Sunday, 26 January 2020 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third Sunday in Ordinary Time beginning from this year onwards, our Holy Father and Vicar of Christ Pope Francis has declared the institution of the Sunday of the Word of God, to be celebrated on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time every year. The purpose of this celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God is a very important reminder to all of us as Christians that the Scriptures are very important and integral in the development of our faith.

The Scriptures are none other than the Word of God, as God spoke to us through them, and those who had contributed and written the books in the Scripture were divinely inspired by God and the Holy Spirit to pass down the message of God’s truth to us. The Church has also authoritatively decided the books that are to be kept as part of the official canon of the Scripture, and from then on, we have the Bible as what we now have today.

And this emphasis on the Word of God today on this Sunday is very important to all of us the faithful people of God as the Word of God is our daily sustenance and the source of our strength and faith. When the Lord Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, the devil wanted to tempt the Lord Who was hungry that He should turn the stones into bread for Him to eat. The Lord rebuked Satan sternly saying that ‘man does not live on bread alone, but on every words that come from the mouth of God’.

But the Word of God in this case does not just refer to the Scriptures, as the Word of God as we know it, also refers to the Christ Himself, because Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is also known as the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who assumed the flesh and nature of Man for our salvation. While the Father is the Creator in the Holy Trinity and the Holy Spirit passes through all creation, the Son is the Word by which God created the world.

And this same Word of God has become incarnate, appearing in the flesh, as Jesus our Lord and Saviour. This makes the Scriptures even more significant, as the Scriptures become the manifestation of the truth of God, as we all know that the Bible consist of two main parts namely the Old Testament and the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the Word of God was revealed through the elders and the prophets who passed on parts of the revelation of God’s truth. And then in the New Testament, all that had been revealed and spoken in the Old Testament were confirmed in the truth of Christ.

In the New Testament, we heard the word of God from the Son Himself, the authentic and true Word revealing the truth of God’s will and plan for us. And those who wrote the Holy Gospels and the letters of the Apostles were divinely inspired through the Holy Spirit and by the experiences they encountered, to bring to us this sustenance in the Word of God, the sustenance of our soul, our mind, our heart and indeed of our whole being. Without this sustenance, our spiritual life will be empty and dead, and it will be easy for us to lose our faith.

That is why it is absolutely necessary for us to appreciate this great gift and blessing we have received in the Word of God, through the Sacred Scriptures easily and readily accessible and available for us. In the Second Vatican Council, through the Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, which means ‘Word of God’, the importance of the Sacred Scriptures was once again highlighted with the emphasis placed on the propagation of the Word of God among the people and the regular reading and exposure to the Scriptures by all segments of the Universal Church.

But in the same Apostolic Constitution Dei Verbum, the importance of Sacred Tradition as an inseparable part of the Church teachings and Christian truth together with the Sacred Scriptures is also highlighted and emphasised. This means that the Sacred Scriptures, the Word of God cannot be studied, read or used independently of the Sacred Traditions and the magisterium authority of the Church. This is a firm rejection of the ‘Sola Scriptura’ position of those who argued that the Bible alone is the foundation of our faith.

Rather, the Bible and the words of the Lord in it must be appreciated and understood in the context of Church teachings and the Sacred Traditions of our predecessors, passed down and preserved for us from the time of the Lord and His Apostles themselves. It is this treasure of the faith that we have been blessed with and which is now highlighted in importance by our Holy Father Pope Francis as a way to stop the rapidly declining quality of our faith and relationship with God as what we can clearly see in our Church today.

If we do not expose ourselves to the truth of God in His words, how can we know more about Him? And if we are ignorant of His truth and the meaning of His words, how can we then understand and appreciate His love? As long as we do not know Him, are ignorant of His love and blind to His truth, we cannot be truly God’s disciples and our hearts and minds will always be far away from Him. In time this will lead us further and further down the path of sin and darkness.

That is why today, on this Sunday of the Word of God, we are challenged first of all to be more active in making use of the Word of God, the Sacred Scriptures which we have received from the bounties of the Church, and be regular in our reading, study and appreciation of God’s words contained within the pages of the Scriptures. We should spend more time trying to deepen our knowledge of our faith, reading from the wisdom of the Lord contained within both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

And as we do this, we also have to keep the reference to the official teachings of the Church as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official Church documents and proclamations, all the guidelines and officially approved teachings of the faith as maintained by the magisterium of the Church and the deposit of the faith. By deepening our faith through closer interaction with the Word of God contained within the Scriptures and by keeping ourselves within the bounds of our Sacred Tradition, we will grow closer to God and be more faithful with each passing moments.

And among the best way to do that, is by paying close attention during the homily of the Holy Mass, when the priests explain the meaning and context of the proclaimed Word of God to us. Our priests have been prepared for many years in the seminaries and even many more years of experience during their priesthood to explain the truth in the Word of God according to the teachings of the Church. And this is why we also need to pray for all of them too, that they may remain faithful and true to their ministry.

It is important that we pay attention during the homily because if we do not understand, appreciate and adhere closely to the teachings of the Church, we will end up being like what happened in the early Church, divisions and struggles that appeared between the segments of the Christian faithful which threatened to tear the Church apart. It was so bad that St. Paul had to intervene through his letter, rebuking all those who put their own self interests first before serving the interest and purposes of God.

That was why we heard of the conflicts between those who declared themselves the followers of Paul and others who claimed that they followed Apollos. Both Paul and Apollos were great leaders of the early Church and they performed many good works for the evangelisation of more people. However, as their followers began to grow rapidly, those followers ended up beginning to seek their own individual agenda and interpret the Scriptures for their own benefits and selfish desires. And that was how, unfortunately, so many so-called denominations of Christianity exist because each person is free to interpret the Word of God as he or she wishes it.

That is why today, the second important thing that we need to take note of is besides deepening our understanding and knowledge of the Word of God, we must also continue to put our trust and faith in God through His Church, the one and only Church He has established in this world. As what He Himself said that if we are separated from Him, the True Vine, we who are His branches will perish because we have no life from Him and through Him if we separate ourselves from this unity with Him that exists in the Church.

And then, lastly, we are also called today to live and embody the Word of God in our daily living and in our faith. God has called us just as how He has called His disciples to follow Him as described in our Gospel passage today. We are all the successors to the works of the Apostles in continuing the mission which God has entrusted to them, that is the evangelisation of the whole world. But in order to do so, we have to first of all, be attuned to the Word of God, be faithful to the teachings of the Church and be willing to venture forth and be good witnesses of our faith to others.

And how do we become good witnesses of Our Lord? How do we proclaim the Word of God in a good way? It is not by preaching in public places or quoting phrases and words from the Scripture, but first of all, we must first live out what we truly believe in. This means that our every actions and deeds, our words, every words that come out from our mouths and our thoughts must be aligned with God’s truth as contained within His words in the Scriptures.

If we do not live in the manner compatible with what we speak, how can people believe in us? We are nothing better than hypocrites who say one thing but do and act in a different or even contradictory manner. That is why, our challenge today is for us to truly allow God’s words to enter into our lives and that we do not just read His words at a surface level or just through our brains. Instead, we must go deeper, in allowing those words to penetrate the depths of our hearts and souls.

And then, are we willing to allow God to change and transform us by the power of His words and truth? If we are willing, then surely we will, in time, be good examples of our faith and others who see us, hear us and witness our every actions will believe in God because of us. That is how we become the true disciples and followers of Christ, by being the beacons of Christ’s light in this world filled with the darkness of sin.

Let us all today renew our conviction and desire to love and serve the Lord, by deepening our relationship with Him through deeper and better understanding of the Word of God in the Scriptures, that we may proclaim God’s truth by our lives and actions, and bring more and more people to God’s saving grace. May God, the Divine Word Incarnate, continue to strengthen us in faith by His encouragement and love. Amen.

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, 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, 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.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the first day of this new year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Theotokos, or Mary as the Mother of God. This is celebrated on the eighth and last day of the Christmas Octave, to remember the very important and crucial role that Mary played in the history of our salvation and in Christmas, because she became the Mother of God by bearing Jesus Christ, Son of God in her.

This teaching and dogma of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, the Theotokos or Mother of God was formalised and made official at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in the year 431, out of the great debate of whether Mary was just the Mother of Jesus Christ the Man, or whether she was also the Mother of God because Jesus Christ is both God and Man, having both human nature and divine nature united in His one person.

During that time, the disagreements in the Church was led on one side by the Patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, who championed the preference to call Mary as Christotokos or Christ-Bearer or Mother of Christ rather than Theotokos or God-Bearer or Mother or God. Although it may have seemed trivial to us as merely involving a variation in the honorary names and titles of Mary, but theologically the two titles highlighted a very fundamental and critical difference in a very core part of our Christian faith.

I am referring to the fact that by denying Mary the title of Theotokos and preferring Christotokos as proposed by the supporters of Nestorius actually also affected the nature of Christ as if Mary is not the Mother of God, but only the mother of Christ the Man, then Jesus’ humanity and divinity cannot have been united in His one persona, but are distinct and separate. This is the view and school of thought championed by Nestorius and his supporters.

The opponents of Nestorius and the champions of orthodoxy held the view that as Christ has two natures which are distinct and yet united in one person of Christ, then Mary who bore Him in her womb and gave birth to Him must also be the Mother of God, as if the humanity of Christ is united perfectly with His divinity, though distinct, then one cannot accept that Jesus is both Man and God without also proclaiming His mother Mary as the Mother of God.

To say that Mary is just the mother of Christ or Christotokos rather than the Mother of God goes against the logic that Mary bore Christ into this world fully in being, giving birth to Jesus Christ, her Son, both God and Man, and she could not have just borne Christ the Man without also bearing His divinity. To imply in any way that Mary is not the Mother of God also in truth denies Christ’s unique two natures united in one person as the true, orthodox faith of the Apostles had always held.

Therefore the debate surrounding the dogma of Theotokos or the Mary as the Mother of God was truly serious as it affected the nature of Christ and His salvation, as heresies of that time had threatened to break the Church apart, with some contending that by Nestorius’ proposition, only Jesus the Man suffered and died on the Cross as God could not have suffered or died, contrary to the true teaching of the faith. This was brought about by the disagreement over the nature of Christ’s humanity and divinity which extends to whether Mary was the Mother of God or just the Mother of Christ.

We may think again that these disagreements may sound trivial and small in importance, but we must really understand and appreciate that the faith as we know it today came about only after many rounds of challenges, divisions, disagreements and heresies trying to misled members of the faithful throughout the long history of the Church, including this disagreement on the Theotokos or Mary as the Mother of God.

During those especially early critical years of the Church, many heresies came about because of the existence of many divergent schools of thought and idea that often disagreed on each other on the nature of Christ’s divinity, on whether His humanity and divinity are united inseparably, or separate into two different and disunited existence, or whether as what we hold in our true faith, that His humanity and divinity exists, though distinct, but united perfectly in the one person of Jesus.

The bitter divisions and divergence in the teachings were threatening the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, and that was why, the Ecumenical Councils of the Church, beginning with the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and eventually to the one we focus on today, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, began codifying and underlining the true and fundamental truths and orthodoxy in faith which we preserve in the Church until today.

Eventually, the supporters of Nestorius lost and the heresy was officially condemned in the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus which made canon and officially declared Mary as Theotokos, the Mother of God. And we rejoice today because of this great blessing which God has bestowed on us all through His mother, the very Mother of God so many of us Christians for ages have entrusted ourselves and devoted ourselves to.

Imagine, brothers and sisters in Christ, how we have the Mother of God herself as our greatest intercessor, as the one who constantly loves us and cares for us, that she, who sits closest to her Son’s throne in heaven, always constantly intercedes for our sake. And being the Mother of God, therefore, it means that she is truly honoured, just as how the kings of Israel and Judah of old honoured their mothers.

We devote ourselves to Mary and ask her for her intercession because we know that through Mary, we have the surest and most direct path to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. God Himself entrusted His mother Mary to us from the Cross, when He entrusted her to the care of His disciple, St. John, representing us the Universal Church, and then also entrusted him, again representing the Church, to Mary, His mother.

That is why Mary was always present throughout the history of the Church, in her many apparitions, several of which have been officially approved by the Church, especially appearing at the important juncture in our history and in moments of great darkness, calling on us mankind to turn back towards her Son and to repent from our many sins and evils. And we have to be thankful for the love that she has shown us, the same love with which she loved her Son from all her loving heart.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we also look up to Mary as our greatest role model, for her great faith and obedience to the will of God throughout her life. We should imitate her example and faith, dedicating ourselves to God through her and by following her inspiring dedication, in giving her whole self to serve the Lord and to glorify Him in all things. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters?

Today, we are also called to keep in mind peace in our world, as today we also mark the World Day of Prayer for Peace, as we begin this new year with a new hope for the whole world for the cessation of conflict and wars, which have brought the worst out of us mankind, causing untold sufferings and destructions. All these wars, conflicts and disagreements, just like the disagreements we just went through in detail earlier on the nature of Mary as the Mother of God, are caused by man’s pride and greed.

As long as we allow ourselves to be swayed by ego and pride, ambition and greed, to be tempted by the many temptations found in this world, listening to the lies and corrupt teachings championed by the devil and his allies and supporters, there will always be divisions, conflicts, sufferings and trials in our world. And this is where, by following Mary and devoting ourselves to her, to imitate her faith and examples, we can break the unending chain of suffering and conflicts.

Let us all ask for Mary to intercede for us, for the Church and for the world, that through her intercession, God may bring His peace into this world, for He is the Prince of Peace promised to us all. And let us all get rid from ourselves all sorts of ego, of pride, of hubris and ambition, of greed and desires, and instead, put God once again at the centre of our lives and make Him the reason of our existence in this world.

May God continue to bless us, bless His Church and bless this world He has created and provided for us. May His mother Mary, Theotokos, the Mother of God also continue to inspire us all His faithful ones, that we may follow in her footsteps and draw ever closer to her Son, Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Lord and Saviour. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 29 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday in the Octave of Christmas, all of us celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Bethlehem, the family of the Lord and Saviour of the world, as the model for all of our Christian families all over the world. It was through this loving family that Our Lord was born into the world, and this feast today is an important reminder for all of us to keep our families in good condition.

The Holy Family principally is about Christ of course, the One Who is the reason for us to rejoice at Christmas and the One Who made this Family to be different and distinct apart from any other families of the world, for He is the very Son of God, Who came into the world incarnate in the flesh through His mother Mary, a pivotal moment in the salvation of mankind, for through Him God willed the salvation of all His people.

And then as mentioned, the Family has a mother in Mary, the mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and because Jesus is both Man as He is also God, Mary is the Mother of God. She herself is also an integral part of the Holy Family, as no family can exist without a mother figure. It was through her that the Messiah entered this world, dwelling in her womb, the very first Tabernacle, for nine months long.

Finally, we have St. Joseph, as the father and head of the Holy Family, just as the other families are headed by the fathers of the respective families. Although St. Joseph was not the biological father of the Lord Jesus, but as the legally and lawfully married husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, St. Joseph was the legal father and foster-father of the Lord, and therefore also an integral part of the Holy Family of Bethlehem and Nazareth.

It was this Holy Family that travelled all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem over two millennia ago, at the time appointed by the Lord for the great census ordered by the Roman Emperor Augustus, that the Messiah could be born as prophesied and intended, in the city of Bethlehem, the city of King David. And St. Joseph helped to bring the heavily pregnant Mary through the difficult and long journey, as a caring, loving and dutiful husband.

He was the one to guide Mary through Bethlehem on that night when there was no room at all in all the inns and lodging houses of the town, and it was only after a great difficulty that he managed to get a place, unsuitable for any human beings, but was where the Lord and King of all, was to be born, in a small and dirty stable just outside the town of Bethlehem. It was there that night that the Lord was born.

The Holy Family did not have it easy after that, as when the Three Magi came to pay homage and worship the Lord, they warned them to run away from the place and from the domains of king Herod who wanted to kill the Child, seeing Him as a great Rival to his own power, authority and kingdom. St. Joseph had to protect both the Lord Jesus, his foster-Son and Mary, his wife, and brought them to Egypt to protect them from king Herod and his designs.

When king Herod was finally dead a short while later, St. Joseph led both the Lord and His mother Mary back to the land of Israel, back to their home in Nazareth, where St. Joseph reassumed his role and work as the village carpenter, while Mary raised Jesus together with him, as the Lord grew in age and wisdom, in stature and might among the people. And we heard of the Holy Family one last time when the Lord was twelve years old.

At that time, the Holy Family went to the city of Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover, and as the Lord went to the Temple of Jerusalem, He stayed there for a few days unknown to St. Joseph and Mary, who then went to search for Him. The Lord was speaking and discussing with the elders in Jerusalem, and He wanted to stay there, at the House of His true heavenly Father, but He obeyed His foster-father, St. Joseph and His mother, Mary and returned with them to Nazareth.

We see in the Holy Family as the archetype and ideal for the families of all Christians, as the perfect example for each and every one of us to follow. We see in the Holy Family the example of the fatherhood, motherhood and what being children in our holy Christian families ought to be. And it is a truly important reminder for us that our families must be based on the loving relationship and the faith found in the Holy Family.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Feast of the Holy Family therefore, all of us are reminded that the institution of the family is one that is very important to our lives, to our faith and to our journey as Christians in this world, one that we cannot and should not take lightly especially as we should be aware of just how the institution of the family has been constantly under attack from those who seek to destroy us and the Church.

For the Christian families are the foundations of the Church, the pillars that kept the faith alive in countless generations of Christians throughout the history of mankind. Christian family, like the Holy Family it is modelled after, is the first Church for all Christians, where the young and the children first learn about the faith from their parents, and where in turn the parents pass down what they know about the faith to their children.

It is within our families that we live and journey through our Christian lives and faith together. We persevere through the challenges of this world together, as each one of the families, be it as a father, as a mother, or as a child, as a grandmother, grandfather, grandchild, or more. And we are then ultimately connected one another, in extended families and by the common adoption as sons and daughters of God, as brothers and sisters to each other in the large family of the Universal Church.

The devil and all of his allies seeking our downfall and destruction know very well that the family is the bedrock of our faith, and the protection against the corruption and temptations that often turn many people away from God. That is why he directed and concerted all the attacks against the families of the faithful, tempting all to break the faithful unions apart, making people to believe less in their matrimonial bonds and in their families.

That is why there are so much disobedience within the families, there are so many infidelities and unfaithfulness, people cheating against their spouses and betraying their own family members. That is why jealousy, hatred, anger and many other negativities often reign in our families, among our relationships and friendships, in our communities and societies. All these are caused by the devil and all of his machinations to destroy us from within.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is where all of us are called to look at the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus, His mother Mary and His foster-father St. Joseph for inspiration and strength, that we may model our own families in the mould of the Holy Family. We are called to follow the example of Christ’s obedience to His parents on earth, the love He had for them, and the love which Mary and St. Joseph had for their Son, and for each other.

Are we able to imitate and show this same love within our own families? Are we able to grow in faith and journey together with our most loved ones, beginning from our families? Remember the saying, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the families that pray together, eat together and do things together with faith, will stay together. And also, that when two or three or more are gathered in the Lord’s Name, He will be with us.

That is why, let us all be inspired by the Holy Family and strive to do our best to model ourselves and our own families after their good examples. Let us all rejoice together in this glorious and joyful season of Christmas as faithful and devout Christian families, all seeking not the selfish love of oneself, and resisting the temptations of pleasures of the flesh and all that often led to the destruction of families and relationships, instead, loving one another sincerely and with all of our hearts, from now on.

May God bless us all and our families, that truly from now on, all of us will enthrone Him at the centre and heart of our Christian families and communities, uniting ourselves to Him and to the large family of all the faithful children of God, the one family of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Masses (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, after about four weeks of Advent, all of us finally reach this moment of the day of Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. Today is indeed a day of great joy that finally after the long wait, the world has finally seen its Saviour, a long awaited moment and a new hope dawning on us mankind. Christmas is indeed the celebration of Christ, through Whom all of us have the reason to rejoice.

And everything was because of God’s love for each and every one of us, that beautiful and enduring love through which God made the impossible to be possible, that mankind, once fallen and condemned to damnation and destruction by our sins, could be saved and brought into a new existence through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Through Him all of us received the fullness of God’s love and wonders, which manifested fully in our midst through Christ.

That is why we celebrate this Christmas, and why we need to prepare ourselves throughout the season of Advent so that we may be able to celebrate it worthily. And why is that so? That is because many people today have forgotten what Christmas actually means and its true significance for us. For the duration of the season of Advent, we have continuously touched on the topic of how Christ has been forgotten and removed from the focus and emphasis that He should have received.

Instead, what we have and often see all around us this time of the year, is the celebration of greed and human selfishness, feeding our desires and wants, focusing on all the celebrations and glamours, all the paraphernalia and glitters, gifts and presents, all things except the One Whom we ought to be celebrating about, Christ, the true joy and meaning of Christmas. What we have is instead a secularised, materialistic celebration of human greed.

As Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us today are challenged and called to embrace the true meaning and nature of Christmas, especially in how we celebrate Christmas in our homes and within our families and communities. Are we celebrating Christmas as how the rest of the world celebrates it? Are we having all the parties and merrymaking, while leaving. Christ out of all the joy altogether?

What does Christmas truly mean for each and every one of us? Is it about the holiday that we are getting? Is it about the happiness of seeing so many coloured lights and blings all around us? Is it about all the songs and Christmas hymns, all the food and things we usually enjoy and are associated with the joyous Christmas season? Well, yes, we can celebrate and enjoy all these, but it is very important and indeed crucial that we remember the very heart and reason of Christmas in all of our joy and celebrations.

At the heart of our celebrations, we must remember that it was because of the works that the Lord has done for our sake, that we can rejoice and be happy in the first place. If not for the Lord having loved us so much that He was willing to embrace our humanity, the Divine Word and Son of God becoming the Son of Man in the flesh, there would have been no Christmas, and there would be no reason for us to celebrate, or to hope.

As Christians, all of us must know what Christmas is truly all about, and how Christmas fits in the greater scheme of things, within the whole history and framework of God’s salvation. Christmas is not just like any other birthdays, and it is not just celebrating any person’s entry into this world, for Christmas when celebrated on its own has no real meaning and purpose. It is exactly because we know what the One Whose birthday being celebrated in Christmas would be doing through His life and ministry that gave Christmas its full meaning and purpose.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that Christmas has a truly special significance, because the One born today over two millennia ago in the small and humble town of Bethlehem in Judah was not just any baby, but is the One promised by God to be the Saviour for all of His people, as the prophet Isaiah spoke of Him, as the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Divine Word Incarnate.

And even still, if not for what this Saviour of ours has experienced through His life and at the culmination of His earthly mission, the fullness of significance of Christmas would not be here with us. Christ willingly endured sufferings and pains in His Passion, taking up His cross and being condemned to death although He was without fault or sin, and therefore bore upon Himself all of our sins and punishments for those sins.

All these happened precisely so that He may save us from our fated destruction because of our sins, the sins of our ancestors who have disobeyed God and walked down the path of sin. Just as He saved His people Israel from their slavery in Egypt and made them to be His own, thus through Christ, God has saved us from our slavery to sin, and made us all to be His own beloved people.

It was that same Child born at Christmas day over two millennia ago Who eventually fulfilled all that God has said to be, and promised to His people, the King Who came into this world to redeem His people, by embracing our humanity, and uniting His humanity to our own, that by sacrificing Himself on the Cross, He gave us the sure pathway to redemption and the fullness of forgiveness, mercy and grace in God.

This is the Good News that God has revealed to us, and which He has sent to us through Christ His Son. And yet, this Good News, which mankind had awaited for so long, and ought to rejoice at, has often been forgotten these days, because the world was simply too busy and too distracted to recognise Him and to understand all that He has done for our sake. That is why so many of our Christmas celebrations and all that we see around us are bereft of Christ.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having discussed in quite some details on the importance and meaning of Christmas, what is it that we then should do? Perhaps we should indeed look at the way how we celebrate Christmas, whether we have been celebrating it in the wrong way, that is as how we often see and perceive it in our world today, empty of its true meaning and purpose, Christ not being at the centre of all the celebrations and merrymaking.

If we have not been celebrating Christmas in the right way, it is still not too late for us, brethren, as the Christmas season has just begun today. Perhaps, this is a timely reminder for us to keep our Christmas observation and celebration to be centred on Christ, its namesake and true meaning. And how do we do this? We can do this by making our Christmas less about ourselves, our desires and all, and instead, share the joy and love we have, especially with our less fortunate brethren.

We must know and understand that not everyone can celebrate Christmas as we do, and there remain many out there who are not able to be joyful or to celebrate in this Christmas joy and festivities, either because they do not have the means to do so, those who are poor and marginalised, all those who have to struggle even to meet their daily needs. And there are also those our brethren who are living in places where being a Christian can mean great suffering and even death.

Hence, even as we rejoice this Christmas day and season, we are all reminded not to be overboard in our celebrations and in our festivities, and rather than spending excessive amounts of money and resources on making an extravagant Christmas celebration, let us instead spare some for those who have less or little, and share our joy and blessings with them in whatever way we can.

In fact, sometimes sharing our joy does not mean giving gifts or money or anything of value. Often what people need is time, love and genuine attention, things that often cannot be bought or obtained by money or wealth. How many of us are so busy preparing for Christmas and forgot to actually spend quality and meaningful time with our loved ones and immerse ourselves in the true joy of Christmas?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore, as we celebrate Christmas, we are all challenged first of all to put Christ back in the centre of our every Christmas joy, merrymaking and celebrations, and then, we are also called to be mindful of those around us who can be part of our joy and celebration as well. Ultimately, Christmas is a celebration of love, joy, hope and peace, a celebration that is universal, and we should share this joy whenever we can.

Let us all therefore return to the true meaning and joy of Christmas, putting Christ right at the heart of everything we do and enthrone Him in our hearts as the King of all of us, and let us all be witnesses for the Lord through our worthy and meaningful celebration of Christmas, that by showing how our Christmas joy was indeed about Christ and our joy of having received salvation through Him, we may bear witness to this truth to many more people whom we encounter in life.

May God bless us and our Christmas celebrations, and may He be there with our families so that all of us may indeed celebrate with true meaning and purpose, glorifying God and giving Him thanks for all the loving things He has done to us, and for the rich and generous mercy He has shown us that He gave us Christ as our Lord and Redeemer as we celebrate it this Christmas. May all of us have a most blessed and wonderful Christmas season. Amen.