Monday, 9 January 2017 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, which falls after the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the moment when Jesus was revealed to the world for the first time through the actions of the Three Wise Men or the Magi. These events mark the ending of the season of Christmas today, as the readings of the Scripture shift from the events surrounding the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, into one that begins His earthly ministry.

The baptism of our Lord Jesus at the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist was a momentous event which marked the beginning of our Lord’s work on earth, to fulfil the mission which He had been sent into this world for. Jesus was then thirty years old, fully grown as a Man, endowed and blessed with all the good human upbringing that His mother Mary and His foster-father St. Joseph had given Him throughout all those years.

Thus the baptism of our Lord Jesus can be seen as the coming of age event, through which a formal beginning of the ministry of the Saviour of the world was marked. After the baptism, the Lord went on to prepare Himself through fasting for forty days and nights before He was ready to set forth and teach the people the Good News of God.

It is indeed a reminder of our own baptism that we celebrate this feast of the Baptism of our Lord today. Let us ask that simple question, which answer has often stunned many of us Christians until today. What does our baptism mean to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? What is its significance to us, to our faith and to our respective lives? And indeed, can we remember the day of our own baptism?

If we cannot remember the day of our own baptism, then it means that we do not care how important is baptism and the moment of baptism to all of us. Baptism is very important and indeed crucial to us, as Jesus Himself had demonstrated through His own baptism, that each and every one of us, through baptism, received the grace to become the sons and daughters of God. For God, through His Son Jesus Christ, have made us to share in His baptism, as His brethren.

And what is baptism about? There are many symbols used in baptism, primarily which is blessed and holy water. It is a symbol of cleansing and healing, representing how Jesus was baptised by St. John the Baptist at the Jordan river, and also how the people of Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea, when God brought them out of Egypt, and also later on when He brought them to the land of promise, opening up the Jordan river for them to pass through.

It is a symbol of the destruction of our past and sinful lives. We have been immersed in the water just as our Lord Jesus was, and we share in His death together, His death on the cross. And water is also a symbol of life, for water is needed for us to continue living. Thus, it is also a symbol of our sharing of the Lord’s glorious resurrection from the dead, that each and every one of us who have been baptised now have in us the promise of everlasting life Jesus had made to His disciples.

The holy oil of chrism is a reminder of the anointment which our God had given us, just as He had anointed His Messiah or Saviour, to be the One through Whom salvation would come into this world. We receive the Holy Spirit through Him, and the Spirit of God Himself lives inside of us. And therefore all of us have been made the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Temples of God. For God Himself is amongst us, and He resides within us.

We received the candle lighted with the flame from the Easter Candle, and this is the representation of the Light of Christ, the Risen Lord, through Whom we have seen the true Light and rejoice, because we have been living in the darkness, and He has come to save us all from the darkness of this world, and bring us into a new world of light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all today remember the day of our baptism, and if we were still then too small and too young to remember what happened, then at least let us all reflect on all the significance of our baptismal ceremony and what it means for us all Christians to become the sons and daughters of God by our baptism, which we share with the Lord Jesus, our Lord and God.

And most importantly, we have to remember that just as Jesus began His earthly ministry by His baptism, each and every one of us as Christians have been entrusted with the divine ministry by our Lord Himself, Who tasked us all to go forth and to bring the Good News to all the peoples of all the nations. And we need to do this by being genuine disciples and followers of our Lord, and by practicing our faith through real actions, through our good works.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He also strengthen our faith, which we have with us ever since the day of our baptism. May we all grow stronger in our conviction and desire to serve Him, our Lord and Master, and be more courageous and dedicated in the mission which He had entrusted to all of us. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 9 January 2017 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Mark 3 : 13-17

At that time, Jesus went up into the hill country, and called those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve to be with Him, and He called them ‘Apostles’. He wanted to send them out to preach, and He gave them authority to drive out demons.

These are the Twelve : Simon to whom He gave the name Peter; James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, which means ‘men of thunder’.

Monday, 9 January 2017 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White
Psalm 28 : 1-4, 9-10

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

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

The voice of the Lord makes the oaks shudder, 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.

Monday, 9 January 2017 : 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 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.

Alternative reading
Acts 10 : 34-38

Peter then spoke to Cornelius and his family, “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 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, 8 January 2017 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of us will remember that this Solemnity of the Epiphany is related to the Three Wise Men, or the Three Magi or Three Kings, which figurines are always accompanying the Christmas crib, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense for our Lord Jesus. But then, what is the true meaning and significance of this Epiphany feast?

The word Epiphany came from the Greek word ‘Epiphaneia’, which means the manifestation or appearance, coming from the word ‘Appear’. This feast is also sometimes known as the Theophany, also from the Greek word ‘Theos’ which means God. Thus, this Solemnity of the Epiphany is truly a celebration of the revelation and manifestation of the Lord God, Who made Himself apparent to the whole world through the means of the Three Wise Men or the Three Kings.

It was a feast originally celebrating the Baptism of our Lord Jesus, as at Baptism, when St. John the Baptist baptised Jesus, many people who were there could witness the Holy Spirit descending as a Dove and landed upon the head of Jesus, and the voice of the Father speaking, revealing to all, particularly to St. John the Baptist, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He is the long awaited Messiah and Saviour of the world.

But over time, especially in the tradition of our Faith, the focus shifted to the moment surrounding the Nativity of our Lord, the moments surrounding His birth. The Angels had appeared to the shepherds of Bethlehem and proclaimed to them the great joy of the coming of the Lord and Saviour, the Good News which mankind had awaited for long, and which God had promised to them for many ages through His prophets and messengers.

Yet it was at the events celebrated this Epiphany when the Lord revealed Himself to His people who were of non-Jewish origin, namely the Gentiles, people from faraway lands, who also came to worship God, and who wanted to believe in Him and in His ways and messages. The Three Wise Men, or the Magi, represented these people, who came following the Star of Bethlehem and came bearing gifts to Jesus our Lord, paying Him homage as their one and true King.

There are many symbolisms surrounding the event of this Epiphany, and which we should try to understand so that we may make use of them as best as we can in order to benefit ourselves in our developing faith in our God. For in the Epiphany, we should be able to relate to ourselves and our journey in faith to God, and in the identity of the One Whom we worship, the Lord God of all creation.

The Three Kings or the Three Wise Men are representatives for us all, people from every nations, from every languages and origins, from all the ends of the earth, who came to worship the Lord and who want to believe in Him. They were following the Star of Bethlehem, which represented the coming of the Lord, Who is indeed the Light of the world. Amidst the darkened sky, the star shone brightly, visible from afar, all the way to the lands where the Magi lived in.

That was just like how we saw the Lord, the Light of our lives, amidst the darkness of this world, and we see in Him, the Light which we ought to follow, and which we indeed want to follow. It is also because of faith that they have travelled long distances, enduring difficult conditions of their journey to come and pay homage to the King of kings. That is why the star of Bethlehem is also a sign of faith, the same faith which we share in our own journey of faith. We may have different stories of how our lives had developed, but nevertheless, all of us believe in God and want to look for Him.

Through this event, we know how the Lord wanted to save us all from the threat of our destruction. He did not intend just for the salvation of certain group of people, but all of mankind, including Jews and non-Jews alike. At that time, there were those who thought that being the chosen people of God, the people of Israel were the only ones who were worthy of God’s salvation, particularly among the Pharisees and the elders of the people.

These people shunned the pagans and foreigners, whom they called as Gentiles. They thought of these people as unclean and unworthy of God and His love, and even considered coming into contact and entering their houses as being defiling and brought impurities upon them. But it was God Himself through Jesus Who broke the barriers and the perceptions, proclaiming to all that God loves all people, all of His children, both Jews and Gentiles alike.

We can see the contrast in many occasions throughout the Gospels, when the supposedly pagan Gentiles, from the Greeks to the Samaritans, actually welcomed the Lord and His teachings through Christ, while the Jews themselves were not always receptive to Him, and in some occasions they even rejected and opposed Him, as what the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees and the elders of the people did.

God, through His revelation in this Epiphany wanted to show all of His people, that He is God, Who had come into the world in the form of Man in Jesus Christ, through Whom He would bring His salvation to all of His people without exception. It will not be based on the birth or background of His people that He would save them, but instead, He would save them through faith. Those who believe in Him and place their trust in Him will be saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that we have discussed about how and why God revealed Himself to the whole world, then now let us all discuss how God revealed Himself to the world through the Three Wise Men. They brought to Jesus our Lord three different and truly unique gifts. Do we all know the significance of those gifts? Each of them had a meaning, and each of them indeed are parts of the revelation of Who Jesus truly is.

The gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh are indeed strange gifts to be given to a newborn Child. Now let us go through each one of them. Gold is a precious metal which since long ago have become a source of wonder and amazement to many people around the world, and it has long become a symbol of wealth and power. And it was often that gold are fit only for the rulers, the royalty and all those who were endowed with power and authority. Not just any person were able to afford t possess gold.

Thus gold represented Jesus Who came into this world as a King, and not just like any other kings, but as the King, the one true King, from Whom all power and authority came from. All the other rulers of this world ultimately derived their authority and power from the Lord, Who blessed them and granted them the guardianship over His people on earth.

Yet we can see just how amazing our Lord and our King is, for although He is a great King, Lord and Master of all the Universe, He is humble, loving and caring for all of His people. And He is showing all by His own examples. He is a leader, a King Who does not sit above everyone else and oppress those who are under Him. Instead, He is a servant leader, Who went through the lowest and the most difficult things a leader had to do, that is to actually go and do the works in order to help His people.

And indeed, even as God, He is not a distant and fearsome God Who oppresses His people. The frankincense is the best quality incense which are both rare and expensive, and are only used for the most solemn of purposes for worship. Incense had been used for a long time as well, in many religious purposes, for the worship of deities and gods, as well as an aromatic perfume because of its aroma and good smelling smoke.

Thus the frankincense represents the divinity of Christ, that Jesus, while He was a mere Baby, weak and fragile, born in a dirty and cramped stable fit only for animals, not for a man, less so a king, and even less so for the King of kings and as the Creator and only God of the whole Universe, was and is indeed God, the only One Who deserves to be worshipped and adored by all of creation.

Through those two gifts, the story of the Epiphany, the visit of the Three Magi or Wise Men has inspired in the hearts of many people about the birth of our Lord, Who has willingly come down upon this world as a Man, taking up the flesh of Man, and born in the worst possible condition, in a poor and dirty stable, and yet, He is indeed the God and King of this world, and this universe. He is both God and Man at the same time, all united in the person of Jesus Christ, Who had two natures, the Divine Nature of God, and the Human nature of Man.

But all these would not be complete, neither would it make sense without the third gift of the Three Magi, which revealed to us all, the very purpose of why Jesus came into this world, why God would want to enter into this world as a mere Man. Myrrh is an aromatic compound commonly used in the past for the purpose of embalming dead bodies, to preserve the dead bodies from decomposition and from emanating foul odours.

It would indeed be weird for someone to give the gift of myrrh to a baby, and less so, to the King of kings and the Creator God of all. But that myrrh represent nothing other than the Passion of our Lord Jesus, what we are celebrating at every Holy Week, of Jesus Christ our Lord, Who willingly took upon Himself the burdens of our sins, the sins of our forefathers, and indeed of all mankind. And He bore it all upon Himself, bearing His cross to Calvary, where He laid down His life for all of us, that we may live.

Thus in Epiphany and what we celebrate today, we see the perfect embodiment and fulfilment of God’s love, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Child Who was born that night in Bethlehem two millennia ago, and to Whom the Three Magi or Wise Men paid homage to, bearing the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, signifying and revealing to all the whole world that He is not just a mere Child, but indeed the King of the whole world, God of all creation, Who out of His infinite love and mercy for us, willingly took up the flesh of Man, incarnate through the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, to be our Saviour.

Now, what we need to ask ourselves as Christians, is simple indeed. As Christians, do we truly believe in God’s love through Christ? Do we take Him as our King and our Lord? Have we lived in accordance with His ways, in our actions and deeds? If we say that God is our King and Lord, and yet our actions, words and deeds do not reflect our obedience and adherence to His ways, will it not cause shame and scandal to our Lord’s great and holy Name?

Let us all spend time to reflect on ourselves and our respective lives as we celebrate and rejoice together in this feast and Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord. Let us all first of all be thankful to God Who has loved us so much, that He is willing to reveal Himself and His love through Jesus Christ His Son, His greatest gift to all of us. He has sent us the means of our salvation, our liberation from our sins and the One through Whom all of our past trespasses will be forgiven.

May we all grow ever deeper in our relationship with God, and by understanding more about our Lord, by receiving His revelations and understanding them, by our prayerful life and good works, we may receive from Him the gift of everlasting life and grace. May God be with us always and may He bless us in all of our life’s endeavours. Have a blessed and wonderful celebration of the Epiphany. Amen.

Sunday, 8 January 2017 : 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, 8 January 2017 : 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.