Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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 after the twelfth day of Christmas, the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which on this year happens to fall also on its traditional day of the sixth day of January. On this day, we are reminded of the moment of the Epiphany, which came from the word ‘Epiphaneia’ that means manifestation or ‘appearing’ in Greek. This is related to what is commemorated in Epiphany, in what we have as our Scripture passages today.

In the readings for the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the central figure and focus is the coming of people from all over the world, which was historically represented by the Three Wise Men or the Three Magi, who came from various parts of the world, bringing gifts and paying homage to the Lord of lords and King of kings, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world. In today’s theme therefore, we see the Lord revealing Himself and His salvation to the many people of various races and origins, beyond the original race of the Israelites.

If at His birth, the Lord’s coming was witnessed by the local shepherds, representing the nation and people of Israel, then the coming of the Three Wise Men bearing gifts and paying homage represent the universality of Our Lord’s salvation and His authority over all of the whole world, and not just over the people of Israel alone. At that time, the prevalent thought was that, the Messiah would come to the people of Israel, and become a King over them, excluding those who did not belong to the race and nation of Israel.

And how did God reveal Himself to the nations? His coming into the world was marked by a great star, a mighty sign in the sky visible to many in various parts of the world, which pointed to the coming of a great King and Saviour, that prompted each one of the Three Wise Men, traditionally named as Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar, to come from their faraway homelands, to pay a visit to the coming Messiah of God and the King to come.

Each of them bore a gift that when inspected further, seems to be strange and unfitting gifts to be given to a newborn Baby. But, each of the three gifts of the Three Wise Men, in fact played a major part in the revelation of God’s truth, showing us all, the true nature of God and His Saviour, in His great Kingly glory and in His fullness of divinity, and in the mission which He was to embark on, in order to achieve our salvation.

First of all, the gift of gold is a gift that symbolises power and authority, indicating the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, gold is reserved only for the use of royalty and the divine, as they were so precious, incorruptible and beautiful beyond compare. The gift of gold therefore reveals to us the Kingship of Christ, King of all kings, the Lord and Master of all the whole universe. The Three Wise Men came before the Lord and knelt before Him, representing their acknowledgement of Christ as their Lord and King.

Then, the frankincense is the finest quality incense used only exclusively for the worship of the divine, for only the finest is reserved for the use of divine worship. The gift of frankincense thus reveals to us the divinity of Christ, that this Messiah or Saviour Who has come into the world, was not just any mere human beings, but far more than that, as One Who is fully Man, and yet also fully Divine, the Son of God Himself, the Word of God Incarnate.

This shows that the Lord Who has come into the world, is truly the love of God incarnate in the flesh, appearing in our midst, God Who made Himself tangible and touchable, contactable and relatable, and yet, without diminishing His divinity and His Godhood. And it was interesting and remarkable, that God wanted to make Himself so small and insignificant, to put Himself in the Body of a little Child, born in a dirty and cramped stable in the outskirts of the small town of Bethlehem.

This is where the last gift of the Three Wise Men, that is the myrrh, is remarkable, as it reveals to us the purpose and meaning of Christ’s coming into the world, choosing to be born as a Man. The myrrh is a precious ointment and spice, usually used for anointing the body of a deceased person prior to its burial. Truly, it is a very unusual and some may even think, inappropriate gift to be given to a child, and less still, the Child Who is also God and King of kings.

But in truth, even at the moment just after He was born into this world, the third gift, the myrrh has revealed the true nature of His mission, the salvation of all of God’s beloved people, by the obedience of the Son, the suffering He had to endure for the sake of our salvation, the pain and the suffering of the cross of Our Lord. Christ had to suffer and die on the cross, that by His death, He became for us the source of eternal life.

That blessed myrrh is the sign of His mortality, the mortality of the Humanity that is part of His person, and yet, not the mortality caused by His own sins, rather because He willingly took up for Himself, all the sins and punishments due for those sins, so that because of this, by absolving us from our sins, we will not perish and suffer the fate of those who have disobeyed and sinned against God, but instead, have a new hope of life everlasting in God.

This is also linked to the earlier symbolism of the frankincense, as it also presents before us the symbolism of worship, both God Who is worshipped and adored in the divinity of Christ, and in the humanity of Christ acting as the High Priest of all mankind, offering Himself, the Perfect offering of the Most Precious Body and Blood, of the Son of God made Man, Whose blameless and pure sacrifice became the source of our eternal life and salvation.

Therefore, as we have discussed, the three gifts of the Three Wise Men each showed a different aspect of Christ, Who is a King, a Priest and God, and lastly, as a Suffering Servant, the One Who was to suffer and die for our sake. Through all these, the truth about Christ, Who He is and what His mission is, have been revealed to all, and represented by the Three Wise Men, the Magi, all the nations have come to see the glory of God and His salvation.

This is the fulfilment of what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, especially the prophet Isaiah, who said that a people who lived in darkness, have seen a great light. The Three Wise Men saw the great and bright Star of Bethlehem, and followed its light to find their way to the Messiah, and they found Him, after what would have been a very difficult and arduous journey of probably months and more.

Today, we ought to reflect first of all, on God’s love for us, His desire to reveal to us, the fullness of truth about Himself, of His great and boundless love to each and every one of us. And He chose to enter into our lives, humbling and emptying Himself from all majesty and dignity, being born in a place least suitable for human habitation, less still that of the King of kings and Lord of lords. He gave everything for us, even His life, that by His selfless and ultimate sacrifice, we may have new life in Him and through Him. He revealed Himself to all the peoples of all the nations, that they may know Him, and may be saved, through Him.

This is the true joy of Christmas, which is the reason why we celebrate this wonderful season and time of Christmas, because God’s love has been a part of our lives, and we have seen how glorious and wonderful is His salvation for us. And now, what we need to do, is for us to open our hearts and minds, to welcome Him and to seek Him and His love for us, following in the examples set by the Three Wise Men.

The Three Wise Men travelled from faraway countries, traversing many difficult terrains and facing many challenges along their journey, and yet, they remained faithful despite all those challenges, and completed their journey of faith towards the Saviour Who was promised to come. They believed in the Saviour of God, and came to pay Him homage, while those who have heard the message of God’s truth, such as many of the Pharisees, many among the Israelites, king Herod and his supporters, refused to believe in Him, and rejected Him.

Today’s occasion of the Epiphany calls us to turn towards God, revealed before us, His love and His merciful compassion for us, that we may see in Him, a new hope and light that dawns, dispelling the darkness of sin that have blanketed us and became a barrier preventing us from realising just how much God loves each and every one of us. We are called to walk in the footsteps of the Three Wise Men, to follow the Lord with faith, in our respective journeys of faith in life.

Are we able to make that commitment, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to love the Lord with ever more conviction and zeal? It is not impossible, for after all, God Himself loved us so much, that He humbled Himself, emptied Himself of all dignity and majesty, that He, the King of kings and Lord of lords, became our Saviour, by His death on the cross, a most painful and humiliating death, out of His love for us. Nothing is impossible for God, and therefore, by God’s will, we too can love Him in the same way.

Let us be inspired by the faith of the Three Wise Men, and walk, from now on, in God’s grace, abandoning our sinful past and embracing a newfound zeal and faith in God, keeping Him as the centre and focus of our lives. May God, Our loving Father, Our Creator and Our Saviour Who revealed Himself to all the nations and to all the peoples that they may know Him, be our guide, and may He bless us in everything we do, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 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.

Sunday, 6 January 2019 : 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.

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, the time which is usually associated with the ending of the Christmas season, or Christmastide, although in some traditional celebrations, the season of Christmas does not end until the second day of February, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, following a forty day period for Christmas.

On this day, we commemorate that moment, when Christ began His earthly ministry, to begin the works which He had been born into this world for, that is to herald and bring about salvation to all mankind, and to liberate them from their sins and from the chains of wickedness, evil, sin and death. It was at that moment of His baptism that He officially began His earthly ministry, and this is truly important to all of us as well in its meaning.

This is also the model of our Church’s sacrament of holy baptism, the first of the seven sacraments and the first one that a believer, either as a baby or as a catechumen deciding to follow the Lord, must receive, before he or she would be able to receive the other sacraments, such as the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Most Holy Eucharist, Penance or that of the Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders.

It was through baptism that a faithful is welcomed into the Church of God, and through baptism, the faithful was sealed with the seal of the Living God, and became one with all the other members of the Church, adopted as God’s children and become partakers of God’s plan of salvation and in His everlasting kingdom of joy and happiness. Without baptism, the state of our souls will continue to be in limbo and darkness.

Just as Christ was immersed in the waters of the Jordan, we too have been immersed in the water during our baptism. Water itself has many symbolic meanings, the most common of which is its purifying capacity, where water cleanses things that are dirty and corrupted, and washes away all dirt and unpleasant things. It is also a symbol of life, since water is crucial for life, and absolutely no life could have existed in the absence of water.

And thus, as we were immersed in the water during our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, we were also purified from the taints of our past sins, the wickedness and corruptions of sin that had been with us, and by the holy water blessed and made pure by the hands of the priests, the Lord Jesus had made us all whole again in body and in spirit, just as He had once healed the lepers, the sick and the dying.

And water can also bring death, as we have seen how water can be so destructive in occurrences such as tsunamis, floods and various other forces of water that brought death and misery, just as it can also bring life, and indeed is essential for life. Thus, the waters of baptism symbolised that death which all of us ought to share in the Lord, that through this sharing with His death, we may also have a share in His glorious resurrection.

Yes, the waters of baptism is a symbol of the death and the end of our old life on earth, in our commitment to abandon and reject sin and Satan in all of its forms, and by dying to this old life, as St. Paul had mentioned, we left behind all of the attachments, the bonds and the chains that kept us in our old ways and which had prevented us from attaining God’s salvation and grace.

The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan is a symbol for us all to remember, for even though He Himself was different, as He was without any taint of sin, and yet He chose to lower Himself and be immersed in the Jordan, and baptised by His servant John the Baptist, but through that action, we should now be able to understand clearly what our Lord had intended for us to do with our own lives.

Before the Lord Jesus was baptised, since the day when He was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in a stable, His parents had cared for Him very well, both His mother Mary, as well as His foster father St. Joseph. And He was brought up in Nazareth, the village where His family lived in, and where He Himself grew up as all men did, and He grew both in knowledge, wisdom and strength, and in the favour in the sight of God.

And as His father St. Joseph was a hardworking carpenter, and considering the fact that sons normally followed in the footsteps of their fathers, it was likely that Jesus was perhaps once a carpenter too, or at least that He knew how to handle things as His foster father had done. And so, He likely dealt with things and matters of the world such as crafting furnitures and other wooden objects.

Yet, when He was baptised by John at the Jordan, that was the moment when all was revealed regarding Jesus, His true nature and His mission on earth. And afterward, He began His ministry, tending to the sick, both in body and in spirit, and He blessed many people, fed them, and gave them the Good News of God through His own words.

And in the end, He carried up the cross that was burdened with all of our sins and iniquities, and He bore all these up with Him as He ascended the hill of Calvary, stretched up between the heavens and the earth, and He gave up His own life, as a perfect and fitting sacrifice to serve as the absolution and the forgiveness for all the multitudes of our sins and their effects.

In all these, we have to realise that the story of our Lord Jesus from His baptism to His death on the cross is actually the example of our own Christian life, of how we are all expected to live out our lives in faith. We who have received the gift of baptism should therefore go forth and do as the Lord Himself had done, loving one another, forgiving those who have done bad things to us, praying even for our enemies and for those who persecute us, as well as other things that He had commanded us all to do.

This is what we need to do, and this is what we should indeed do as those who call themselves as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and wholeheartedly follow His laws and commandments, so that in everything that we say and do, we will always be faithful, and bring glory to our Lord and God. May God bless us all and keep us in His grace, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 3 : 15-16, 21-22

At that time, the people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could He be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water, but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal.”

Now, with all the people who came to be baptised, Jesus too was baptised. Then, while He was praying, the heavens opened : the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the bodily form of a Dove, and a Voice from Heaven was heard, “You are My Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Titus 2 : 11-14 and Titus 3 : 4-7

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teaching us to reject an irreligious way of life and worldly greed, and to live in this world as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope – the glorious manifestation of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus. He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from every evil and to purify a people He wanted to be His own and dedicated to what is good.

But God our Saviour revealed His eminent goodness and love for humankind and saved us, not because of good deeds we may have done but for the sake of His own mercy, to the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit poured over us through Christ Jesus our Saviour, so that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Alternative reading

Acts 10 : 34-38

Peter then spoke to the disciples of Christ, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and and does good. And this is the message He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace 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, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30

Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment; You stretch out the heavens like a tent.

You build Your upper rooms above the waters. You make the clouds Your chariot and ride on the wings of the wind; You make the winds Your messengers, and fire and flame Your ministers.

How varied, o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Behold the sea, wide and vast, teeming with countless creatures, living things both great and small.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

When You hide Your face they vanish, You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Alternative reading

Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9b-10

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.

The God of glory thunders, 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, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes your God with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty.

Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Alternative reading

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.