Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, the time which is usually associated with the ending of the Christmas season, or Christmastide, although in some traditional celebrations, the season of Christmas does not end until the second day of February, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, following a forty day period for Christmas.

On this day, we commemorate that moment, when Christ began His earthly ministry, to begin the works which He had been born into this world for, that is to herald and bring about salvation to all mankind, and to liberate them from their sins and from the chains of wickedness, evil, sin and death. It was at that moment of His baptism that He officially began His earthly ministry, and this is truly important to all of us as well in its meaning.

This is also the model of our Church’s sacrament of holy baptism, the first of the seven sacraments and the first one that a believer, either as a baby or as a catechumen deciding to follow the Lord, must receive, before he or she would be able to receive the other sacraments, such as the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Most Holy Eucharist, Penance or that of the Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders.

It was through baptism that a faithful is welcomed into the Church of God, and through baptism, the faithful was sealed with the seal of the Living God, and became one with all the other members of the Church, adopted as God’s children and become partakers of God’s plan of salvation and in His everlasting kingdom of joy and happiness. Without baptism, the state of our souls will continue to be in limbo and darkness.

Just as Christ was immersed in the waters of the Jordan, we too have been immersed in the water during our baptism. Water itself has many symbolic meanings, the most common of which is its purifying capacity, where water cleanses things that are dirty and corrupted, and washes away all dirt and unpleasant things. It is also a symbol of life, since water is crucial for life, and absolutely no life could have existed in the absence of water.

And thus, as we were immersed in the water during our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, we were also purified from the taints of our past sins, the wickedness and corruptions of sin that had been with us, and by the holy water blessed and made pure by the hands of the priests, the Lord Jesus had made us all whole again in body and in spirit, just as He had once healed the lepers, the sick and the dying.

And water can also bring death, as we have seen how water can be so destructive in occurrences such as tsunamis, floods and various other forces of water that brought death and misery, just as it can also bring life, and indeed is essential for life. Thus, the waters of baptism symbolised that death which all of us ought to share in the Lord, that through this sharing with His death, we may also have a share in His glorious resurrection.

Yes, the waters of baptism is a symbol of the death and the end of our old life on earth, in our commitment to abandon and reject sin and Satan in all of its forms, and by dying to this old life, as St. Paul had mentioned, we left behind all of the attachments, the bonds and the chains that kept us in our old ways and which had prevented us from attaining God’s salvation and grace.

The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan is a symbol for us all to remember, for even though He Himself was different, as He was without any taint of sin, and yet He chose to lower Himself and be immersed in the Jordan, and baptised by His servant John the Baptist, but through that action, we should now be able to understand clearly what our Lord had intended for us to do with our own lives.

Before the Lord Jesus was baptised, since the day when He was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in a stable, His parents had cared for Him very well, both His mother Mary, as well as His foster father St. Joseph. And He was brought up in Nazareth, the village where His family lived in, and where He Himself grew up as all men did, and He grew both in knowledge, wisdom and strength, and in the favour in the sight of God.

And as His father St. Joseph was a hardworking carpenter, and considering the fact that sons normally followed in the footsteps of their fathers, it was likely that Jesus was perhaps once a carpenter too, or at least that He knew how to handle things as His foster father had done. And so, He likely dealt with things and matters of the world such as crafting furnitures and other wooden objects.

Yet, when He was baptised by John at the Jordan, that was the moment when all was revealed regarding Jesus, His true nature and His mission on earth. And afterward, He began His ministry, tending to the sick, both in body and in spirit, and He blessed many people, fed them, and gave them the Good News of God through His own words.

And in the end, He carried up the cross that was burdened with all of our sins and iniquities, and He bore all these up with Him as He ascended the hill of Calvary, stretched up between the heavens and the earth, and He gave up His own life, as a perfect and fitting sacrifice to serve as the absolution and the forgiveness for all the multitudes of our sins and their effects.

In all these, we have to realise that the story of our Lord Jesus from His baptism to His death on the cross is actually the example of our own Christian life, of how we are all expected to live out our lives in faith. We who have received the gift of baptism should therefore go forth and do as the Lord Himself had done, loving one another, forgiving those who have done bad things to us, praying even for our enemies and for those who persecute us, as well as other things that He had commanded us all to do.

This is what we need to do, and this is what we should indeed do as those who call themselves as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and wholeheartedly follow His laws and commandments, so that in everything that we say and do, we will always be faithful, and bring glory to our Lord and God. May God bless us all and keep us in His grace, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 3 : 15-16, 21-22

At that time, the people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could He be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water, but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal.”

Now, with all the people who came to be baptised, Jesus too was baptised. Then, while He was praying, the heavens opened : the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the bodily form of a Dove, and a Voice from Heaven was heard, “You are My Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Titus 2 : 11-14 and Titus 3 : 4-7

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teaching us to reject an irreligious way of life and worldly greed, and to live in this world as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope – the glorious manifestation of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus. He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from every evil and to purify a people He wanted to be His own and dedicated to what is good.

But God our Saviour revealed His eminent goodness and love for humankind and saved us, not because of good deeds we may have done but for the sake of His own mercy, to the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit poured over us through Christ Jesus our Saviour, so that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Alternative reading

Acts 10 : 34-38

Peter then spoke to the disciples of Christ, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and and does good. And this is the message He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace 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, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30

Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment; You stretch out the heavens like a tent.

You build Your upper rooms above the waters. You make the clouds Your chariot and ride on the wings of the wind; You make the winds Your messengers, and fire and flame Your ministers.

How varied, o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Behold the sea, wide and vast, teeming with countless creatures, living things both great and small.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

When You hide Your face they vanish, You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Alternative reading

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, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes your God with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty.

Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Alternative reading

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.

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.”