Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the last day of the liturgical season of Christmas as beginning tomorrow we will begin the Ordinary Time that will last up to the day before Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent. And today as mentioned, we recall the extraordinary occasion of the Lord’s baptism at the Jordan by St. John the Baptist, marking the beginning of His ministry in this world.

On this day, we remember that moment when the Lord came to the River Jordan, asking St. John the Baptist to do what he was supposed to do, in baptising Him so that by passing through the water of baptism, He may come to share in our baptism and show unto us the depths of God’s amazing love for each and every one of us. Through the Lord’s baptism, all of us are brought closer to experience the fullness of the truth about God’s love.

We may be wondering why is it that the Lord had to undergo His baptism at the Jordan, because the baptism of St. John was the baptism of repentance, of the desire of man to turn back against their sinful and wicked ways, and embrace God’s love and grace. But the Lord was without any sin, and sin has no place in Him, so how is it then that the Lord asked for baptism from St. John?

This was precisely also why St. John was completely taken by surprise when the Lord asked him to baptise Him, and in fact St. John told the Lord that it was Him Who was supposed to baptise him, a human and a sinner as he was, even though he was indeed the Herald of the Saviour. St. John the Baptist himself had said that he was unworthy to even untie the sandals of the Lord, Who would come after him.

And here we see the Lord instead humbling Himself and abasing Himself so lowly that He was willing to take the place and position of a servant and a sinner, by asking to be baptised by St. John. Through His baptism, the Lord showed us that He truly wants to reach out to us, and to rescue us from our sins. And by this baptism, the Lord revealed before all, what He would do in order to save us all.

We celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord just right after the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord because traditionally together with the events of the Epiphany, as well as the Wedding at Cana, the Lord manifested and revealed Himself, His nature and the purpose of His coming into this world to all of us plainly, revealed before all of us that we may come to know of the infinite love of God.

The Lord at His Baptism was revealed by the Father Himself to be His Son, as the heavens were opened and the Lord’s voice was heard, ‘This is My Son, My Beloved, My favour rests on Him’. And a dove came down on the Lord, descending on Him from the Father, the symbol of the descent of the Holy Spirit. And therefore, at that very moment, the Lord did not just reveal His Son to be the Saviour of all, but also His nature as a God in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

At Christmas, we have seen the salvation of our God coming down to us in the flesh, born as Man, through the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit through Mary, the Mother of God and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Our Lord, Jesus Christ, we have therefore seen the perfect manifestation of God’s love and His desire to save us all mankind, to make us whole again and to heal us from our predicaments and bondage to sin.

Now that we all know of how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God and how we have received this share in the glory and salvation in God through our own Christian baptism, sharing in the baptism of Christ, then we must reflect on just how important our baptism is to us, and what is meant for us to be Christians, having been brought into the Church through the holy water of baptism.

Through baptism, all of us have received a share in Christ, sharing in His humanity and in all that He had suffered, as He gathered all of our sins and their consequences to Himself, all nailed to the Cross as He suffered and eventually died. And through our baptism, we have been led through the waters, just as the Israelites of old passed through the Red Sea on their journey from slavery into freedom.

Thus, we have died to our old lives of sin and bondage to those sins, and brought through the power of God, via the holy waters of our Baptismal sacrament, and became new, free sons and daughters of mankind, and also becoming the children of God, by adoption because if Christ is the Son of God, then all of us who share in the humanity of Christ also become sons and daughters of God.

And as God’s beloved children and the people of the Light of God, today as we recall in the Lord’s baptism, marking the beginning of His ministry in this world, all of us are then reminded of the great commission that the Lord Himself has entrusted to us, to all baptised Christians and members of His Church. This commission is for us to go forth to the nations and baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must be the bearers of God’s truth and love to the nations, to all the people as members and parts of the Church. There are still so many people out there who have not yet received God’s truth and appreciate or know God’s love, unlike what we have ourselves received and experienced. And it is indeed up to us to share and reveal what we know to others.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is not by loud words and proclamations, but rather through our every actions in life, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to be. Even the smallest actions can either make people to come to believe in God through us, or to push people away from God and His salvation. It is by all these that we can either inspire or prevent people from coming to God.

We can become genuine and good witnesses of our Christian faith through our dedication and faithful actions, in showing love and kindness, compassion and empathy to others whenever we can, in showing care and concern for those who need them, in loving sincerely and generously just as the Lord has loved us. Or have we instead caused scandal for our faith by our immoral and wicked actions?

These are some things that we really need to think about and consider carefully as we proceed in life. That is why, as we end this season of Christmas and begin the season of Ordinary Time, are we going to make these next few weeks be truly ordinary, brothers and sisters in Christ? Although they are called the days and season of the Ordinary Time, by no means in fact that they should be ordinary.

Rather, it means that it is time for us to get our actions ready and to do something, to participate as we should in the good works of the Church, just as the Lord Himself began His ministry after His baptism. Baptism is not the end of our faith journey, brothers and sisters in Christ, but it is in fact the beginning of a new journey, a journey filled with God’s grace and blessed by Him.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ, to be fully dedicated to the Lord at all times, and to do whatever we can with the time and the opportunities given to us. Let us all contribute to the good works of the Church, and be faithful and genuine witnesses of Christ through our lives, and through how we touch the lives of others positively, at all times. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 1 : 7-11

John preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And the moment He came up out of the water, heaven opened before Him, and He saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove.

And these words were heard from heaven, “You are My Son, the Beloved, the One I have chosen.”

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 5 : 1-9

All those, who believe that Jesus is the Anointed, are born of God; whoever loves the Father, loves the Son. How may we know, that we love the children of God? If we love God and fulfil His commands, for God’s love requires us to keep His commands.

In fact, His commandments are not a burden because all those born of God overcome the world. And the victory, which overcomes the world, is our faith. Who has overcome the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus Christ was acknowledged through water, but also through blood. Not only water, but water and blood. And the Spirit, too, witnesses to Him, for the Spirit is truth. There are, then, three testimonies : the Spirit, the water and the blood, and these three witnesses agree.

If we accept human testimony, with greater reason must we accept that of God, given in favour of His Son.

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One Who saved me.

You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation. Then you will say : “Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.”

“Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done, let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Sunday, 10 January 2021 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 55 : 1-11

Come here, all you who are thirsty, come to the water! All who have no money, come! Yes, without money and at no cost, buy and drink wine and milk. Why spend money on what is not food and labour for what does not satisfy? Listen to me, and you will eat well; you will enjoy the richest of fare.

Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, that your soul may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, I will fulfil in you My promises to David. See, I have given him for a witness to the nations, a leader and commander of the people. Likewise you will summon a nation unknown to you, and nations that do not know you will come hurrying to you for the sake of YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel, for He has promoted you.

Seek YHVH while He may be found; call to Him while He is near. Let the wicked abandon his way, let him forsake his thoughts, let him turn to YHVH for He will have mercy, for our God is generous in forgiving. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways, says YHVH.

For as the heavens are above the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return till they have watered the earth, making it yield seed for the sower and food for others to eat, so is My Word that goes forth out of My mouth : It will not return to Me idle, but It shall accomplish My will, the purpose for which It has been sent.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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 Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, one of the most important celebrations of the Liturgical Year. This Solemnity of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the Messiah or the Saviour of the world to all the nations and the peoples of the world. The word Epiphany came from the Greek word ‘Epiphaneia’, which means revelation and manifestation.

That is why today, on this celebration of the Epiphany of the Lord, we focus our attention on the manifestation and revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour of the whole world to all the nations, represented by the Holy Magi or the Wise Men. That is why the celebration of the Epiphany is closely tied to the Three Wise Men or Magi, and in the Gospel we heard of the account of their visit to the Lord at His manger in Bethlehem, guided by the bright Star of Bethlehem.

The Magi saw the Star of Bethlehem from afar as a very prominent and bright star, and as they were educated and intelligent people who perhaps dwelled in astrology and other studies, they knew that a very prominent event was about to happen, and in this case, it was the upcoming birth and arrival of the Saviour of the world as prophesied by the many prophets and wise men throughout the centuries and millennia past.

They undertook the very long and arduous journey from their respective lands, as was common at that time, travelling a long time and enduring difficult conditions to reach the place pointed at by the Star. Although their names were not recorded in the Scriptures, but according to the Church traditions, their names were Caspar or Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar or Balthazar. Their places of origin were often given as India, Persia and Arabia or other relatively distant places.

We heard of how they came to king Herod, the ruler of the land, both to ask for advice and direction, as well as to courteously seek permission to find the One prophesied and shown by the Star, which happened to be in the land under the rule of the king. Herod however became immediately suspicious and fearful over the news of a rival King that would come into the world, fearing that this King would seize the power and authority from him and his family.

King Herod the Great himself was in fact not a Jew or descendant of the Israelites, but rather a Nabatean, one of the neighbouring people of the Israelites. He also seized power from the rightful rulers of the land, the Hasmoneans in a coup engineered and supported by the Romans, who then came to be overlords of the region. As such, king Herod the Great always felt very insecure in his reign, and this news of the coming of a new King certainly unsettled him a lot.

Nonetheless, the Magi managed to get his permission, regardless of the vicious plots that Herod would later on execute in trying to destroy this new threat to his reign as king. The Magi eventually came to Bethlehem after a long journey and saw the King of kings, the One shown to them by the Star and prophesied by the prophets, and they recognised Him and paid Him homage.

And now I want to bring all of our attentions to the gifts that each of the Magi brought before the Lord in homage and submission. Each of these gifts were precious on their own and had great symbolic meaning and importance. The gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh had greater symbolic meaning than what their earthly values might have shown, and it revealed to us all, Who the Lord that the Magi had paid homage to, truly is.

First of all, the gift of gold signifies royalty and kingship, as gold at that time symbolises glory and wealth just as it is still the case today. Therefore this gift of gold signifies that the Lord was truly a King, and indeed not just like any other kings of this world, but the one True King of all, the King of Kings and Lord of lords. He has come into this world as King but not behaving like other kings, for instead of seeking to be served, He came to serve His people, His beloved ones.

Then, the gift of frankincense has two important meaning, first being a symbol of Christ’s role as the High Priest of all, the one True and Eternal High Priest signifying how He would offer the perfect sacrifice and offering to redeem us from our sins, and be the worthy sacrifice and absolution from our shortcomings. Incense is usually used by the priests as the offering of prayers to the gods, and in this way, it emphasised Christ’s High Priest role.

Frankincense then is also a mark of Christ’s divinity, for when offered to Him in homage by the Magi, this offering of the finest quality incense signified the sanctity of God, that the Child born of Mary in Bethlehem was not just a mere Man or a mere Child. He is God Himself in the flesh, possessing two distinct but inseparable natures of Man and Divine concurrently in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Last of all, is the gift of myrrh from the Magi. On a hindsight, the gift of myrrh is truly a bewildering one given that while myrrh is an expensive commodity and spice highly sought after and rare, but it was also commonly used in the preservation and embalming of dead bodies, which is why given that this was presented to the Child Jesus, it might have been strange at a glance.

However, the myrrh is an important reminder and revelation of the role that the Lord would take up in fulfilling His ministry, as the precursor and sign to His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross. The myrrh therefore marked the great sacrifice and love of God for us all that He would even suffer and go through the most terrible pain and humiliation for our sake, unto death for us.

The gifts of the Magi, the gold, frankincense and myrrh therefore revealed the true nature of the Lord and Saviour, He Who is King over all and the Lord over all things, Who is also the Most High and Almighty God, and at the same time, also the Eternal High Priest of all creation, having been incarnate as Man, and through His humanity united to His divinity, He would suffer for our sake, bearing His Cross of love, that through His suffering and death, all are to be saved from their sins and from the eternal damnation.

The Lord has revealed Himself to the Jews, to His own people at the moment of His presentation and circumcision at the Temple of God, and then now, as celebrated in this Epiphany, He has also revealed Himself and His intentions to the non-Jewish people as well, showing that everything He has promised, He would do for everyone without bias or regard for their race or origin, their status or descent among others. All are equally beloved by God, and He is the Lord and Saviour of all.

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany, we are therefore brought to focus on the Lord’s ever present love for each and every one of us, and reminded of the same love that He has showered on us from the very beginning. Through Christ all of us have seen the salvation of God, and while once we were in the darkness, but through Him and our faith in Him, hope has been restored to us, and we have been strengthened and rejuvenated as God’s beloved children once again.

On this day as we focus on the revelation of the Lord to the nations, as He has shown Himself to the Magi, let us all remember the dedication and commitment of the Magi who answered the Lord’s call and sought for Him as they braved the dangers of the long journey just so that they might pay homage to Him and to worship Him. Their faith is an inspiration to all of us, just as according to the Church traditions, the Magi lived to old age and became Christians themselves, and took part in their respective ministry until their lives’ end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, on this Solemnity of the Epiphany, are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of the Magi and seek the Lord with renewed zeal and love for Him? Are we willing to renew our faith and commitment to the Lord, that we may ourselves be inspiration for our fellow brothers and sisters, and through us, we may inspire even more people and call more people to the Lord’s salvation and grace? This is our calling as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us all inspire each other to be ever more faithful to God in all things that we may truly be worthy to call ourselves as Christians and bear the Light of Christ within ourselves. May our actions and deeds, our words and interactions be like the bright Star of Bethlehem shining its bright light in the darkness of the world. Let us all bear faithful witness to our Lord and Saviour, for all the love and commitment He has shown us all these while.

May God, our Lord, King, High Priest and Saviour, revealed and manifested to the whole world, be our Light and Guide, and may He be our Strength as we continue to walk faithfully in His presence in this world bearing witness to His truth and love. May He bless us all in our every good endeavours and works, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 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.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021 : 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.