miracle still remembered to this day, when the king forbade him to leave the capital city of Barcelona. This was seen by many of the sailors who witnessed the saint sailing on his cloak, as well as by many other spectators. The king was stunned by this great miracle, and was humbled, that he mended his path in life and from then on, lived more virtuously in accordance with the Law and the rules of the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the short exposition of the life and examples showed by St. Raymond of Penyafort, all of us are called to follow his good examples and to show our faith sincerely to the Lord. Are we able and willing to show our love to the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ? Remember how He has loved us so much through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, just as discussed it earlier on. Let us then love the Lord in the same way that He has first loved us, and do our best to honour Him with our righteous and worthy lives from now on.

May the Lord be with us all, and may His love continue to be poured onto us, in our every day and every moments. May He bless us all in our every endeavours and good works for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Friday, 7 January 2022 : Friday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 12-16

At that time, one day, in another town, a man came to Jesus covered with leprosy. On seeing Jesus, the man bowed down to the ground, and said, “Lord, if You want to, You can make me clean.”

Stretching out His hand, Jesus touched the man and said, “Yes, I want to. Be clean.” In an instant, the leprosy left him. Then Jesus instructed him, “Tell this to no one. But go, and show yourself to the priest. Make an offering for your healing, as Moses prescribed; that will serve as evidence for them.”

But the news about Jesus spread all the more; and large crowds came to Him, to listen and to be healed of their sickness. As for Jesus, He would often withdraw to solitary places and pray.

Friday, 7 January 2022 : Friday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Friday, 7 January 2022 : Friday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 5 : 5-13

Who has overcome the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ was acknowledged through water, but also through Blood. Not only water but water and Blood. And the Spirit, too, witnesses to Him for the Spirit is truth.

There are then three testimonies : the Spirit, the water and the Blood, and these three witnesses agree. If we accept human testimony, with greater reason must we accept that of God, given in favour of His Son. If you believe in the Son of God, you have God’s testimony in you.

But those who do not believe make God a liar, since they do not believe His words when He witnesses to His Son. What has God said? That He has granted us eternal life and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life, the one who do not have the Son of God do not have life.

I write you, then, all these things that you may know that you have eternal life, all you who believe in the Name of the Son of God.

Thursday, 6 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.

Thursday, 6 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.