Sunday, 5 January 2020 : 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 great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, one of the great celebrations during the season of Christmas, commemorating the moment when three great men, known as either the Three Magi or Three Kings or Three Wise Men came to visit and pay homage to the newborn Christ in Bethlehem, the place of His birth, bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This great celebration is known as the Epiphany of the Lord from the original Greek word ‘Epiphaneia’ which means the unveiling or revelation, linking to the occasion of the visit of the Magi who came from the faraway lands as the revelation of the Messiah to the people in distant lands, as representative of the many nations that will come to worship the Lord and praise Him. Through the three gifts of the Magi, the truth of the Messiah was also unveiled to us, though it might not have been known right at that moment of time Who He was.

First of all, the gift of gold represents Christ’s kingship and power, as He has come as King, the King of Israel and the King of the whole world, the One Who was prophesied to be sitting on the throne of David, His ancestor. Gold has always been valued by many cultures and civilisations for a very long time, and it has always been associated as a symbol of wealth and power, and therefore, they are often possessed by the rich and the powerful, especially the lords and kings of the nations.

Therefore, the Three Magi came to honour the King Who has come into this world as He has promised. But it is also important for us to note how Christ chose to be born into this world. He did not come in great wealth and power, unlike the lords and kings of this world. He was born into poverty and suffering, and not in a large and sumptuous palace, but in a small, dirty stable that was not suitable at all for the dwelling of any man.

But that was how Our Lord and King chose to come into this world, not into wealth and privilege, not into glory or fame, but into obscurity and in the most humiliating condition possible to highlight that His Kingship is unlike any of the kingship and any ruling in this world. His Kingship is not bound and neither can it be described by any worldly parameters, for His Kingship and authority come from Himself and not from worldly wealth, power, fame or any of the sorts.

And then, He is not just like any other kings of the earth because He is also at the same time, God and the Divine Word Incarnate, as represented by the gift of frankincense. Incense are fragrances from aromatic sources like hardened tree sap and liquids that are often used from the earliest history of mankind for the purpose of worship of the spirits and the divine. Frankincense are the finest type of incense reserved only for the most solemn occurrences, and therefore the gift of frankincense by the Magi showed us that He is the Lord, Our God.

Jesus Christ, Our Lord and King is also the Son of God, fully Man and fully God, having human nature and divine nature united in His one person, and this is the truth about Himself, born of a woman and yet also the eternal God from before the beginning of time, the mystery of our faith revealed to us today. And the gift of frankincense was truly an acknowledgement that this Child born the Messiah, was God Incarnate and ought to be worshipped.

This is where the irony can be seen more plainly, as we know how things would turn out as the Lord later embarked on His ministry. King Herod the Great wanted Him dead, and the Pharisees and many of the elders and teachers of the Law refused to believe in Him, those leaders of the people to whom God had sent His own Son. Yet, it was from the Magi, from the faraway, non-Jewish lands that the acknowledgement of the Lord Jesus as not only King but also God, were given.

Now, as we then look at the third and the last of the gifts of the Three Magi, we will then fully understand the significance of not just these gifts but also what it means for us to have God Himself dwelling in our midst and why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place. The third and last of the gifts is myrrh, an expensive and rare fragrance and spice used typically for embalming of the dead bodies.

Such a gift would have been unthinkable and weird to be given to a newborn Child. Why would someone give a perfume used for the preparation of dead bodies as a gift for a Child? But this is exactly symbolic of what the Lord’s ministry in this world, as a revelation of what He would do to fulfil that mission. I refer to how Christ suffered, took the burden of His Cross and endured all the bitterness, and died for us. That myrrh symbolised this death that Christ suffered through for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we can see, the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are representative of the truth about the Messiah Whom the Magi paid homage to at Bethlehem, the King Whose coming was promised, Who is also Divine, Word of God, the Son of the Father Who assumed our human existence and flesh, all so that He could fulfil the completion of God’s plan to save us, by His suffering, Passion and death on the Cross.

Thus, through the events surrounding the Epiphany today, all of us see how God revealed Himself to the nations, represented by the Three Magi who had endured great trials and distances to pay a visit and worship the One Whose coming they have seen in the great Star of Bethlehem. And what is remarkable is how those Magi, who were very wise and knowledgeable, were willing to bear the difficulties and challenges of distant travel at a time when travelling was hazardous and difficult.

They followed the Star which guided them to the One they had been looking for, and today’s events were the culmination of what was probably many months of travel from the homeland of the Magi to Bethlehem, finally seeing the Holy One of God. We saw the faith of the Magi in entrusting themselves to this small, little Child, Whom they recognised as the One Who would save the entire world as prophesied.

Once again, this is completely contrary to the attitude of those to whom God had actually sent His Son to first, that is the Israelites. They have all known the prophecies and the promises of God, and yet many among them failed to believe or even refused to believe in Him. Some would even want to destroy Him and His works because they saw in the Lord Jesus a bitter rival for influence among the people of God. God has revealed His truth to them in many occasions and through many signs, but because they hardened their hearts, they did not have the faith.

Today on this Solemnity of the Epiphany therefore, all of us are called to reflect on the faith that all of us have in the Lord, on whether we truly have faith in the Lord, believing in everything that He has revealed to us as we celebrate it in this Epiphany of the Lord. Through the Epiphany with the Wise Men or Magi, all of us are shown the wonderful manifestation of God’s love through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, He Who is King as honoured by gold, Who is also God as worshipped by the frankincense, and Who will bear the Cross and die for our sake as anointed with the myrrh.

God has revealed the fullness of love to us through Christ, His Son, and we have heard how the Magi went on the arduous and long journey to seek Him. Such a dedication can only happen when one has faith and love for God, that the person is able to do what he or she can do to follow the Lord and to seek Him out even through the trials and challenges present in our life. Are we able to have this same faith in us, brothers and sisters in Christ?

This Solemnity of the Epiphany is a timely reminder for us all to rediscover our faith and love for God, knowing first of all how He has loved us so dearly before everything else, that He gave us all the most wonderful gift of all, King, Lord and Saviour all in one. By His death and resurrection, Christ has saved us all from our certain destruction because of our sins and faults. He has given us everything so that we will not perish and have eternal life through Him. So, are we then able to dedicate ourselves to Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend time to think about how we can grow further in faith and dedicate our time and attention to love the Lord with greater fidelity from now on. Let us all grow in faith and learn to trust the Lord in all things, spending the time and effort to build a stronger and better relationship with God in each and every moments of our lives.

And as God has revealed Himself to us, let us all be witnesses to His truth and reveal Him to the nations and to all those who have not yet known Him. Let us all do this by our role model and good example, doing our best to live our lives according to our faith from now on. Those who see us will know of our faith, and through that, they will come to know God. Hopefully like the Magi coming to see the Lord, many more people too will come to worship the Lord. May God be with us all and His Church, always. Amen.

Sunday, 5 January 2020 : 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, 5 January 2020 : 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, 5 January 2020 : 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, 5 January 2020 : 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.