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, 12 January 2014 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast of the Church, commemorating the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan river by St. John the Baptist. This baptism marked the beginning of the ministry of our Lord Jesus, after thirty years of His life in this world since He was born.

A detail on the early life of Jesus besides His birth, presentation at the Temple and the time when He was left behind in the Temple at twelve was scarce and absent, but it was likely that He lived normally as any man would, under the care of His loving family, Mary His mother and Joseph, His foster-father. He would have lived normally as any sons of a carpenter would live, learning and understanding the world from Joseph, His foster-father.

Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptised by John because it had been prophesied as such by the prophets, and it therefore the very first instance when Christ the Saviour was revealed to the world, the very first instance when many could see and hear the witness of God’s sign of salvation. The truth about God and His saving plan was made clear at that moment when Jesus was baptised.

God made His Son, Jesus Christ to be the Christ or the Messiah, or the Saviour of the world. That was because it was only in Christ that the world could be freed from the chains of sin and evil that had enslaves it since the time when sin first entered the world. And all those who believe in Him would receive the great reward of salvation.

In that event too, God made obvious His nature for the world to see. First, that He is the one and only true God as opposed to all other false gods. He is the one and only supreme Lord and King of all, as the One who created this universe and everything in it, including all of us. But in this Oneness and unity, He has three Divine persons, all coexisting with each other in perfect unity, Three distinct persona, but One in nature and in perfect and indivisible unity.

Yes, what was shown in the event of the baptism of Jesus was what we know as the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity. God that is One and yet has Three distinct persona of Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. All of them are God, and One. The Father is the aspect of God as the Creator and the Omnipotent ruler and Lord of all things, while the Son, who was the Word of God made flesh, is the One who made things come to be, including the creation as well as the plan of salvation. The Holy Spirit is the force and power behind all things and all creation, as well as the life that God has given us.

The Father is not seen or visible to us, as He was portrayed in the Old Testament as a burning bush to Moses, or as a gentle wind to Elijah. It was often His voice that was heard, speaking His will to the prophets or directly to the people of God. Meanwhile, the Son who was the Word of God since the beginning of time and before that, was made known to us, in the person of Jesus Christ, incarnate as a Man, to become the Saviour of the world.

The Holy Spirit was also not directly seen like the Father, but is often portrayed as the flames of fire symbolising the flames of the Spirit of God, just as what happened in Pentecost, as well as a dove, which is the form that the Spirit took when Jesus was baptised at the Jordan. Thus, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, recalling the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan.

How is this important to us? That is because when we were baptised, we were immersed with the water of baptism much like Jesus as He was immersed in the waters of the River Jordan. And not only that, to show that our baptism is not symbolic, but instead a Sacrament, we were all sealed in the Most Holy Name of the Holy Trinity, to be the possessions of the Lord, and marked for His saving grace, which He had revealed to the world through Jesus.

Jesus Christ was unique among every beings that had ever been in creation and in this universe. That is because He is one Being with two distinct natures, one that is fully divine and the other that is fully human, the two natures of which are united much in the same way the Holy Trinity is united to each other, perfectly united in love and indivisible from one another.

The divine nature of Christ is the One who had existed before all ages with God and was God, the Logos or the Word of God, who came down into the world, and with the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, was conceived into the world in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, and that was the time, when His human nature, that is Jesus Christ, becomes extant.

The two natures had always existed together in Jesus, but as He grew as a baby and then as a young child, the complete truth about His appointed mission in this world was not revealed to Jesus. Nevertheless, He grew to be great with wisdom and knowledge as He aged, and whatever had been taught to Him by His family in this world. It was however at His baptism in the Jordan, when the Trinity once again come together, in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that the fullness of the divine mission of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was made completely clear.

Hence, it can be said that this is the moment of new beginning in the earthly life of Christ. He began His ministry and teaching the Good News for the next three years or so, gathering His disciples and performing miracles and healing for the glory of God. It marked the beginning of the period of great graces of God, just as it does for all of us.

When we were baptised, we were marked to be the possessions of the Lord, that the mark of the Lord will remain for us for the rest of our lives. We were made completely clean once again, without any taints of sin with the water of baptism, and most important of all, we are all made children of God upon our baptism. But then we cannot just be idle or engage again in sinfulness, as we were indeed made clean upon baptism, but there also began our journey of faith towards the ultimate salvation in God, just as Jesus embarked upon His ministry.

May the Lord our God remind us of our holy baptism, of the time when we were made His children and welcomed into the Church, today, when we celebrate the baptism of His Son at the Jordan. May we remember always the water of baptism that made us whole again and worthy of the Lord, that we will resolve from now on to continue living in faith and devotion to God, without turning to the left or right.

Stay faithful, brethren, and as we rejoice in the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us also remember our own day of baptism! Yes, when we were made glorified as the children of God! God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 12 January 2014 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 3 : 13-17

At that time Jesus arrived from Galilee and came to John at the Jordan to be baptised by him. But John tried to prevent Him, and said, “How is it that You come to me? I should be baptised by You!”

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be like that for now, so that we may fulfill the right order.” John agreed. As soon as He was baptised, Jesus came up from the water. At once, the heavens opened and He saw the Spirit of God come down like a dove and rest upon Him.

At the same time a voice from heaven was heard, “This is My Son, the Beloved; He is My Chosen One.”

Sunday, 12 January 2014 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 10 : 34-38

Peter then spoke to them, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and does good. And this is the message He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace He has proclaimed through Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of all.

No doubt you have heard of the event that occured throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him.

Sunday, 12 January 2014 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord 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, 12 January 2014 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 42 : 1-4, 6-7

Here is My servant whom I uphold, My chosen One in whom I delight. I have put My Spirit upon Him, and He will bring justice to the nations. He does not shut 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.