Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, one of the most important celebrations of the Liturgical Year. This Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the Messiah or the Saviour of the world to all the nations and the peoples of the world. The word Epiphany came from the Greek word ‘Epiphaneia’, which means revelation and manifestation.

That is why today, on this celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, we focus our attention on the manifestation and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world to all the nations, represented by the Holy Magi or the Wise Men. That is why the celebration of the Epiphany is closely tied to the Three Wise Men or Magi, and in the Gospel we heard of the account of their visit to the Lord at His manger in Bethlehem, guided by the bright Star of Bethlehem.

The Magi saw the Star of Bethlehem from afar as a very prominent and bright star, and as they were educated and intelligent people who perhaps dwelled in astrology and other studies, they knew that a very prominent event was about to happen, and in this case, it was the upcoming birth and arrival of the Saviour of the world as prophesied by the many prophets and wise men throughout the centuries and millennia past.

They undertook the very long and arduous journey from their respective lands, as was common at that time, travelling a long time and enduring difficult conditions to reach the place pointed at by the Star. Although their names were not recorded in the Scriptures, but according to the Church traditions, their names were Caspar or Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar or Balthazar. Their places of origin were often given as India, Persia and Arabia or other relatively distant places.

We heard of how they came to king Herod, the ruler of the land, both to ask for advice and direction, as well as to courteously seek permission to find the One prophesied and shown by the Star, which happened to be in the land under the rule of the king. Herod however became immediately suspicious and fearful over the news of a rival King that would come into the world, fearing that this King would seize the power and authority from him and his family.

King Herod the Great himself was in fact not a Jew or descendant of the Israelites, but rather a Nabatean, one of the neighbouring people of the Israelites. He also seized power from the rightful rulers of the land, the Hasmoneans in a coup engineered and supported by the Romans, who then came to be overlords of the region. As such, king Herod the Great always felt very insecure in his reign, and this news of the coming of a new King certainly unsettled him a lot.

Nonetheless, the Magi managed to get his permission, regardless of the vicious plots that Herod would later on execute in trying to destroy this new threat to his reign as king. The Magi eventually came to Bethlehem after a long journey and saw the King of kings, the One shown to them by the Star and prophesied by the prophets, and they recognised Him and paid Him homage.

And now I want to bring all of our attentions to the gifts that each of the Magi brought before the Lord in homage and submission. Each of these gifts were precious on their own and had great symbolic meaning and importance. The gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh had greater symbolic meaning than what their earthly values might have shown, and it revealed to us all, Who the Lord that the Magi had paid homage to, truly is.

First of all, the gift of gold signifies royalty and kingship, as gold at that time symbolises glory and wealth just as it is still the case today. Therefore this gift of gold signifies that the Lord was truly a King, and indeed not just like any other kings of this world, but the one True King of all, the King of Kings and Lord of lords. He has come into this world as King but not behaving like other kings, for instead of seeking to be served, He came to serve His people, His beloved ones.

Then, the gift of frankincense has two important meaning, first being a symbol of Christ’s role as the High Priest of all, the one True and Eternal High Priest signifying how He would offer the perfect sacrifice and offering to redeem us from our sins, and be the worthy sacrifice and absolution from our shortcomings. Incense is usually used by the priests as the offering of prayers to the gods, and in this way, it emphasised Christ’s High Priest role.

Frankincense then is also a mark of Christ’s divinity, for when offered to Him in homage by the Magi, this offering of the finest quality incense signified the sanctity of God, that the Child born of Mary in Bethlehem was not just a mere Man or a mere Child. He is God Himself in the flesh, possessing two distinct but inseparable natures of Man and Divine concurrently in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Last of all, is the gift of myrrh from the Magi. On a hindsight, the gift of myrrh is truly a bewildering one given that while myrrh is an expensive commodity and spice highly sought after and rare, but it was also commonly used in the preservation and embalming of dead bodies, which is why given that this was presented to the Child Jesus, it might have been strange at a glance.

However, the myrrh is an important reminder and revelation of the role that the Lord would take up in fulfilling His ministry, as the precursor and sign to His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross. The myrrh therefore marked the great sacrifice and love of God for us all that He would even suffer and go through the most terrible pain and humiliation for our sake, unto death for us.

The gifts of the Magi, the gold, frankincense and myrrh therefore revealed the true nature of the Lord and Saviour, He Who is King over all and the Lord over all things, Who is also the Most High and Almighty God, and at the same time, also the Eternal High Priest of all creation, having been incarnate as Man, and through His humanity united to His divinity, He would suffer for our sake, bearing His Cross of love, that through His suffering and death, all are to be saved from their sins and from the eternal damnation.

The Lord has revealed Himself to the Jews, to His own people at the moment of His presentation and circumcision at the Temple of God, and then now, as celebrated in this Epiphany, He has also revealed Himself and His intentions to the non-Jewish people as well, showing that everything He has promised, He would do for everyone without bias or regard for their race or origin, their status or descent among others. All are equally beloved by God, and He is the Lord and Saviour of all.

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany, we are therefore brought to focus on the Lord’s ever present love for each and every one of us, and reminded of the same love that He has showered on us from the very beginning. Through Christ all of us have seen the salvation of God, and while once we were in the darkness, but through Him and our faith in Him, hope has been restored to us, and we have been strengthened and rejuvenated as God’s beloved children once again.

On this day as we focus on the revelation of the Lord to the nations, as He has shown Himself to the Magi, let us all remember the dedication and commitment of the Magi who answered the Lord’s call and sought for Him as they braved the dangers of the long journey just so that they might pay homage to Him and to worship Him. Their faith is an inspiration to all of us, just as according to the Church traditions, the Magi lived to old age and became Christians themselves, and took part in their respective ministry until their lives’ end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, on this Solemnity of the Epiphany, are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of the Magi and seek the Lord with renewed zeal and love for Him? Are we willing to renew our faith and commitment to the Lord, that we may ourselves be inspiration for our fellow brothers and sisters, and through us, we may inspire even more people and call more people to the Lord’s salvation and grace? This is our calling as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us all inspire each other to be ever more faithful to God in all things that we may truly be worthy to call ourselves as Christians and bear the Light of Christ within ourselves. May our actions and deeds, our words and interactions be like the bright Star of Bethlehem shining its bright light in the darkness of the world. Let us all bear faithful witness to our Lord and Saviour, for all the love and commitment He has shown us all these while.

May God, our Lord, King, High Priest and Saviour, revealed and manifested to the whole world, be our Light and Guide, and may He be our Strength as we continue to walk faithfully in His presence in this world bearing witness to His truth and love. May He bless us all in our every good endeavours and works, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Wednesday after Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded yet again that the Lord has revealed and manifested His love to us in the form of His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who has been born into the world. This season of Christmas and at the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we are constantly being reminded of the Lord’s manifestation of His perfect love and compassion for us in Christ.

The Lord is reminding us to live in love, and to be loving just as He has been loving and kind to us. He has shown us so much compassion and kindness, and then therefore, we should also follow in His examples and all that He had taught us and revealed to us. He wants us all to learn from Him and follow the way that He has loved generously from His loving heart, so that each and every one of us may love Him and also love our fellow brethren as well.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Jesus coming to His disciples when they were all in a boat in the middle of the stormy Lake of Galilee. There was such strong waves and wind that the boat where the disciples were travelling in was almost overcome and sunk, and the disciples were filled with fear and panic, worried about what would happen to them if the boat sank.

The Lord was praying at that time by Himself, and then He came towards them in the midst of all the waves and the storm, the wind and squalls. The disciples were worried and freaked out because they thought that they had seen a ghost. And all these happened just after they had witnessed the Lord performing the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men with just five loaves of bread and two fish as per mentioned in yesterday’s Gospel.

The Lord has repeatedly shown His love to us all His people, and patiently reaching out to us to heal us and to bring us out of our predicament and troubles. But we need to have faith in Him, brothers and sisters in Christ. Unless we trust in Him and place our faith in Him, we will end up like the disciples who worried over their lives and were full of fear, ready to even abandon the ship, which would actually mean danger to their lives.

That is because when we panic, we end up making rash and improper decisions that we will only come to regret later on. Abandoning the boat was one of the last thing that the disciples should contemplate, as although the waves were indeed very powerful, but if they chose to abandon the ship, there goes therefore their last anchor to safety, as the waves could quickly overwhelm them and sank them.

The Lord Jesus came to them and calmed them, reassured them that it was indeed Him, and not a ghost or apparition. He reminded all of them that they need to have faith in Him, no matter how difficult, dangerous or terrible the situation might be for them. We must never forget that even through our most challenging situations, the Lord will always be by our side, journeying with us and leading the way for us.

We should keep this in mind even as we begin this new year with so many uncertainties and fears that remain over the pandemic and the other trials currently faced by the world. Instead of fear, we should deepen our faith in the Lord and resolve to commit ourselves ever more to the Lord, dedicating ourselves to Him with even greater faith and conviction, and becoming genuine and powerful witnesses of His love and hope in our communities today. We should reach out in love to all those suffering, and be selfless towards each other, and not only thinking of our own survival.

Let us all be the bearers of Christ’s light, His love and compassion in our world today, so that through our collective actions, no matter how little they may be, we may be brought ever closer to God and to His consoling love. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, with His love and grace. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Wednesday after Epiphany (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 6 : 45-52

At that time, immediately, Jesus obliged His disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, toward Bethsaida, while He Himself sent the crowd away. And having sent the people off, He went by Himself to the hillside to pray.

When evening came, the boat was far out on the lake, while He was alone on the land. Jesus saw His disciples straining at the oars, for the wind was against them; and before daybreak He came to them, walking on the lake, and He was going to pass them by. When they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified.

But, at once, He called to them, “Courage! It is I; do not be afraid!” Then Jesus got into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely astonished, for they had not really grasped the fact of the loaves; their minds were dull.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Wednesday after Epiphany (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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.

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 lives of the poor.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Wednesday after Epiphany (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 4 : 11-18

Dear friends, if such has been the love of God, we, too, must love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love comes to its perfection in us. How may we know that we live in God and He in us? Because God has given us His Spirit.

We ourselves have seen, and declare, that the Father sent His Son to save the world. Those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in them, and they in God. We have known the love of God and have believed in it. God is love. The one who lives in love, lives in God, and God in him.

When do we know, that we have reached a perfect love? When, in this world, we are like Him, in everything, and expect, with confidence, the Day of Judgment. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives away fear, for fear has to do with punishment; those who fear do not know perfect love.