Friday, 25 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have come together to celebrate the great Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is better known as Christmas. Christmas is one of the two most important celebrations of our Christian faith together with Easter. After approximately four weeks of preparation throughout the season of Advent, we finally begin this most joyful season and celebration of Christmas beginning today.

As mentioned earlier, the celebration and season of Christmas are very important together with that of Easter, and the celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour at Christmas cannot indeed be separated from the Passion, death and resurrection of the Lord at Holy Week and Easter. Without Christmas, there can be no Easter and without Easter, then Christmas would have been a meaningless celebration and event.

For without Christmas, then there can be no salvation for all of us mankind, as it was through Christmas that each and every one of us see the salvation of God in Jesus Christ, the salvation of God in the Baby born in Bethlehem in Judea two millennia ago, the Son of Mary born in the city of David. Through Him, God was no longer intangible and unreachable by mankind, for in Jesus, the Lord has bridged the gap between us and Him.

Through this very important event of the Nativity that is the birth of Our Lord into this world, the Lord Himself has chosen to adopt our humanity, and uniting our humanity to Himself, He became the personification of God’s love, the Divine Word Incarnate. The Word of God and only Begotten Son of God has assumed our human nature to become the Son of Man. In Jesus Christ therefore, we have the One God incarnate, two natures, divine and human, distinct but inseparably united in Him.

Then, when I said earlier that Christmas cannot be separated and meaningless without Easter, it means that if the One born at Christmas was just a mere man, the son of a woman and not of divine origin, then Christ could not have saved the world, for the suffering and the sacrifice He would undergo on the Cross at Calvary would have been meaningless, as the blood of a man would not have been sufficient to redeem us from our multitudes of sins.

On the contrary, if the One Who was at the Cross and died on the Cross at Good Friday was just a divine being that was not also a man, then first of all, it would have been impossible for God to die as a divine and immortal being, and then, secondly, without the significance of His incarnation, He could not have saved us, as it was by sharing in our humanity that He gathered us all and redeemed us, that we may share in His death and die to our sinful past selves, and be led into the new and eternal existence and life filled with grace through His Resurrection.

That is why, when we look at Christmas and rejoice today, ultimately it is because of the Resurrection of the Lord, for we know that this same Child born in Bethlehem celebrated today, is the same One Who was crucified for us, suffered and died for us, and Who eventually rose in glory and was triumphant against sin and death. Through Him, His Passion, suffering, death and Resurrection, we have received a new life and a new hope, and we can truly rejoice because once we have been lost in the darkness, doomed to destruction and annihilation, and now we are the beloved children of our Lord and King once again!

That is the true essence of Christmas that many of us have often forgotten, especially amidst the increasingly commercialised and materialistic nature of the secular Christmas celebrations and events. As many companies, parties and peoples wanted to make profit out of our celebrations and rejoicing, and adapting to the culture of joy of Christmas, they ended up in making us forget what Christmas truly is all about, and for all the excesses that we saw all around us, all these distract us from our true joy and what we should truly celebrate.

Instead of being preoccupied and being distracted by the many glamorous celebrations and events, the parties, revelries and merrymaking this Christmas day and the rest of the season of Christmas, we must look beyond the material and the surface appearances, and go deep into the true essence of Christmas. And this is why we should rediscover the true reason for our joy in Christmas, that is Christ. For if we sideline Christ or worse still, leaving Him out of Christmas entirely, then what is Christmas then?

There is truly great joy among all of us today, but we need to ask ourselves, are we celebrating Christmas in the right way? It is good to celebrate and to be happy, and we should rejoice and be merry, but are we too focused on the exterior celebrations and superficial appearances, materialistic considerations and the excess of secular Christmas culture? Shouldn’t we be more focused on that interior joy and true spiritual joy that we should have this Christmas?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as I have mentioned earlier on, Christmas is about the joy that all of us experience thanks to the Lord Who has willingly embraced us and reached out to us, and Who has humbled Himself and lowered Himself to our state, the wretched state of humanity that He might share the burden with us and took up upon Himself all the struggles, pains and sufferings that we have suffered. He emptied Himself of His glory and divinity in His Passion, and lovingly embraced us through His Cross, by which our salvation has come to us.

Christmas is truly about the Lord Who has humbled Himself, made Himself small and lowered Himself that He may touch us and be with us, that He may reconcile us to Himself. It is about the hope that He has brought us through His salvation, the peace that He has restored to us through His coming, the joy that He has revealed to us and returned to us after all the darkness and sorrows we experienced, and ultimately, the true and genuine love that He has for each and every one of us, all manifested and shown to us through Christ, His Son, the Child born and celebrated this Christmas.

We can see just how throughout history, man had always aspired for greater things, and many had even wanted to be like God, to have power and dominion over others and all things. That was why our history had been filled with so many bitterness and struggles, with so many conflicts and destruction as we walked down the path of conflict and war due to the clashing of our ego and pride, our desires and greed.

Yet, here we see the Almighty and all glorious God, willingly embraced our humanity and humbled Himself, to be born as a Child in a stable barely fit for any humans, less still to be the palace of a King. This is our Lord and King, the One Whom we celebrate about this Christmas, not our pride and ego, our desire and all of worldly things, but rather, the joy we have because God is on our side, and has shown His love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this year has been an incredibly difficult one for so many of us. So many had perished from the pandemic and many others had died, suffered and are still suffering from many trials and challenges, directly or indirectly related to the pandemic, and other unrelated issues that had always bogged us down and troubled us all these while.

Indeed, it may seem to be an ill-time for us to celebrate during this Christmas, given the still terrible situation all over the whole world. However, this is exactly what we need to do, as we ought to reevaluate our Christmas celebration and joy. We are all called, as Christians, to be the bearers of God’s Hope and Light into the world, to be the faithful and genuine witnesses of His love and desire to be reconciled with us.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect and discern carefully on this most joyful occasion of Christmas, our way of celebrating it with true joy and with real purpose. Let us all realise that unless our Christmas is hope-giving, peace-giving, joy-giving, and most important of all love-giving and life-giving, then we have missed out the true essence and meaning of Christmas.

Instead of grumbling that we cannot have a ‘normal’ Christmas celebration this year due to various restrictions, let us all remember all those who had none to celebrate it with, all of our healthcare and frontline workers who had to work through even the Christmas season, risking their lives and pouring out their love for others. Let us all remember also all those who had not been able to celebrate Christmas due to various difficulties and challenges, and all those who have had to hide their Christmas joy and even their Christian faith.

Instead of worrying that we have received less Christmas gifts and lesser things in our parties and celebrations, lesser guests and lesser festivities, let us all think of how we can give from the bounty and blessings we have to all those who have not been fortunate and who has even less than what we have. If we are still able to worry about such things, then we must not forget about those who are struggling daily to make ends meet, and all those who have lost their jobs and their hopes especially during this dark year.

And last of all, instead of trying to pamper ourselves and love ourselves more, in this Christmas season we are called to imitate and follow the examples of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. He selflessly reached out to us and showered us with love, and He came into this world and did all that He had done so that we may be saved and be released from all that we ought to have suffered.

Let us all be grateful this Christmas, for the gift of life, for all of God’s blessings, no matter how small they may be, that we may indeed find our true joy of Christmas, and celebrate together as a community, as a loving family centred on God and His love. Let us all truly rejoice as God’s beloved people, and share this joy that we have to the whole world, that even though this year may have been dark, but the Light of Christ in us will dispel even the greatest darkness, and in the end, He Who has conquered death, will lead us all into true joy and eternal glory, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 25 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Mass at Day (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative reading (shorter version)

John 1 : 1-5, 9-14

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

For the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him.

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

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving-kindness.

Friday, 25 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Mass at Day (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 1 : 1-6

God has spoken in the past to our ancestors through the prophets, in many different ways, although never completely; but in our times He has spoken definitively to us through His Son. He is the one God appointed Heir of all things, since through Him He unfolded the stages of the world.

He is the Radiance of God’s Glory and bears the stamp of God’s hidden being, so that His powerful Word upholds the universe. And after taking away sin, He took His place at the right hand of the Divine Majesty in heaven. So He is now far superior to Angels just as the Name He received sets Him apart from them.

To what Angel did God say : You are My Son, I have begotten You today? And to what Angel did He promise : I shall be a Father to Him and He will be a Son to Me? On sending His Firstborn to the world, God says : “Let all the Angels adore Him.”

Friday, 25 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Mass at Day (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4, 5-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

With melody of the lyre and with music of the harp. With trumpet blast and sound of the horn, rejoice before the King, the Lord!

Friday, 25 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Mass at Day (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 52 : 7-10

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring Good News, who herald peace and happiness, who proclaim salvation and announce to Zion : “Your God is King!”

Together your watchmen raise their voices in praise and song; they see YHVH face to face returning to Zion. Break into shouts of joy, o ruins of Jerusalem, for YHVH consoles His people and redeems Jerusalem.

YHVH has bared His holy arm in the eyes of the nations; all the ends of the earth, in alarm, will witness God’s salvation.

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. Therefore officially the celebration of Christmas is over by the end of today and from tomorrow we will begin with the first part of the Ordinary Time of this current liturgical year cycle, that is until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

On this day, the Baptism of the Lord at the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist is a symbolic reminder of the end of the Christmas festivities, as the Lord began His ministry in this world at the moment when He was baptised. He was no longer hidden from the world as it was when He was still a Child and during His early growing up years. After His Baptism, He began His ministry, through the forty days of temptation later on by the devil and then began gathering His disciples and started His works.

When the Lord was baptised, there were many things that happened which we should take note of, and how these are all significant for our understanding of both our faith and what we ourselves need to do as Christians, as those who believe that Jesus Christ, the One baptised by St. John that day, is truly the Lord and Saviour of the whole world. His Baptism proclaimed the truth of the coming of the long awaited Messiah, and fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading today.

In that prophecy, God showed how His Servant would come into this world, proclaiming His love and mercy, delivering His truth and liberating the people from the darkness and destruction caused by their sins. When Jesus was baptised, immediately the heavens opened and a Dove descended on Him, as the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord Jesus, and the voice of the Father could be heard, proclaiming that Jesus was truly the Son of God, the Beloved and Chosen One, sent into this world out of His love for us all.

In that very moment, we have actually witnessed through the Gospel passage, the manifestation of God’s plan for our salvation, as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit came into that occasion in one place, showing how God would redeem His people by the giving of His Son to this world. And it was also very important that Jesus insisted to be baptised by St. John although the latter really wanted to be baptised by Jesus instead.

That is because through baptism, the Lord showed that by our common baptism, which we shared with Him, we have shared in His death with water being often associated with both death and life. And He also made the same connection as our baptism is, to the moment when the Lord led His people Israel through the Red Sea, passing through the water of the sea from their slavery in Egypt into the freedom towards the Land promised to them.

Thus, through His humanity, the Human nature He possessed in Him, Christ made His Baptism to be united to our own Sacrament of Baptism, when through the power and authority He bestowed on His Church and the Apostles, He made us all, who are baptised to be members of the Church, be it as an infant or as an adult through conversion, God’s own adopted children. That is because if Christ is the Son of God, and the Father called Him as His Son, we who have been baptised are also made the children of the Father, God’s beloved ones.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, that is not the end of it all. Instead, it is merely just the beginning, as I have mentioned earlier how Christ began His ministry after His Baptism, we too have also begun our new life in Christ and embarked on a new journey of faith from the moment we were baptised. Through baptism we have been marked as God’s own beloved children, and because of that, we have also been entrusted with the mission of the Church, to go forth and evangelise the truth which Christ has brought into this world.

Baptism is not the end of our faith journey, contrary to what some have been thinking. It does not mean that after we have been baptised that we are already saved by God and therefore had no more need to follow God’s will and do what He has told us to do. Rather, through baptism, we have been fundamentally changed in our being, as we have been made the spiritual children of God, and God has become our Father.

And if we are God’s children and He is our Father, is it not then just right and proper that we follow what our Father taught us to do? How can we call ourselves as God’s children if our lives are contrary to His will and if we do what is wicked and evil in His eyes? And if God is our Father, is it not right that we act in ways that conform with His ways and bring glory to His Name? This is our journey of faith that we began at our baptism.

Therefore today, as we mark the end of the Christmas season with this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord let us all focus on the moment of the Lord’s baptism at the Jordan, and unite it with our own baptism, if we can remember it well. For those of us who have been baptised as adults, try to remember that moment when the holy water of baptism touched us, either by immersion or at our foreheads. And for those of us who have been baptised as infants, ask our parents and/or godparents for that moment.

Let us all remember our baptism, its date and time, and more importantly, our promise at baptism which we renew at Easter every year. We profess faith in God as expressed in the Creed, in all its fullness and we profess that we will reject Satan and all of his lies, his advances and all the falsehoods he presents before us. And today, therefore, we are reminded by this moment of Christ’s baptism that we have our respective journeys ahead of us, and we need to do what we can to fulfil what God has called us to do through baptism.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on be exemplary in our lives and dedicate ourselves to God anew, with the desire to follow Him, our Lord and Father because we are His beloved children. Let us all sin no more and try our best to obey the will of our Father and love Him more, just as He has loved us all so much that He has given us Christ, His Son to redeem us and to bring us a new hope. By our baptism, we have been made as partakers of this same hope and promise of eternal life.

May the Lord, our Father continue to watch over us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He grant us the strength and courage to live our lives faithfully from now on so that we may become inspirations for one another in being good and faithful Christians. May all of us bear witness to Christ’s truth by our lives and do our best to serve Him at all times, devoting our time, attention and effort always as we journey together in faith as the members of God’s one Church. Amen.

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

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.”

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.”

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

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.

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

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.