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.

Saturday, 11 January 2020 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we heard the words of the Scripture, on which we are reminded first of all on the matter of sin, which we must take seriously as sin is a serious obstacle on our way towards God the Father, and we have to be wary and be vigilant against our vulnerability towards those sins. And we must know how merciful God is towards us, as His love for us truly exceeds even the multitudes of our sins.

And God is calling on us to turn away from those sins and embrace His merciful and compassionate love. And He is also calling on us all today on the need for us to reach out to our brethren around us, to call on them and to remind one another on the need to realign our lives once again with God. The Lord has provided us with His truth through His Son, Our Lord Jesus as St. John mentioned in his Epistle in our first reading passage today.

We need to know that it is our Christian duty and obligation for us to reach out to our brethren who are falling out of their faith and path towards God. If we do not do so while we are perfectly capable of doing so, then we are actually partly to blame if they end up falling further and deeper into sin, because we have committed a sin of omission by our failure to act. We have to help one another in our journey of faith as we are bound to face challenges along this journey.

Now, we should look at the good examples set by St. John the Baptist in our Gospel passage today, as the inspiration and example we should hold up to, as we strive to become a better disciple and follower of the Lord. We all know how St. John the Baptist was vigorous in his works in calling on the people to repent from their sins and baptised many people at the River Jordan, which he still continued to do as we heard in our Gospel passage today.

That was when some of the disciples of St. John the Baptist came to him and complained that the Lord Jesus, Who was baptised by St. John the Baptist himself not long previously, was also baptising and getting more and more people to follow Him. The disciples made such a comment out of fear and jealousy, thinking of Jesus and His disciples as the rivals of their master, St. John the Baptist and themselves.

But St. John the Baptist was instead happy that more and more people were flocking to the Lord, and he reiterated what he has once told the Levites and the priests earlier on, that he was just a mere servant, whose role was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. He humbly did his best and continued his works; and was happy that he was able to prepare the way well for his Lord and Master, the One Saviour promised for the salvation of the world.

The attitude and dedication of St. John the Baptist are the things that all of us as Christians must be inspired to adapt and follow well, as first of all, as what we have discussed earlier, the Lord has called on us all to be caring for one another and to help those who are falling away from His salvation and grace. And then, the humility which St. John the Baptist clearly exhibited is a good reminder for all of us that we are all serving the greater purpose and for the greater glory of God and not for ourselves.

Are we able to do the same in our own lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to do our best in our respective lives that our lives may glorify God, and especially in our contributions as members of God’s Church, that we may inspire others around us whose faith are lukewarm and are in danger of slipping further and further into sin. Do not allow pride, greed and other negative things into us, as the devil is hard at work trying to distract us through the many temptations present all around us. Let us follow the humility and dedication showed by St. John the Baptist.

Hopefully we may become bright beacons of God’s light in this darkened world, to help lead everyone to God, that all of us will be saved together and live forever in God’s presence. May God be with us always. Amen.

Friday, 10 January 2020 : Friday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we heard from the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the time when the Lord Jesus healed a person who suffered from leprosy, a disease that was truly feared at that time. For those who suffered from leprosy were treated with disdain and were rejected from the greater community, forced to live outside the boundaries of civilisation in the wilderness until they could prove that they had been completely healed from their leprosy.

Through what we have heard from our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus made a leper clean from all of his complaints and showed the leper that truly He was the Messiah, or the Saviour promised by God. The Lord Jesus showed the mercy and forgiveness of God to the leper, healing him from the disease and allowing him therefore to return to the society after being ostracised and excluded earlier on.

And this is what we have also heard from our first reading today, from the Epistle of St. John, in which we are reminded of the truth of God’s love, which He has shown us through Our Lord Jesus Christ, by which He has healed us from our sickness as well. Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the leper was healed from his leprosy, all of us are also sick and in need of healing from God. I am referring to the sickness because of our sins.

Because of the sins we have committed, we have been separated from God, cast out from His presence and forced to wander in the ‘wilderness’ of this world. It is our sins that have made us to be like this, to be separated from God because no sin can ever stand in God’s presence, as God is all good and perfect, and sin is a corruption, dark and wicked thing which made us unworthy. But we must realise, brothers and sisters, that despite all these, God loves us all and wants us to be reconciled to Him.

That is why He gave us the best and most perfect gift of all when He gave us His own beloved Son to be our Saviour. And He showed us all these by the three testimonies that we have heard being mentioned by St. John the Apostle. The testimonies of the Spirit, blood and water are all that proved to us what the extent of God’s infinite love for us is like. It is through these manifestation of God’s love for us.

First of all, through the testimony of the Spirit, we have seen how the Lord Himself became tangible and visible to us. Remember that at the moment of the Incarnation, when the Word of God became Man, it was by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Son was conceived in the womb of Mary, His mother. And again, when the moment that Christ was baptised in the Jordan, the Spirit descended like a dove upon Him, proclaiming with the Father’s words, that He is truly the Son of God and Saviour promised to Israel and the world.

And through water and blood, the truth of God’s love was given to us. Let us all look at the moment of the crucifixion of the Lord, when He laid down His life for our sake. As He hang upon the Cross, and died for us, and when He was pierced, blood and water immediately rushed out from His heart. This showed us all Who He truly is, as the Blood represents His divinity while the water represents His humanity, showing how God’s Son endured all the sufferings and die through His sacrifice, the ultimate show and representation of His love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to reflect on our relationship with God. God has loved us very much and has done so much for our sake, willingly sending His Son to be with us, to suffer for us and to bear our heavy burdens, to die for us that all of us who believe in Him may have life through Him and that we may be reconciled with God. Yet, have we loved God in the same manner? Have we devoted ourselves just as He has devoted Himself to us?

Let us all spend our time in getting closer to God and in establishing a loving and meaningful relationship with Him. Let us seek the grace and love of God, reconciling ourselves with Him and accepting the loving hands of God’s mercy extended to us, asking Him to heal us from our brokenness and sins. May the Lord be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 9 January 2020 : Thursday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we are reminded first of all that God has always loved us, and because of that, He fulfilled His promises to us, as we heard of the Lord Himself speaking and declaring the coming of His salvation, as He proclaimed publicly that all the things which have been prophesied about Him had been fulfilled because He has revealed Himself at last.

And what we have heard in God’s proclamation is how He loves us by caring for us, freeing us from the burdens of our sickness and shortcomings, healing the blind and the paralytic, helping those who have been assailed and troubled by other things, and proclaiming the coming of God’s kingdom on earth, as the fulfilment of His long awaited promises to us.

But many of us remained ignorant of this fact and many of us failed to recognise God and His love being present in our midst because we are too preoccupied with ourselves and too busy worrying about our own worldly desires and needs. That is why many among us, even the believers and members of the Church are not true disciples of the Lord as our faith are only a formality, empty and without real, living faith. We caused others to suffer and to endure bitterness because of our own selfishness.

This is what St. John spoke about in his Epistle, which was read as our first reading passage today. St. John spoke of the hypocrisy of many among the people of God who claimed to have faith in God and love Him and yet, they did not have real faith, as they did not truly appreciate and understand what it means to love God and to have faith in Him. If they are truly faithful to God, then they should follow what He has done and do what He has taught us.

Many of us claimed to be faithful to God, and yet in our daily living, the way we act and work, the way we interact with each other, God is not present at all. Instead, what we have certainly often seen and witnessed, is the pervasion of selfishness, ego, human pride, greed and all sorts of things that caused us to fall into sin and into the temptations of the devil. More often than not, we acted in ways that were contrary to our Christian faith.

And this makes us all hypocrites in faith as we live our lives in ways that are contrary to our beliefs and we are those whom St. John called in his Epistle today as ‘liars’. For as long as we do not live our lives according to God’s ways, we do not truly belong to Him and we do not really have faith as how we should have it. The Lord through His Apostle St. John therefore reminds us that if we consider ourselves as Christians then we must love in the manner God has loved us all.

This means that if we want to be true and genuine Christians, we must love one another and show care and concern to all those who are around us. We must be less selfish, less egoistic and less affected by the desires and pride in our hearts and minds. Just as God has loved us all that He sent us His own Son to be Our Saviour, then we too must share that same love we have been given with each other. It is only by doing this that we truly become His disciples and followers, and we will no longer be hypocrites.

It will not be easy for us to walk down this path though, as we probably should already know just how difficult it is for us to resist the many temptations of the devil who is constantly trying to drag us into sin, by persuading us to give in to our selfish inner desires, our preoccupation with worldly things and concerns that distract us from being able to recognise God’s love and our responsibility to share the same love with our brethren. We will encounter much trials and struggles along our journey.

But as long as we put our trust in God and in His love, we should not be afraid of anything. We must trust in God’s love and providence, and because He has done so much for us, we too must love just as He has loved us. Let us all thus heed His words and His calling for us to be loving to our fellow men, and practice this each and every days of lives from now on. May God bless us all, in our every good deeds and endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020 : Wednesday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through what we have heard in the Scripture passage and as we are still in the Christmas season, we are all reminded yet again of the wonderful love of God that He has made evident and presented to us through Jesus Christ, His beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour. We heard from St. John in our first reading today taken from his Epistle, how God the Father sent His Son into our world out of His love for us.

And He did all these because He wanted us to be freed from our bondage to sin, from our predicament and fate of destruction because of the many sins we have committed in life through our disobedience against Him. Then we heard how the Lord came to His disciples in the middle of the lake, walking miraculously on the water as we heard in our Gospel passage today. This was how God showed His love and His ever present readiness to forgive us and His desire to be reconciled with us.

The disciples had fear in their hearts when they saw the Lord, and it is likely they could not believe what they had just seen. They thought that they had probably seen a ghost, but the Lord reassured them immediately and told them that it was indeed He Himself that they had seen walking on the water. In a more elaborate account from another Gospel passage not mentioned in today’s reading, St. Peter then walked towards the Lord, but when he saw the waves and the wind, he became fearful and began to sink.

This was caused by the same fear and the lack of trust in God, which made both St. Peter and the other Apostles to be afraid and unsure of what they had witnessed. But it is exactly how the devil struck at us, as he tried to manipulate our fears and insecurities when he put in doubts and things to tempt us away from the assurance of salvation in God. The devil knows very well that as long as our faith in God is firm and strong, he has no chance at all against us.

There are many ways how the devil often tries his chances against us. He would try to make us feel guilty and unworthy of God, by trying to persuade us that our sins and wickedness made us to be unworthy of God, and how God will punish us for the sins and all of our disobedient acts. The devil knows that by driving a wedge between us and God, we will be vulnerable when we are separated or in conflict with God.

And the devil likely will also try to tempt us with many things to distract our attention away from God. As long as our faith in God is not firm and God is not at the centre of our lives and existence, it will be easy for the devil to try and separate us from Him and therefore stir trouble for us and lead us further down the slippery path towards damnation. He is working very hard all the time for this outcome and we should realise this well.

How do we then proceed from now on knowing all these things? This is where we need to renew our connection with God, to rediscover that faith and trust which each and every one of us ought to have for Him. And we can do this by striving to put God back at the centre of our lives and always do everything, our every actions with God as the reason for them, and endeavour to do things with the purpose of glorifying God rather than ourselves.

And let us learn to trust God and know just how much He has loved us all the while. Our lives, our every breaths, all of our opportunities and blessings are caused by the Lord and all that He has done for us, and we ought to be thankful for these. We must realise that it is only in God that we can truly have complete and unconditional trust as ultimately, God’s love for us, for each and every one of us is also perfect and unconditional.

May the Lord continue to show His love to us, protect us and strengthen us in our courage and dedication to love Him and to serve Him despite the attacks from the devil and all those who seek our destruction and ruination. Let us all put our complete trust and faith in the Lord, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020 : Tuesday after the Epiphany, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture starting from the Gospel passage that told us about the wonderful work that the Lord had performed among His people as highlighted in His miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and more people, as the women and children accompanying the men were not included in the count. He provided for them and gave them all food to eat.

And then, we also heard from the Epistle of St. John in our first reading today that spoke about God’s love for us mankind and how that love has manifested perfectly in the person of Jesus, the beloved Son of God, Who was sent into the world to redeem us, to help us, to show us just how much God loves each and every one of us, that each and every one of us may not perish because of our sins but have eternal life. The Lord Jesus Himself said this, and St. John reaffirmed it in his Epistle.

We are reminded therefore how each and every one of us as Christians are God’s own beloved sons and daughters, and we are made into such a privileged position because of none other than the Lord Jesus Whose birth we celebrate during this Christmas season. His birth and arrival into this world marked the beginning of the reconciliation between God and mankind, once separated by the wickedness of our sins and disobedience.

Christ has entered into this world as a unique Being, both a Divine being, because He is the Word of God and the Son of the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and also a Human being, because He was conceived in the womb of a woman, Mary, His mother, taking the fullness of our human existence and qualities. He has two natures, Divine and Human, both united in His one single person though the two natures remained distinct, but inseparable. This is why through Christ, we have been adopted as God’s children.

Because if Christ is the Son of God, then all of us mankind who share in His humanity is also the sons and daughters of God, by this adoption through Christ. All of us who believe in Him and become members of the Church are adopted as children of God. And we are all truly privileged to have been granted this honour and opportunity, that we really should not waste it. We should appreciate just how God still loves us so dearly even when we have erred against Him and should have been exterminated instead of being forgiven.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our lives and how we have lived them with faith. We are called to think of whether we have reciprocated God’s generous offer of love and mercy, and how we can draw close to Him, entrusting ourselves to this love, which He has shown us through His Son, Who fed the multitudes of five thousand men and more, and even more so, gave us all spiritual sustenance through His truth.

Have we been faithful and loving towards Him, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we been too preoccupied and busy with ourselves that we end up distancing ourselves from Him and getting trapped deeper and deeper into the path of sin? This is where perhaps we should look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. Raymond of Penyafort, whose feast day we celebrate today, who was a Spanish Dominican friar living in the twelfth and thirteenth century.

St. Raymond of Penyafort was renowned for his lifelong dedication to God, and although he was remembered more for his important contributions in the compilation of the canon laws of the Church, which eventually became the version of the Canon Law used for many centuries, but actually St. Raymond of Penyafort was also known for his steadfastness in faith and dedication, in how he persistently opposed the King of Aragon in today’s Spain because of his immoral behaviour with a supposed mistress.

St. Raymond of Penyafort was punished and put under arrest and watch by the king for his criticism and opposition to his immoral and wicked attitude, but the saint remained steadfast in faith and in his opposition. In a well remembered miracle, it was told that St. Raymond sailed away from his island exile on a cloak and this miracle, witnessed by many caused the king to renounce his wicked behaviours and turn back towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have heard how St. Raymond of Penyafort loved God and had great faith in Him to the point that he was willing to oppose a king in doing so, and to do what he has done in his many contributions to the Church for so many years. Are we able to follow in his footsteps? It is something that we should perhaps think about as we continue living our lives with faith from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all in everything we do, and help us that we may grow ever stronger in our faith, love and devotion towards Him. Amen.

Monday, 6 January 2020 : Monday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the day after the Solemnity of the Epiphany, we are once again reminded of the presence of God in our midst as how He has revealed Himself before us, as the Light of salvation and as a new Hope for us all mankind because through Him, we have received the assurance of eternal life and glory with God if we remain faithful to Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Lord Jesus went through the ministry that has been entrusted to Him, as He ministered to the people with illnesses and troubles, both the physical difficulties of the body and the troubles of the hearts and the minds. The Lord also cast out demons and evil spirits from the many people who were possessed, doing what seemed impossible before everyone so that they might see His truth.

The Lord showed the way of His truth, and all who follow Him are following the path of truth. And as we heard from our first reading today from the Epistle of St. John, the true path lies in the Lord alone, from Whom we have been guided away from the enemy, the devil and the false leaders out there trying to pull us away from the path towards God’s salvation. It is a reminder that there are those out there trying to mislead us into false paths away from God.

This is why St. John reminded the faithful that all of us must be cautious and test the inspirations of the spirits to make sure that they truly came from God and not from those wicked spirits and forces who tried to mislead us into destruction. But as long as we anchor ourselves on God and His truth, we will not fall into those temptations, and we will be strong despite the challenges and trials, the pressures and desire to follow a path that leads us away from God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today there are just so many distractions present that caused many of us to turn away from the Lord and from His loving gaze. We embrace instead the devil and all those who worked against us for our annihilation, as they plotted against us and seeking to distort the truth by putting lies and temptations in our path, that many would be deceived and turned against God.

That is why as St. John has mentioned to us, we must be ready and be vigilant against the attacks of the evil one, who has relentlessly struck against us trying to prevent us from receiving and accepting God’s offer of mercy, forgiveness and healing which He had offered us through Christ, His Son. Certainly we do not want these plots against us to succeed, and that is why we are reminded today of these things arrayed against us.

How do we then resist the attacks and the temptations of evil? This is where we need to deepen our relationship with God, seeking Him and depending on Him to be our source of strength and our anchor in life. If we are alone and separated from God, we are weak and we will be truly vulnerable to the attacks of the devil and his allies. This is why he has always been so persistent in trying to distract us and to prevent us from being reconciled with God, as so long as we are separate from Him, the devil has a chance with us.

Instead, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all do our best to reconnect with God, to find Him just as we heard in our Gospel passage today, those countless people who came to seek the Lord to be healed from their sickness and maladies, those who wanted help and to be consoled, to be reconciled with God through His Son, Who cared for them and showed the love of God tenderly through all that He had done before them.

Are we able to seek the Lord with a new spirit of love and desire to be reunited with God? Are we able to make the sacrifices and put the effort necessary for us to oppose the wicked works of the devil and reject his many lies, and instead put our complete trust in God and His promise in loving us and in forgiving us our sins and shortcomings? Let us ponder on these for a moment, and think how in our lives beginning today, if we have not done so, to be once again faithful to God in all things.

May the Lord our loving God and Father continue to love us and bless us, and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith and life, that we may eventually find our way to Him, and be reunited completely with Him and be worthy to receive the fullness of His glorious inheritance and love for us. Amen.

Sunday, 5 January 2020 : 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 great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, one of the great celebrations during the season of Christmas, commemorating the moment when three great men, known as either the Three Magi or Three Kings or Three Wise Men came to visit and pay homage to the newborn Christ in Bethlehem, the place of His birth, bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This great celebration is known as the Epiphany of the Lord from the original Greek word ‘Epiphaneia’ which means the unveiling or revelation, linking to the occasion of the visit of the Magi who came from the faraway lands as the revelation of the Messiah to the people in distant lands, as representative of the many nations that will come to worship the Lord and praise Him. Through the three gifts of the Magi, the truth of the Messiah was also unveiled to us, though it might not have been known right at that moment of time Who He was.

First of all, the gift of gold represents Christ’s kingship and power, as He has come as King, the King of Israel and the King of the whole world, the One Who was prophesied to be sitting on the throne of David, His ancestor. Gold has always been valued by many cultures and civilisations for a very long time, and it has always been associated as a symbol of wealth and power, and therefore, they are often possessed by the rich and the powerful, especially the lords and kings of the nations.

Therefore, the Three Magi came to honour the King Who has come into this world as He has promised. But it is also important for us to note how Christ chose to be born into this world. He did not come in great wealth and power, unlike the lords and kings of this world. He was born into poverty and suffering, and not in a large and sumptuous palace, but in a small, dirty stable that was not suitable at all for the dwelling of any man.

But that was how Our Lord and King chose to come into this world, not into wealth and privilege, not into glory or fame, but into obscurity and in the most humiliating condition possible to highlight that His Kingship is unlike any of the kingship and any ruling in this world. His Kingship is not bound and neither can it be described by any worldly parameters, for His Kingship and authority come from Himself and not from worldly wealth, power, fame or any of the sorts.

And then, He is not just like any other kings of the earth because He is also at the same time, God and the Divine Word Incarnate, as represented by the gift of frankincense. Incense are fragrances from aromatic sources like hardened tree sap and liquids that are often used from the earliest history of mankind for the purpose of worship of the spirits and the divine. Frankincense are the finest type of incense reserved only for the most solemn occurrences, and therefore the gift of frankincense by the Magi showed us that He is the Lord, Our God.

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and King is also the Son of God, fully Man and fully God, having human nature and divine nature united in His one person, and this is the truth about Himself, born of a woman and yet also the eternal God from before the beginning of time, the mystery of our faith revealed to us today. And the gift of frankincense was truly an acknowledgement that this Child born the Messiah, was God Incarnate and ought to be worshipped.

This is where the irony can be seen more plainly, as we know how things would turn out as the Lord later embarked on His ministry. King Herod the Great wanted Him dead, and the Pharisees and many of the elders and teachers of the Law refused to believe in Him, those leaders of the people to whom God had sent His own Son. Yet, it was from the Magi, from the faraway, non-Jewish lands that the acknowledgement of the Lord Jesus as not only King but also God, were given.

Now, as we then look at the third and the last of the gifts of the Three Magi, we will then fully understand the significance of not just these gifts but also what it means for us to have God Himself dwelling in our midst and why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place. The third and last of the gifts is myrrh, an expensive and rare fragrance and spice used typically for embalming of the dead bodies.

Such a gift would have been unthinkable and weird to be given to a newborn Child. Why would someone give a perfume used for the preparation of dead bodies as a gift for a Child? But this is exactly symbolic of what the Lord’s ministry in this world, as a revelation of what He would do to fulfil that mission. I refer to how Christ suffered, took the burden of His Cross and endured all the bitterness, and died for us. That myrrh symbolised this death that Christ suffered through for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see, the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are representative of the truth about the Messiah Whom the Magi paid homage to at Bethlehem, the King Whose coming was promised, Who is also Divine, Word of God, the Son of the Father Who assumed our human existence and flesh, all so that He could fulfil the completion of God’s plan to save us, by His suffering, Passion and death on the Cross.

Thus, through the events surrounding the Epiphany today, all of us see how God revealed Himself to the nations, represented by the Three Magi who had endured great trials and distances to pay a visit and worship the One Whose coming they have seen in the great Star of Bethlehem. And what is remarkable is how those Magi, who were very wise and knowledgeable, were willing to bear the difficulties and challenges of distant travel at a time when travelling was hazardous and difficult.

They followed the Star which guided them to the One they had been looking for, and today’s events were the culmination of what was probably many months of travel from the homeland of the Magi to Bethlehem, finally seeing the Holy One of God. We saw the faith of the Magi in entrusting themselves to this small, little Child, Whom they recognised as the One Who would save the entire world as prophesied.

Once again, this is completely contrary to the attitude of those to whom God had actually sent His Son to first, that is the Israelites. They have all known the prophecies and the promises of God, and yet many among them failed to believe or even refused to believe in Him. Some would even want to destroy Him and His works because they saw in the Lord Jesus a bitter rival for influence among the people of God. God has revealed His truth to them in many occasions and through many signs, but because they hardened their hearts, they did not have the faith.

Today on this Solemnity of the Epiphany therefore, all of us are called to reflect on the faith that all of us have in the Lord, on whether we truly have faith in the Lord, believing in everything that He has revealed to us as we celebrate it in this Epiphany of the Lord. Through the Epiphany with the Wise Men or Magi, all of us are shown the wonderful manifestation of God’s love through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, He Who is King as honoured by gold, Who is also God as worshipped by the frankincense, and Who will bear the Cross and die for our sake as anointed with the myrrh.

God has revealed the fullness of love to us through Christ, His Son, and we have heard how the Magi went on the arduous and long journey to seek Him. Such a dedication can only happen when one has faith and love for God, that the person is able to do what he or she can do to follow the Lord and to seek Him out even through the trials and challenges present in our life. Are we able to have this same faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

This Solemnity of the Epiphany is a timely reminder for us all to rediscover our faith and love for God, knowing first of all how He has loved us so dearly before everything else, that He gave us all the most wonderful gift of all, King, Lord and Saviour all in one. By His death and resurrection, Christ has saved us all from our certain destruction because of our sins and faults. He has given us everything so that we will not perish and have eternal life through Him. So, are we then able to dedicate ourselves to Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend time to think about how we can grow further in faith and dedicate our time and attention to love the Lord with greater fidelity from now on. Let us all grow in faith and learn to trust the Lord in all things, spending the time and effort to build a stronger and better relationship with God in each and every moments of our lives.

And as God has revealed Himself to us, let us all be witnesses to His truth and reveal Him to the nations and to all those who have not yet known Him. Let us all do this by our role model and good example, doing our best to live our lives according to our faith from now on. Those who see us will know of our faith, and through that, they will come to know God. Hopefully like the Magi coming to see the Lord, many more people too will come to worship the Lord. May God be with us all and His Church, always. Amen.

Saturday, 4 January 2020 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are reminded of the One Whom we celebrate as we still progress through this season of Christmas, that is Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God proclaimed by St. John the Baptist in the Gospel passage today, as the one and only true Saviour of all. He came into this world to save us, and by His works, we have received the promise of God’s salvation.

In our first reading, taken from the Epistle of St. John, we heard of the truth about the works of the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Who delivered us from the works of the evil one. It was mentioned how the Lord, the Messiah had undone what the devil had done from the beginning of time when he brought sin into the world and corrupted our first ancestors. By the Messiah, the New Adam, all of us mankind are freed from our bondage to sin.

And as we heard in our Gospel reading today from the Gospel of St. John, the disciples of St. John which included St. Andrew and others who followed the Lord, and calling their friends and relatives, including St. Peter, the brother of St. Andrew, the brothers St. James and St. John. They all followed Him and became His disciples, dedicating their lives to serve Him and to continue the works and missions which God has entrusted to them.

The significance of what each and every one of us have just heard through our Scripture passages today is that each and every one of us have been called by the Lord to follow Him and to become His disciples, to walk in His path and be inspired by the examples of those who have faithfully devoted themselves to God, as what we have heard just earlier. We have been called to be faithful disciples and to remain in the path that God has shown us all.

However, the reality of this world is such that many have fallen astray from the path towards God, and many of the people of God have been distracted and turned themselves away from the Lord. There are too many distractions and temptations within this world which prevent many among us from realising what a great and loving God we have by our side, and we spent much of our time and attention in trying to seek vainly for worldly glory, fame, satisfaction and happiness.

In the process many of us ended up being disappointed because we are not able to satisfy our desires and wants, as none of those things are truly able to give us lasting and wholesome satisfaction and joy. Christmas has reminded all of us that our true joy is in Christ, He Who is the only one capable of giving us true happiness and joy, by what He has done for our sake. But as mentioned, many of us have been misled and blinded by the false happiness found in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings serve as an important reminder for all of us to reflect on our lives and how we have lived them all these while. Have we been putting God at the centre and as the focus of our lives or have we instead been too busy and preoccupied chasing after false happiness and empty promises and pleasures of the world? These are things that we need to discern carefully as we continue to progress through life.

Let us all make good use of this opportunity as we continue to progress through the season of Christmas and find the strength and courage to remain true to our faith and to embrace the call of the Lord in order to follow Him and to serve Him by our exemplary lives and by our faithful actions. Let us be good witnesses of our faith in God and spread the Good News and truth of the Gospel by our lives, dedicated to God. May God bless us all and our good endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 3 January 2020 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, recalling the words of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Our Lord at the Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel told Mary that her Son, Who would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, is the Son of God, and He would be known as Jesus, that according to St. Paul in the second chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians, is the Name above every other names.

That is why today we celebrate this special occasion in which we recall this important fact of how by this Name, this special Name of the Lord all of us have been saved. There is no other names by which we have received salvation and only at the Name of Our Lord Jesus, we have received Him Who is our Saviour and Liberator, the One Who freed us from bondage to sin and to the punishment of death.

And we will understand its significance better when we know how in the historical past, the Holy Name of God, written in the Hebrew Tetragrammaton as YHVH, often translated into Yahweh in the modern use of the English language, is a Name that is taboo and not to be uttered in any way, for the Holy Name of God is so holy that uttering the Name was a grave sin and breach of the Jewish traditions and laws, and even more so if the Name was used in vain.

That is why, based on this historical precedent, the Church has never used the Holy Name of God in the form of YHVH or Yahweh unlike what some others have adopted or used, and instead preferring to use the title ‘Lord’ to refer to God in the Biblical context whenever the Holy Name is invoked and recorded. But it is kind of different with the Name, ‘Jesus’ which we focus on today, as this Name is indeed the Name of God too, because we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is God. But yet, unlike the name ‘YHVH’ mentioned earlier, the Name Jesus can be used.

Why is that so? That is because if we understand it more clearly, we can make the link with how God, Who was once invisible and beyond our ability to grasp and perceive, has chosen to make Himself apparent and available to us, appearing in the Flesh; in the form of Man, by the incarnation of the Divine Word, the Son, into the humanity that He united to His divinity, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Since the beginning of time, God has given each and every one of us our identity, beginning with the naming of our first ancestors, Adam, who in turn named his wife, Eve. All mankind have been known by their names, and upon the birth of a baby, each and every one of them receive a name to distinguish themselves from one another. And just as how Adam named the animals and plants of the earth, we mankind also use names to identify objects and living things around us, in our own diverse languages.

Therefore, as Jesus was born as the Son of Man through His mother Mary, He also received this Name, Jesus, just like all of us have received our names. But what makes this Name so special and so far beyond any other names is the fundamental fact that Jesus is not just Man, but also fully God, incarnate in the Flesh. And that is why, if the name ‘YHVH’ was considered to be so holy and a grave taboo to be mentioned, the Name ‘Jesus’ is also holy and sacred.

That was why Pope Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons in the year 1274 proclaimed that all Christians ought to bow reverently at the every mention of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Name special above all other names, the Name by which all of us have received our salvation and promise of eternal life, in accordance to what St. Paul had also written in his Epistle to the Philippians in our first reading today, that at the Name of Jesus, all knees shall bend, those on earth, in heaven and in the place below earth, that is hell and more.

Pope Gregory X mentioned this venerable practice and tradition of bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus which should be done reverently because if we can truly bend our heads to bow at the Name of Our Lord, inwardly this will indeed affect our hearts that will also bow and submit ourselves in humble obedience and love towards Him, for bowing is indeed a sign of humility, of love and of great respect and veneration, all of which we should give to God for the love He has shown to us all.

Unfortunately the sad reality is how few of the faithful practice this still mandatory and important practice of bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus, not to mention the related rule to also bow, although less profound, at the name of Mary, and also the saints on their feast days. Many among the priests and bishops themselves no longer practice this, and as a result, the respect once accorded to the Holy Name gradually became lost. We end up seeing how the Holy Name of Jesus was used in vain in many occasions, not just in secular use but even within the Church.

We make use of the Name of Jesus so lightly and at occasions when it is really inappropriate for us to mention His Name. Do we realise that in doing so we actually sin against God and cause even greater propagation of this lack of respect and adoration we ought to give God through His Holy Name? That is why we have this Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which had been instituted almost three hundred years ago in the year 1721 by Pope Innocent XIII. It is to remind us of the sanctity and the importance of the Holy Name of Jesus to us all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have God Who has made Himself tangible to us and accessible to us all, by extending His love to us dwelling among us in the Flesh. By His incarnation, all of us are now able to call Him by Name, just as we are also able to call Him Father, because of Christ, Who is our brother, sharing in the same Father as He is, and becoming God’s adopted sons and daughters.

Let us all reflect on this, brethren, and let us cultivate in us a new respect and honour for the Holy Name of Jesus from now on. Let us spread the venerable practice, that is still in fact mandatory, to bow at every mention of the Name of Jesus in the Mass, and stop any form of profane and inappropriate use of His Name from now on in all occasions. May the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Name, guide us to the love of God, our heavenly Father. Amen.