Friday, 6 January 2023 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : 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.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : 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.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : 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.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : 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.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded yet again of the Salvation which God has brought into our midst, through the Incarnation of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. By the Incarnation of the Divine Word of God made flesh, and born into this world through His mother Mary, which we are still celebrating as we are still in the midst this Christmas season, we have received the assurance of eternal life and joy if we keep up our faith and trust in Him, Our Lord and Saviour. And we heard from the passages of the Scriptures of the proof of the fulfilment of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, by the testimony of Blood, Water and Spirit. All of these testimonies pointed out that Jesus Christ is indeed the One sent by God to redeem us all.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the Apostle mentioning those testimonies of Blood, Water and Spirit by which the salvation in Jesus Christ was proven true and legitimate, and has become therefore the source of life and joy for countless people throughout the generations. What does these testimonies refer to? They can refer to many things that have happened throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry and mission that proclaimed Him as the true Messiah and Saviour of all mankind. Blood and water for example came forth from the side of the Lord when a Roman soldier, traditionally known as St. Longinus, pierced His side. The blood and water that came out from the Lord’s side became the source of purification and cleansing of our sins, just as we have been purchased by His Precious Blood and washed clean in this same Blood. St. Longinus himself, as the Scriptures described, became a believer because of this.

When St. Longinus pierced the Lord’s side, it was an action designed by professional soldiers and executioners to check if the criminal being sentenced to death had died or not. The spear pierced the Lord’s Heart through His side, and when blood and water came out, it is a proof that the person had died. Therefore through this testimony of Blood and water, we have seen that Christ truly died on the Cross, and His sacrifice had been perfectly and completely offered and given to God for our salvation. He truly died on the Cross and His sacrifice was not just symbolic or an illusion as some others had believed. This testimony proved to all of us that Christ is truly the Suffering Servant Whom God would send to His people to redeem them, by His sufferings and death, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah.

The testimony of Blood is also referred to in a way in one our two possible choices for the Gospel passages today, which detailed the full genealogy of the Lord Jesus from the time of Adam, through Abraham and then David, as the descendant of Man, from the very first one who fell into sin, that is Adam, and then to the one with whom God had made His first Covenant, that is Abraham, and finally to the one whom God had made to be King over all of Israel, and promised that his house and reign will last forever. Through this descent of bloodline from Adam, passing through both St. Joseph and Mary, as according to tradition, Mary herself was also born through the house of David, hence, God proved His promises to all of us, through His Incarnation and birth as the Son and Heir of David, and the Saviour of all mankind.

Lastly, through the testimonies provided at the moment when St. John the Baptist baptised the Lord Jesus at the River Jordan, which is contained in the other possible Gospel passage for today, we heard of the words of the Lord Himself affirming that Jesus is truly the Son of God, the One sent into this world to save it, and the Holy Spirit descended like a Dove to rest on the Head of the Lord, revealing to St. John and anyone who witnessed the occasion, that the Lord Jesus was not just merely an ordinary Man, but He is the Lord God Himself, the Divine Word Incarnate, affirmed by the Father from Heaven through His voice, and also by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God that descended upon Him, the Son of God born to be the Saviour of all. Through all these testimonies presented to us, we should indeed have firm faith that Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Saviour.

Unfortunately, in our world today, many of us, even amongst Christians, we all tend to carry on with our lives without regards for the Lord, and many of us sidelined Him, ignored Him and refused to walk in His path. Even in our Christmas celebrations and festivities, we have been so distracted by worldly matters and pleasures that we ended up forgetting Him in our Christmas joy and celebrations. And now that to much of the world, the time of Christmas has passed, Christ has been forgotten and sidelined even more. Yet, we must not forget that Christmas is still ongoing and we are still well within the Christmas season. As Christians, how does that translate in our lives? How does that show in our actions and way of celebrating Christmas?

That is why we should refocus our attention on the Lord and reorientate ourselves and our lives upon Him as the centre and focus of our lives and existence. In our current celebrations of the remaining time and season of Christmas, let us all return to the roots of the joy of this Christmas season. Let us all hence turn towards God with renewed faith and commitment from now on that we may indeed grow ever closer to Him and that we may redirect and realign our lives that we may truly be devoted Christians, in all things and in loving God and our fellow brothers and sisters. Because Christ has shown us all God’s most generous love, let us all show love in our every actions, works and deeds as well, in every opportunities provided to us.

May the Lord, our most loving and compassionate God, Who has sent us Christ to be our Saviour and Redeemer, continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life. May He bless us in our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory and for the salvation of many more souls in this world. May all of us be good role models and examples to each other, in being best examples of faith and commitment to God, at all times. Amen.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 1 : 7-11

John preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And the moment He came up out of the water, heaven opened up before Him, and He saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove. And these words were heard from heaven, “You are My Son, the Beloved, the One I have chosen.”

Alternative reading

Luke 3 : 23-38

When Jesus made His appearance, He had reached the age of thirty years. He was known as the Son of Joseph, whose father and forefathers were : Heli, Matthat, Levi, Melchi, Jannai, Joseph, Matthathias, Amos, Nahum, Esli, Naggai, Maath, Mattathias, Semein, Josech, Joda, Joanan, Rhesa, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Neri, Melchi, Addi, Cosam, Elmadam, Er, Joshua, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi, Simeon, Judah, Joseph, Jonam, Eliakim, Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahson, Amminadab, Adnim, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Malaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth and Adam – who was from God.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 3 : 23, 31-34, 36, 38

When Jesus made His appearance, He had reached the age of thirty years. He was known as the Son of Joseph, whose father and forefathers were : Heli, Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahson, Amminadab, Adnim, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Enos, Seth and Adam – who was from God.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (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, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (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.