Sunday, 19 January 2020 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Second Sunday of Ordinary Time all of us have heard from the readings of the Scripture today on the matter of the mission of the Church in proclaiming the word of God and our part in this mission as we are all members of this same Church. From what we have heard through today’s Scripture passages we are reminded of how God has called us all to follow Christ, the Lamb of God and Saviour of the world.

As we begin this season of the Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent, we are reminded of the need for us not to make this season something that is merely ‘ordinary’. For in fact, the real meaning and significance of this ‘Ordinary Time’ is such that in between our focus and observations of the very important events in our faith like that of the birth of Christ in Christmas, the preparation time for Easter in Lent, the resurrection of Jesus in Easter itself, there are many things that we can do in the time between all these events and seasons.

It means that we are called to come and do our best to make good use of this time to do the ‘ordinary’ work of God, carrying out whatever it is that He has called on each one of us to do, from being faithful and good Christians, behaving in ways that conform to our faith and through all those, becoming true witnesses of our faith in our everyday life. We must not think that our works and contributions are insignificant in any way, for it is indeed by whatever little things we do, that are done in faith, that we become good witnesses for Christ.

In our first reading today, we heard of the Lord Who spoke through His prophet Isaiah of the coming of the One Who would bring forth the salvation of the world, gathering all of His people scattered all around the world and bringing them back once again to His presence. He spoke of how that Servant He sent into the world would become the Light of the world and the salvation for the nations, which was fulfilled finally at the coming of Jesus Christ into this world.

It was this same Messiah promised by God which St. John the Baptist proclaimed before his own disciples at the River Jordan just after He was baptised by him. He proclaimed the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God, as the One Who would take away the sins of the world and save it. And some of the disciples of St. John the Baptist went on to follow Him such as St. Andrew the Apostle, the first of the Twelve Apostles to be called.

What St. John the Baptist had done essentially was what the Lord has also wanted us all to do, in proclaiming the salvation in the One and only Messiah of God, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God by Whose sacrifice on the Cross, saved us mankind from the tyranny of sin and reconciled us with God the Father. Through His loving sacrifice, Christ made us all to be reunited with God, that sin which once prevented us from returning to Him is no longer an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

And through His Baptism at the Jordan, which we have just commemorated last Sunday and marked the beginning of the current Ordinary Time, all of us also share in the common baptism that unites all of us to Christ, as the members of the one Church He has established in this world to be a symbolic and concrete sign of the coming of God’s kingdom into this world. All of us through our baptism have been made parts of the Body of Christ, the Church and made to be God’s own adopted sons and daughters.

This is what the Apostle St. Paul spoke about at the beginning of his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth in our second reading today, when he spoke of how all of us as Christians have been called to follow God and have been sanctified and blessed to be God’s people, reunited and brought together from the world, to be one people and with one purpose and intention, that is to glorify God and to do His will. All of us share the same mission which God has entrusted to His Church.

What is this mission, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is for us to be true and living witnesses of our faith in God, to proclaim His salvation among the nations and the peoples of the earth. We have been entrusted with the Great Commission of God, Who called all of us His disciples to go forth and baptise all peoples of all the nations in the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, making all of the children of mankind to be God’s children through His Church and through baptism.

But how are we going to do that? It is not by forcing people to believe in God by the use of intimidation, coercion or force, and neither should we use any forms of tricks or false persuasions. All these methods do not usually lead to true faith and love for God, and in fact they may cause people to be antagonised against God and the Christian faith instead. Rather, we should do our best in living our lives with faith each and every moments of our life.

How can other people believe in God if we ourselves do not truly believe in Him? If we do not act and do things according to what we believe in, does that not make us hypocrites then, who believe in one thing and yet do things in a different way? If our actions and way of life do not match what we profess to believe in, how can we then expect people to believe in us or in the Lord by our lack of genuine faith? Instead of bringing others closer to God, we will only end up making others to be disillusioned and pushing them further away from God.

That is why we are all challenged as we proceed through our lives that we should do our best to live our lives as how the Lord has taught us to live them. He has showed us what it means to be Christians, that is to put our trust in the Lord and to put Him as the centre of our lives and existence that our every actions no longer seek to glorify ourselves and satisfy our desires, but instead, we seek only to glorify God through whatever little actions we take in life.

This means that we should first of all show love and care, compassion and concern to our fellow brethren in our actions just as the Lord has loved us generously. We should be more selfless and forgiving in how we interact with one another, putting the needs of others before ourselves, and putting aside our pride, ego and desires in our daily living. We should reach out especially to the poor and the marginalised, showing God’s love and grace to them, that we, as the extensions of God’s love may truly touch them not just in material and physical terms, but also mentally and spiritually.

If all of us are able to be Christ-like in how we live our lives, in serving others and in showing genuine love and care, then in no time people who see us will also be able to see God and His presence through us. And eventually some if not many more people will also then come to believe in Him and want to become His disciples through us and our good examples of life in faith. That is how we should carry out our mission in evangelisation and in witnessing for the truth of God.

We do not need to worry that we cannot do great many things, for the truth is that, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, our every little acts do count towards the greater cumulative efforts of the Church. When all of us are in one mind and one spirit in trying our best to serve God through our lives, all of our actions and deeds combined together will truly become an immense effort in fulfilling the mission that God has entrusted to us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore as we continue to live our lives let us all strive to be faithful to God even in the smallest things we do, that with every actions we take and with every moments, we always adhere to His ways and obey His will, resisting the temptation to sin and to do what is wicked and evil in God’s presence. Let us all be inspiration for one another and help each other in living our lives with faith from now on.

May God continue to guide us and bless us in our journey of faith. May He empower us all to be able to live courageously in His presence from now on, filled with faith and devotion. May God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 19 January 2020 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 1 : 29-34

At that time, the next day John saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world! It is He of Whom I said : A Man comes after me, Who is already ahead of me, for He was before me. I myself did not know Him, but I came baptising to prepare for Him, so that He might be revealed in Israel.”

And John also gave this testimony, “I saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove from heaven, and resting on Him. I myself did not know Him, but God, Who sent me to baptise, told me, “You will see the Spirit coming down, and resting, on the One Who baptises with the Holy Spirit.’ Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God!”

Sunday, 19 January 2020 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

1 Corinthians 1 : 1-3

From Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and from Sosthenes, our brother, to God’s Church which is in Corinth; to you whom God has sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those who everywhere call upon the Name of our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.

Receive grace and peace from God our Father, and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Sunday, 19 January 2020 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 39 : 2 and 4ab, 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

With resolve I waited for the Lord; He listened and heard me beg. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of prayer to our God.

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

Sunday, 19 January 2020 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Isaiah 49 : 3, 5-6

YHVH said to me, “You are Israel, My servant. Through you I will be known.”

And now YHVH has spoken, He Who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that you be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas. Therefore officially the celebration of Christmas is over by the end of today and from tomorrow we will begin with the first part of the Ordinary Time of this current liturgical year cycle, that is until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

On this day, the Baptism of the Lord at the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist is a symbolic reminder of the end of the Christmas festivities, as the Lord began His ministry in this world at the moment when He was baptised. He was no longer hidden from the world as it was when He was still a Child and during His early growing up years. After His Baptism, He began His ministry, through the forty days of temptation later on by the devil and then began gathering His disciples and started His works.

When the Lord was baptised, there were many things that happened which we should take note of, and how these are all significant for our understanding of both our faith and what we ourselves need to do as Christians, as those who believe that Jesus Christ, the One baptised by St. John that day, is truly the Lord and Saviour of the whole world. His Baptism proclaimed the truth of the coming of the long awaited Messiah, and fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading today.

In that prophecy, God showed how His Servant would come into this world, proclaiming His love and mercy, delivering His truth and liberating the people from the darkness and destruction caused by their sins. When Jesus was baptised, immediately the heavens opened and a Dove descended on Him, as the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord Jesus, and the voice of the Father could be heard, proclaiming that Jesus was truly the Son of God, the Beloved and Chosen One, sent into this world out of His love for us all.

In that very moment, we have actually witnessed through the Gospel passage, the manifestation of God’s plan for our salvation, as the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit came into that occasion in one place, showing how God would redeem His people by the giving of His Son to this world. And it was also very important that Jesus insisted to be baptised by St. John although the latter really wanted to be baptised by Jesus instead.

That is because through baptism, the Lord showed that by our common baptism, which we shared with Him, we have shared in His death with water being often associated with both death and life. And He also made the same connection as our baptism is, to the moment when the Lord led His people Israel through the Red Sea, passing through the water of the sea from their slavery in Egypt into the freedom towards the Land promised to them.

Thus, through His humanity, the Human nature He possessed in Him, Christ made His Baptism to be united to our own Sacrament of Baptism, when through the power and authority He bestowed on His Church and the Apostles, He made us all, who are baptised to be members of the Church, be it as an infant or as an adult through conversion, God’s own adopted children. That is because if Christ is the Son of God, and the Father called Him as His Son, we who have been baptised are also made the children of the Father, God’s beloved ones.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, that is not the end of it all. Instead, it is merely just the beginning, as I have mentioned earlier how Christ began His ministry after His Baptism, we too have also begun our new life in Christ and embarked on a new journey of faith from the moment we were baptised. Through baptism we have been marked as God’s own beloved children, and because of that, we have also been entrusted with the mission of the Church, to go forth and evangelise the truth which Christ has brought into this world.

Baptism is not the end of our faith journey, contrary to what some have been thinking. It does not mean that after we have been baptised that we are already saved by God and therefore had no more need to follow God’s will and do what He has told us to do. Rather, through baptism, we have been fundamentally changed in our being, as we have been made the spiritual children of God, and God has become our Father.

And if we are God’s children and He is our Father, is it not then just right and proper that we follow what our Father taught us to do? How can we call ourselves as God’s children if our lives are contrary to His will and if we do what is wicked and evil in His eyes? And if God is our Father, is it not right that we act in ways that conform with His ways and bring glory to His Name? This is our journey of faith that we began at our baptism.

Therefore today, as we mark the end of the Christmas season with this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord let us all focus on the moment of the Lord’s baptism at the Jordan, and unite it with our own baptism, if we can remember it well. For those of us who have been baptised as adults, try to remember that moment when the holy water of baptism touched us, either by immersion or at our foreheads. And for those of us who have been baptised as infants, ask our parents and/or godparents for that moment.

Let us all remember our baptism, its date and time, and more importantly, our promise at baptism which we renew at Easter every year. We profess faith in God as expressed in the Creed, in all its fullness and we profess that we will reject Satan and all of his lies, his advances and all the falsehoods he presents before us. And today, therefore, we are reminded by this moment of Christ’s baptism that we have our respective journeys ahead of us, and we need to do what we can to fulfil what God has called us to do through baptism.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all from now on be exemplary in our lives and dedicate ourselves to God anew, with the desire to follow Him, our Lord and Father because we are His beloved children. Let us all sin no more and try our best to obey the will of our Father and love Him more, just as He has loved us all so much that He has given us Christ, His Son to redeem us and to bring us a new hope. By our baptism, we have been made as partakers of this same hope and promise of eternal life.

May the Lord, our Father continue to watch over us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He grant us the strength and courage to live our lives faithfully from now on so that we may become inspirations for one another in being good and faithful Christians. May all of us bear witness to Christ’s truth by our lives and do our best to serve Him at all times, devoting our time, attention and effort always as we journey together in faith as the members of God’s one Church. Amen.

Sunday, 12 January 2020 : 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, 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 fulfil the right order.” John agreed.

As soon as He was baptised, Jesus came up out of the water. All 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.”