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, 7 January 2018 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we all celebrate the great feast and solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, which traditionally marks the end of the season of Christmas, and which begins the time of the Ordinary Time in the current Roman calendar, and the Weekdays after Epiphany in the Traditional calendar. On this great occasion, we remember the moment, when the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour and God, was revealed to the whole world.

The word Epiphany itself comes from the Greek term Epiphaneia, which means manifestation or appearance. That is why this Solemnity, among the most ancient and historical in the traditions of the Church, celebrates the moment when the Lord and Saviour manifested Himself before the world, in the most extraordinary manner. He revealed Himself in ways that many people could not have expected or comprehended.

No, He did not appear before His people in His glory, showing His might and power, with bright light and unapproachable majesty. Had He done that, everyone on earth would have come to believe Him and fear Him right away then. But that was not what He intended to do, and that was not what He had done. No, He appeared in the most unexpected way of all, as a small, little, weak and vulnerable Baby lying down in a manger, in a small, cramped and dirty stable not fit for human beings, and less so for a King, and even less so for the Lord and Master of all creation.

Yet, that is how He has come into this world, assuming the humble appearance and reality of a Man, and as a vulnerable and weak Baby, needing protection and care from His earthly parents. And at the moment of His birth, His coming into this world was pronounced by the Angels of God to the shepherds of Bethlehem. And yet, that was not all that had happened, because especially the significance of today’s Solemnity of the Epiphany is that God wanted to love all of His beloved people, regardless of their status or background.

He came into this world not to save just the people of Israel, but also all of the other races and nations, the non-Jewish people or also known as the Gentiles. And all of these are highlighted in the Scriptures, as we heard the story of the Three Magi or the Three Wise Men, which takes central place in the celebration we have for this great Solemnity of the Epiphany.

The three of them came from faraway lands, travelling for a long period just that they might come to pay homage to the King Who was to be born in Bethlehem, which they saw through the appearance of the bright new star on the sky, the Star of Bethlehem. There are many symbolisms associated with the Solemnity of the Epiphany, and these were just some of them.

The Three Magi represent the faithful people coming from all sorts of background, from distant lands as the premonition of the future, which is our present time and the history of the Church, as the faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Christian faith, came to spread to all parts of the world, even to the most distant corners and parts of the earth.

They came to Jesus through the Star of Bethlehem, which is a sign of the faith they had in God. Even though the Star of Bethlehem might have been a very wonderful and bright star, an unusual astronomical sign, but no one would have done anything more than admiring it, had they not had great faith in God. That was what the Three Magi had done, travelling very long distance to reach the Lord, even though they did not know Who He was.

When they reached Bethlehem and found the Baby Jesus lying in the manger, through the gifts they brought Him, they also made Him to be revealed to the world, witnessed by all those who were gathered there, and later on immortalised through the Holy Gospels, as what we have heard today, the moment when God called all of His people to Him, and revealed to them Who He really was, in Jesus Christ.

The Three Magi brought Jesus the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Certainly these gifts are not what is common or usual as things to be given to a person, and less still, a newborn Baby. Yet, each of these gifts gives us greater insight to Who Jesus really is, and in fact, each of them highlight a different aspect of the Messiah or Saviour Who came into this world, two millennia ago.

Gold has been highly prized by humanity for a very long time, treasured for its useful properties. It does not rust or tarnish, and therefore it is adapted almost universally as a primary material in the crafting of coins and bullions, as methods for people to do monetary and trading transactions, as well as for the accumulation of wealth. The more gold someone has, the more prestige and honour he or she has.

And gold is also highly prized for its beautiful shine and lustre, which makes it the material of choice for kings and the divinities like gods and idols. Therefore, the gift of gold by the Magi to the Lord Jesus highlights His kingship, for He is indeed the King of all kings, Ruler of all rulers. Yet, this King came not in His grand regalia and wealth, and neither did He come with the showing of His power and majesty. Instead, He chose to come as the humble Son of Man, born of a humble and simple woman, married to a simple carpenter of Nazareth.

Then how about the frankincense? Frankincense is the best quality incense available in the world, the finest of all the finest incense materials made from aromatic natural sources such as hardened tree secretions and natural chemicals. Incense has been used for a very long time throughout the history of mankind for the purpose of divine worship and adoration. As such, it has only been used for the purpose of worship, and not for human beings, and therefore, it symbolises the divine nature of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The frankincense highlights that Our Lord and God is truly the one and only true God, high above any other beings of this world, above all the false idols and gods, and is the only one worthy of worship and praise. And we therefore recognise Jesus not only as just Man, but also God Himself, having two natures, one human and one divine, united in His person.

Last of all, is the gift of myrrh, a truly strange gift to be given to someone, as myrrh is the substance used during embalming and preservation of dead bodies, in order to prevent the dead bodies from decaying and decomposing. Yet, it is the same myrrh and mixture used at the time when Jesus was buried after His death on the cross and before He was placed in the tomb. Myrrh therefore represents the then upcoming fulfilment of God’s mission realised in Jesus, which is through His death on the cross.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the visit of the Three Magi paying homage to Our Lord Jesus is a reminder for each one of us, that Christ is indeed the focus of our Christmas joy, and the focus of our entire faith life. We cannot sideline Him or ignore Him if we are indeed truly Christians, not just in name, but also in action and reality. Unfortunately, there are many among us out there, who have forgotten this fact, and live our lives in absence of Christ in our lives.

We put our human desires, ambitions and all the other things that this world has offered us, ahead of our obligation to love the Lord and to heed His call, for us to come to Him. We always delay whenever He calls, and often we even pretend not to listen when He speaks with us, in the depth of our hearts. And this is one of the main reasons why there are so many of us Christians who are encountering deep crises in our faith, because we do not really embody what we believe in, and our faith becomes merely a formality, rather than reality.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us come to realise, by reflecting on the story of the Three Wise Men, the Magi, who embarked on a long and difficult journey to seek the Lord, and when they finally found Him, they were overcome with joy and gave Him the worthy homage and honour He deserved. And as we have discussed earlier, their actions, the gifts they gave to the Lord, became the source of revelation, that indeed, Jesus, the Baby lying in the manger two millennia ago in Bethlehem, is Our Lord and Saviour, the ultimate proof of God’s everlasting love for us.

That is why, as we reflect again on the significance of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we should remember God’s love for us, such that while He is God and King over all, but He willingly embraced us through His assumption of a human nature, and made Himself tangible and visible for us, through the gift of Jesus, His Son. And the gift of myrrh should remind us of that act of ultimate and incomparable love when He gave up His life on the cross, that we may live, and that all of us who believe in Him may receive the grace of eternal life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all follow in the footsteps of the Three Magi, going forth on a new journey of faith towards the Lord bearing gifts. No, not the gift of gold, or any other worldly precious items, but rather, the gift of our loving hearts. God does not want anything else from us beside our love and commitment, and it is therefore time for us to begin loving Him, and giving Him our all, if we have not done so.

May the Lord, Who was revealed to all of us by the Three Magi bearing the gifts revealing His humanity and divinity, and the mission through which He saved us all, by His death on the cross, continue to guide us on our own respective journeys of faith, that eventually we may find our way to Him, and together with the Angels and the saints, we may give Him honour, praise and glory forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 7 January 2018 : 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.