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.

Sunday, 5 January 2020 : 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, 5 January 2020 : 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, 5 January 2020 : 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, 5 January 2020 : 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, 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.