Sunday, 23 January 2022 : Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Sunday of the Word of God, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the special occasion of the Sunday of the Word of God, on which we recall the importance of the Word of God in our lives, the central role of the Sacred Scriptures in our life as Christians, which cannot be separated from our daily life. The Word of God is central as part of our Christian way of life and we have to put it as the centre and focus of our whole existence. That is the great importance and significance of the Word for us.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis instituted this Sunday of the Word of God just recently a few years ago to remind us of this importance, so that as Christians we do not end up sidelining the centrality of the Scriptures. We cannot be true Christians unless we have appreciated and understood the Scriptures, spent the time to read them and to put them into our hearts and minds. Each and every Christian families, all of us must put our effort to read and study the Scriptures together. We must always strive to help one another to understand the Scripture better.

However, too many of us sidelined the Scriptures, not spending the time to even read the Bible at all. Many of us always find excuses trying to justify why we couldn’t do so. We were either too busy with our work and career, or with whatever it was that fancied our thoughts and minds, not being able to focus ourselves on the Lord and His words. And we also find excuses saying that reading the Bible is boring and not interesting at all, because we prefer to read other things that excite us more.

That is what happened when we do not have the genuine faith and desire to love God. We put other things instead of God as the focus of our lives then easily we will end up forgetting about Him and His truth, and His words have no place inside of us. It is time for us to reflect on this before it is too late for us and since each and every one of us are called today this Sunday to reflect on the importance of this Word of God, we should make the effort to read the Scriptures more, spending the time to deepen our understanding of God’s words and truth, and also how He has done so much throughout our history of salvation.

Let us now also look through our Scripture readings today, as we first recall the words of the prophet Ezra to the people of Israel in the Book of Nehemiah. At that time, the people of Israel had just returned from their exile in the land of the Babylonians, as they were allowed to return to their homeland by King Cyrus the Great of the Persians. The Lord had touched the king’s heart to allow His people to return to their homeland. Therefore, they took the journey to return to their homeland, and they went back to the ruins of Jerusalem and their cities to begin rebuilding their homeland in earnest.

The priest and prophet Ezra led the people in the reading of the Law of God, the Law, commandments and the rules which God had laid down to His people through Moses. Those Law and commandments had long been neglected, and through the years of the kingdom of Israel and Judah they had often been ignored and disregarded. The Lord’s people had abandoned Him and persecuted His prophets and messengers, and as a result, they had to suffer the consequences of their infidelity, to be humiliated among the nations.

But God still had mercy and compassion and them, and He still loved them no matter what. That was why He sent Ezra to the people, and assisted by Nehemiah, the servant and scribe of the Persian King, to remind the people to know the Law and the commandments. For all those time when their ancestors had neglected the Law, it was even possible that they did not bother to get to know the Law and the truth of God more. They did not make the effort to know the Lord more even though the Law and the words of the Lord had always been available to them. To all of us, we have also received these same Law and commandments in the Scriptures. The same Law that Ezra spoke of that day, is the same one that is contained in our Sacred Scriptures.

Today, all of us also heard in our Gospel passage today, the words of the Lord Jesus as He proclaimed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue of His own hometown. The people there were astonished when they heard how He spoke with such great Wisdom and authority, as He revealed the truth of God to all, how everything that the prophets had spoken would be fulfilled through Him. He was the One Whom the prophets had revealed, and all these were written in the Scriptures. But, the people often refused to believe in Him as they could not accept how He could be the Messiah of God.

And ironically it was the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were often up against Him and His works, doubting Him and trying hard to undermine His credibility at every possible opportunities. Those were the ones who supposedly should have known the best about the Scriptures and the Law, and they should have been the first to recognise the Saviour of God when He came into this world. Yet, they were the ones who rejected Him and made His works difficult as they refused to believe that He was truly the One promised by God.

That was despite the fact that they had seen all that the Lord had performed before them, in healing the sick people and opening the eyes of the blind, releasing the tongues of the mute and opening the ears of the deaf, and in casting out demons among many other miracles He had performed, all of which were the words of the Scriptures, the prophets and messengers of God all coming to perfect fulfilment in Him. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because they were too proud to admit that there could be One Who could be superior to them.

They might have known the letter of the Law and the contents of the Word of God, but they did not truly appreciate and understand its meaning and significance, and as a result that was why they ended up doing all sorts of things that were unbecoming of them as the guardians of the faith of the people. This is in fact a reminder for us that we ourselves can also fall to the same pitfall unless we are careful not to lose our vigilance and guard against our pride and ego, and all the worldly temptations and desires.

Then lastly in our second reading today, we heard how St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle and letter to the Church and the faithful in Corinth that the Church of God is truly the one united and indivisible Body of Christ formed from the unity of all the faithful people of God. That Church was founded by the Lord Himself, established in this world with Himself as its Foundation and Focus. The Church of God was founded upon this very Word of God made Flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate. The Church is founded on the base of the Sacred Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Therefore, as we also celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this week, we have to spend some time to reflect on what we can do to foster unity within the Church. But we cannot do this if we ourselves are weak and ignorant of the truth of God as contained within His Word in the Sacred Scriptures. We have to deepen our relationship with God first and our understanding of His words and His truth as contained within the Scriptures, if we are to seek true unity in the Church among all Christians everywhere. We are all called and challenged to seek the Word of God in every available opportunity and share it with others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore make good use of this opportunity on the Sunday of the Word of God to renew our commitment to place the Word at the centre of our Christian lives and amidst our respective families. We are all called to be the bearers of the Word of God and be His witnesses in our respective communities and in the various places we are living in. Are we able to live virtuously and in obedience of the Lord’s commandments and Law as He has entrusted them to us?

These are the things that we have to consider as we reflect and discern on our path forward in life. Are we going to continue down the same path towards ruin as what those Israelites and the ones who had ignored the Word of God and His truth had done? Or shall we instead do our very best to live our lives in accordance with the Word of truth, and strive to be exemplary each day and every moments in life to be most committed in all things? Let us all strive towards true Christian Unity by solidifying our foundation of faith through the frequent study and appreciation of the Scriptures, the Word of God.

Let us all make good use of these opportunities that God has given to us, to be His most dedicated followers and disciples, now and always, that more and more may come to believe in God and His salvation. May God bless us all and our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 16 January 2022 : Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the most wonderful and generous gifts from God to us. God has given us His love and kindness and it is up to us to treasure these gifts from God. He has revealed Himself to us out of love, and revealed the salvation for the whole world through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, the Son of God and Son of Man.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the words of hope that the Lord presented to His people, the revelation of what God would do to save all those whom He loved and had called and chosen. At that time, during the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God has faced a lot of trials and tribulations as they suffered the consequences of their disobedience and sins. Their waywardness and refusal to budge from their sinfulness became their undoing, as they faced humiliation one after another.

By the time of the prophet Isaiah, the northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed and conquered by the Assyrians, who destroyed their cities, razed their capital and brought many of their people into exile in faraway lands of Assyria, Mesopotamia and beyond. And there were many peoples from other countries and places that were brought in to dwell in their place in the land of the ancestors of God’s people, the promised land of Israel. The same fate would eventually fall upon the people of the southern kingdom of Judah as well, after the time of the prophet Isaiah.

That was why, understanding this context, we can see just how significant God’s words of encouragement to His people was. Those words were clear reminders for all of them that God never forgot about them, and although they had often betrayed and abandoned Him, but He still always thought about them and sought them out at every possible opportunities. And while they had to endure the consequences of their disobedience and sins, God wanted them to learn from their mistakes and embrace the forgiveness that He freely offered to them.

In that same passage we then also heard a peculiar reference at the end regarding how the Lord Himself will come to gather His people, and how they will one day again be blessed and be honoured, to be the crown of glory for all to see. And it was also mentioned how the Builder will marry the people, metaphorically represented as the bride. This Builder is a reference to God Himself as the Creator of all, and this symbolised the new union between God and mankind that became a reality in Jesus Christ, the Saviour Who has been prophesied by Isaiah and the other prophets.

For through our Lord Jesus, as He symbolically showed it at the Wedding at Cana in out Gospel passage today, God’s love and salvation for His people has become manifested in the flesh and dwelled among us. He came to us in our moment of need, and as He has shown in the miracle that He performed in the Wedding at Cana, He showed us that through Him everything is possible and that the days of our shame will be behind us if only we trust Him and listen to Him, obeying God’s will and the Law and commandments He has given to us.

At that well-known Wedding at Cana, as many of us would have known, the wedding couple was encountering a particularly difficult and potentially very humiliating problem as they somehow ran out of wine. Regardless of the reason for this shortage, running out of wine at such a happy and great occasion of a wedding is something that would have brought great shame on both the groom and bride, as well as their families, as they were the ones responsible in hosting and preparing for the celebrations.

It was at that moment, that Mary, the Lord’s Mother, who have come to know of the couple’s predicament, came to see Jesus and asked Him to do something to help them. The Lord initially showed His intention not to help as it was not yet His time to do so, and yet, as Mary did not yet give up on trying to help the couple, she told the servants to follow whatever her Son told them to do. That was thus how the Lord performed His first miracle, in a hidden and unknown way, as the servants themselves might not have fully realised what were actually happening.

The wedding couple was saved because they had the Lord by their side, and the celebrations could proceed without any further issues. And it is yet another reminder for us that the Lord always provides, and only if we trust in Him and His love and providence. Sometimes we are too impatient or blinded by our own desires and by the many temptations all around us to be able to see His loving presence in our midst. The Lord has always reached out to us through many people, through others whom we encounter in our daily lives.

Then, as mentioned by St. Paul in our second reading today, in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, that there are many gifts that God had given to us, the gift of intelligence, of speech and of other means to bring happiness to others and joy to many more people. He has given us various talents, gifts and abilities that are unique to each and every one of us. Because of that, all of us are called to reflect on these gifts that we have received and reflect how we can make better use of them in our lives.

All of us have been called by God to be involved in making good use of our various gifts and talents, all the blessings that we have received from the Lord. We should listen to the Lord speaking to us, asking us to do His will and telling us what we ought to do with our lives. We should do our best to live up to our Christian faith and dedicate ourselves in each and every moments to be faithful to God, to be loving to others and to be concerned with the needs of those who are less fortunate than us.

After all, that is what the Lord had done for us, loving us when we have done so many wicked things towards Him, in refusing to listen to Him and in shutting Him out of our hearts and minds. He still patiently reached out to us and offered us His hands, pulling us out of the darkness of our sins, just as He has promised. By His coming into this world, He revealed not just His love but He also took everything upon Himself, gathering all His scattered children from the world, and calling them to Himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through our baptism we have become a part and member of the Church, the Body of Christ, becoming united to God and to our fellow brothers and sisters, and share in the salvation that the Lord Himself has brought us through His Son. And by the virtue of our baptism too, we have been made sharers in the love and the inheritance that God has promised to us. What remains for us to do is, for us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him, and do our best to walk in His path, at all times.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed heart and mind, brothers and sisters, knowing that God has loved us so much, and how beloved we are, that He gave us His Son to be our Saviour. And now, let us listen to Him and obey Him, sin no more and do whatever we can, making use of the talents and opportunities for the good of others and for the greater glory of God. Let us all ask the Lord for the strength and guidance to walk in His path, now and always, and that we ourselves may become great role models for one another. May our lives be fruitful in God and may we always be blessed in all things. Amen.

Sunday, 9 January 2022 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. This marks the liturgical end for the season of Christmas as we begin the first part of the Ordinary Time tomorrow. Traditionally, the Christmas season of course still continues for an entire season length of forty days up to the second day of February, on which day we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or Candlemas.

But today as we celebrate this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we remember that moment when the earlier, more obscure years of Our Lord’s life came to a conclusion, and He began His ministry openly after His baptism by St. John the Baptist at the River Jordan. The earlier years of His life, His infancy, childhood and earlier days that we remembered and celebrated in Christmas has now moved on to the reflection of the works and ministry of Our Lord that was begun on His baptism, which we are celebrating on this very day.

First of all, as we heard from our first reading today, from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord’s salvation spoken through the prophet, the promise of His salvation and the coming of the One through Whom God would redeem all of His people. In that revelation through the prophet, the Lord mentioned how He would send a servant to come before Him and to prepare His way, as the voice that would cry out in the wilderness, calling on all the people to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.

This was the prophecy of the coming of St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah or the Saviour, as St. John the Baptist did exactly as the prophecy had foretold, as the one who cried out in the wilderness, spending his time living in those wilderness, calling on the people to repent from their sins and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord. The Lord has sent him to make ready the people to welcome the One and True Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

St. John the Baptist gathered a large following, as many people from throughout Judea and even beyond came to him in the River Jordan, and gave themselves to be baptised, to be immersed in the water of the Jordan. The site of this baptism was significant, as it was also the same site where the Israelites once came to the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, who succeeded Moses. It was a reminder of God’s love and providence for His people, and how He had guided them all throughout their journey and life.

The Lord opened the River Jordan and allowed the people of Israel to pass by the dry riverbed, just as He had once done at the Red Sea, when He rescued them from the Pharaoh and the Egyptians. And through the symbolic act of baptism at the River Jordan, the people whom St. John the Baptist had called and then responded to his call, committed themselves to a new life, away from the slavery of sin and stating their desire to seek the Lord and the promise of eternal life, much as their ancestors going away from their old slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Then, we all know that today we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, marking the moment when the Lord Jesus Himself, the very Saviour Whom St. John the Baptist was sent to this world to prepare for His coming, was baptised. We might find it confusing or perplexed on why the Lord need to be baptised, just as St. John the Baptist himself had felt exactly the same thing. In fact, he said to the Lord that he was the one needed baptising. But the Lord told him that everything was to be done as decreed.

Through baptism, Our Lord shared fully in our humanity, not because He needed that forgiveness for sin or because He needed any form of cleansing, as He is the One without any sin. Yet, through His baptism, He united all of us sinners to Himself, and sanctifying the waters of baptism, that from then on, through the New Covenant that He would make with us all, He would redeem us and cleanse us through the blessed waters, passing on from death and sin into a new life blessed by God.

At the Easter Vigil, during the time when all the catechumens are to be baptised by the holy water blessed that night, the Paschal or Easter Candle made from pure beeswax is immersed into the water three times, much like how baptism is done through the thrice immersion into the sacred waters. This represents that same moment when Our Lord was baptised, as the Paschal Candle represents the Body of Christ, united to His divinity as the One Saviour of the world, Son of God and Son of Man Who had willingly taken up His Cross to suffer for us and die for us, so that by His death we may all have a new life through Him.

Therefore, today this Sunday as we rejoice and celebrate Our Lord’s baptism at the River Jordan, let us all remember the moment of our baptism, whether it is as an adult through conversion, or if we had been baptised as infants and were too young to remember, let us all ask about that moment through our parents and godparents if we have no idea of what had happened back then. It is important for us to remember the moment of our baptism, as it was the moment marking our entry into the Church and in sharing the Lord’s promised salvation, becoming a member of the Church of God.

Through baptism, all of us have resolved to leave behind our past existence filled with sin and evil, and embark on a new journey of faith, in a new life blessed by God. No longer should we allow ourselves to be dictated by the whims of our human desires and worldly temptations all around us. That is why it is so important that we remember our baptism that we remember our commitment and also everything that we need to do as Christians, as those whom God had called and chosen to be His own.

And now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this season of the Ordinary Time, our lives are by no means supposed to be ordinary, as how many of us will often misunderstand the meaning of the ‘Ordinary’ in the Ordinary Time. The meaning of ordinary there is truly not just being ordinary, usual or mundane, but rather is a reminder for us of the actions we must all do, in giving our lives over to the service of God. Just as the Lord began His ministry after His baptism, thus we are also called to embark on this journey of faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do our best to commit ourselves to the Lord from now, especially if we have not done so. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to bless us and empower us to to live our lives with good Christian outlook, and do whatever we can to glorify God’s Holy Name and serve Him wholeheartedly. May God bless us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 6 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, marking the important moment when Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, was revealed to the nations, to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish peoples, as represented by the Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men or even Three Kings, who came from afar, following the bright star, the Star of Bethlehem, in trying to find the Saviour promised by God to His people, the Israelites.

This great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord got its name from the word Epiphaneia, which is the Greek word for ‘manifestation’ and it can be interpreted with the meaning of God having revealed and manifested Himself before the peoples of all the nations, coming to seek Him and worship Him. No longer that He is just a King and Saviour for the Jewish people alone, as He has revealed before through His prophets in the past, that all the nations and the peoples from those nations will come together seeking the Lord, worshipping and praising Him.

As we all heard from our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the prophet mentioned how the Lord has shown His Light and Salvation to the people of Israel, and how not just the Israelites but all the peoples of all the nations will become God’s beloved people, and follow Him through the Light of His salvation, that is in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It was in Christ that God’s love has been manifested in the flesh, appearing before all of us, Emmanuel, God Who is with us, dwelling in our midst, all of His people.

Through Him, the world that has been in darkness, the darkness of evil and sin has seen a great new Light, the Light that pierces through the darkness of those evils and wickedness. God’s Light and Hope triumphed even over the power of sin and death, and by His coming, Christ brought unto us the assurance of God’s everlasting and enduring love for each one of us. He came to us to reach out to our hearts and minds, calling on us to follow Him and to turn away from our past evils, wickedness and sins. God has given us the way out of the darkness and into His new light.

I am certain that all of us are familiar with the story of the Magi and how they came after having travelled a great distance from their respective home countries, witnessing the great Star of Bethlehem that became their guide and hope, as they endured the long and arduous journey to come to seek the Lord. They finally found Him there in Bethlehem of Judea, a small town where the Lord and Saviour of all was born, placed in a manger in a place that was small and simple, possibly in a stable or any other similar place that was unworthy of proper human habitation, and less still for a King.

Nonetheless, He came into our world, to show His love for us, and through the Magi and their gifts, He revealed Himself to us and the gifts of the Magi also showed us Who the Lord truly is, that Child born in Bethlehem, as the Son of God, the Divine Word Incarnate and not just merely a little Child as how others would have perceived Him to be. The Magi, who are traditionally three in number, corresponding to their three gifts, and named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, offered the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Lord, paid homage to Him and worshipped Him.

Let us all go through the gifts one by one, beginning with the gift of gold. All of us know that gold is a precious metal that has been used for millennia in the making of precious items and ornaments, of crowns and other expensive items, particularly with regards to royalty and power. For gold is a great symbol of wealth, and it also represents the Kingship of Christ. This is because it was often that the use of gold was often restricted to royalty and only the kings in the past usually had the ability to display his riches and power in gold. It has therefore been a mark and symbol of majesty and power since time immemorial.

Then, gold has also been used in the making of idols, as many pagan idols and gods were made with the liberal use and ornamentations from gold. In the history of the Israelites themselves, I am sure all of us are familiar with how the people of Israel forced Aaron to make for them the golden calf idol when they thought that Moses had died or abandoned them on Mount Sinai. They worshipped that golden calf idol and abandoned their God Who had just liberated them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh not long ago. Yet, the gold itself has no fault, as it was how the gold was used that made it to be tainted by evil.

How so? The Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred artefact of the people of Israel, containing the two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron and the manna, placed in the Holy of Holies and symbolising the presence of God is made almost entirely from gold, and even the Holy of Holies itself were also constructed with ample use of gold. Gold therefore is both a symbol of royal authority, power and divinity, highlighting how the Child Jesus was no mere child but in truth is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of all the whole Universe.

Then, for the gift of frankincense, we all know how incense has been used for a very long time to offer worship to the divine, to various gods and idols. People from various cultures and origins always associate the pleasant aroma of the various incense blends with the aroma pleasing to their deities, and offered them on their altars. Frankincense itself has an even more significant meaning, as it is the highest quality incense, just as frankincense itself meant high quality incense. It is the purest incense of the highest quality and is reserved for the most solemn occasions.

Its offering to the Child Jesus served as a revelation to all of us that Jesus is not just a mere Man, but He is the Divine Son of God at the same time. He is the one Person with two distinct yet inseparable natures, of Divine and Human natures distinct but perfectly united in his one Person, in the same Child Jesus that the Magi had paid homage to. This offering of frankincense highlighted that divinity of Christ, which at that time was not yet visible behind the veil of His humanity. It is a reminder that Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who willingly embraced our human existence, to be born into this world and to make God’s love tangible and approachable to us.

And in another explanation, frankincense is also representative of the Christ’s role as the High Priest of all, a foreshadowing of His own actions later when He would be standing between us and death, offering on our behalf on the Altar of Calvary, the Altar of His Cross, both as our High Priest and as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice. This frankincense is the symbol of His office and role as the High Priest to deliver us all the redemption and forgiveness through His one act of supreme love by the self-sacrifice on the Cross. It is a prefigurement of the great work of His salvation for us.

Then, the last gift of myrrh by the Magi is a most peculiar and strange one, as myrrh is a kind of spice used in the embalming of the dead, and it was not meant to be offered to a living person and less still to be offered to a Child. Yet, it was a very powerful symbol of the Lord and what He would do in His ministry, again related to His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross. Although no one could have known it back then, but this was a prefigurement of Christ’s death, and how He would have to go through death in order to accomplish His mission.

Myrrh is also significant because in the various cultures, the embalming of the dead, particularly that of royalty and the nobility was symbolic of their desire to seek eternal life and way out of death. People had always feared death from time immemorial as the end of our earthly life, and because of that, people had always tried to seek ways to prolong their lives without success. And in some cultures in fact, the people believed that they could transcend death and became like the gods.

This highlighted how the Lord our God is so unique among all other beliefs and schools of thoughts out there, from all different faiths and religious beliefs, as when everyone else desired to transcend their mortality to become divine, Our Lord alone willingly humbled Himself to embrace our humanity and take up our human nature, to make His infinite and vast glory into the small and perceivable form of a small Child lying in a manger in Bethlehem. And not only that, as He also willingly later on embraced the worst of sufferings and pain, the scourges and the piercing of nails, as He was condemned to death on the most humiliating punishment on the Cross, for our sake.

As we have just heard and discussed, all the three gifts of the Magi, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are all very symbolic and serve to reveal to us all, to the people of all the nations Who this Child Jesus really was. He is the Almighty God and Ruler of all, the King of Kings and the Lord over all creation, the High Priest of all of us mankind, Who has offered on our behalf the most worthy offering, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, Who endured suffering and death for our salvation.

The Magi who came from the very far country to seek the Lord bearing the gifts actually represent all of us mankind, all the peoples who have the desire to seek the Lord and to find Him as their Light and salvation. It is a reminder that God came to us not only to save a certain group of people and to gather the children of Israel only, unlike what some among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have asserted. Instead, God is calling all the peoples to follow Him, to embrace His truth and love, the same truth and love that His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ has brought unto us.

The Magi followed the bright light of the Star that pointed them towards the Saviour. And this is a reminder for each and every one of us as Christians as we gather to remember the importance of the Epiphany to us. Through the gifts of the Magi, the gold, the frankincense and myrrh, we have been reminded of the nature of Our Lord’s Incarnation and coming into this world, all that He had done for our sake. Through His suffering and death, and by His glorious Resurrection, He has restored us back to life. And yet, are we following Him as the Star and the Light of our lives as well?

How many of us have disregarded the generous love that God has given us and rejected the kindness and mercy that He has shown us? This Christmas season we are constantly being reminded of all that God has done for our sake, and we should do our very best to focus our attention to Him and to glorify Him through our actions and service. Let us do whatever we can, even in the smallest things we say and do, so that our lives become a reflection of God’s Light, truth, hope and love in our respective communities.

In our world today, with so much suffering and difficulties encountered by us and many of our brothers and sisters, let us bring hope and encouragement to each other, and be each others’ pillar of support that we may endure the challenges that we may face together as one Church and one community of the faithful. We are all called to be the bearers of our Christmas joy and hope to all others, that God and His wonderful love and deeds may be known to all through us.

Let us all proclaim our great Lord and Saviour, the One Who has manifested and revealed Himself to the nations through the Magi, the Almighty God, Incarnate in the flesh and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother. Let us all proclaim Him before all the peoples with true faith and sincerity, so that more and more people may come to believe in the Lord through us. May the glory of Our Lord, He Who has manifested Himself and dwelled among us be with us, and may He bless us all in our every good efforts, works and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, marking the important moment when Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, was revealed to the nations, to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish peoples, as represented by the Magi, also known as the Three Wise Men or even Three Kings, who came from afar, following the bright star, the Star of Bethlehem, in trying to find the Saviour promised by God to His people, the Israelites.

This great Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord got its name from the word Epiphaneia, which is the Greek word for ‘manifestation’ and it can be interpreted with the meaning of God having revealed and manifested Himself before the peoples of all the nations, coming to seek Him and worship Him. No longer that He is just a King and Saviour for the Jewish people alone, as He has revealed before through His prophets in the past, that all the nations and the peoples from those nations will come together seeking the Lord, worshipping and praising Him.

As we all heard from our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the prophet mentioned how the Lord has shown His Light and Salvation to the people of Israel, and how not just the Israelites but all the peoples of all the nations will become God’s beloved people, and follow Him through the Light of His salvation, that is in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. It was in Christ that God’s love has been manifested in the flesh, appearing before all of us, Emmanuel, God Who is with us, dwelling in our midst, all of His people.

Through Him, the world that has been in darkness, the darkness of evil and sin has seen a great new Light, the Light that pierces through the darkness of those evils and wickedness. God’s Light and Hope triumphed even over the power of sin and death, and by His coming, Christ brought unto us the assurance of God’s everlasting and enduring love for each one of us. He came to us to reach out to our hearts and minds, calling on us to follow Him and to turn away from our past evils, wickedness and sins. God has given us the way out of the darkness and into His new light.

I am certain that all of us are familiar with the story of the Magi and how they came after having travelled a great distance from their respective home countries, witnessing the great Star of Bethlehem that became their guide and hope, as they endured the long and arduous journey to come to seek the Lord. They finally found Him there in Bethlehem of Judea, a small town where the Lord and Saviour of all was born, placed in a manger in a place that was small and simple, possibly in a stable or any other similar place that was unworthy of proper human habitation, and less still for a King.

Nonetheless, He came into our world, to show His love for us, and through the Magi and their gifts, He revealed Himself to us and the gifts of the Magi also showed us Who the Lord truly is, that Child born in Bethlehem, as the Son of God, the Divine Word Incarnate and not just merely a little Child as how others would have perceived Him to be. The Magi, who are traditionally three in number, corresponding to their three gifts, and named Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, offered the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Lord, paid homage to Him and worshipped Him.

Let us all go through the gifts one by one, beginning with the gift of gold. All of us know that gold is a precious metal that has been used for millennia in the making of precious items and ornaments, of crowns and other expensive items, particularly with regards to royalty and power. For gold is a great symbol of wealth, and it also represents the Kingship of Christ. This is because it was often that the use of gold was often restricted to royalty and only the kings in the past usually had the ability to display his riches and power in gold. It has therefore been a mark and symbol of majesty and power since time immemorial.

Then, gold has also been used in the making of idols, as many pagan idols and gods were made with the liberal use and ornamentations from gold. In the history of the Israelites themselves, I am sure all of us are familiar with how the people of Israel forced Aaron to make for them the golden calf idol when they thought that Moses had died or abandoned them on Mount Sinai. They worshipped that golden calf idol and abandoned their God Who had just liberated them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh not long ago. Yet, the gold itself has no fault, as it was how the gold was used that made it to be tainted by evil.

How so? The Ark of the Covenant, the most sacred artefact of the people of Israel, containing the two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments, the staff of Aaron and the manna, placed in the Holy of Holies and symbolising the presence of God is made almost entirely from gold, and even the Holy of Holies itself were also constructed with ample use of gold. Gold therefore is both a symbol of royal authority, power and divinity, highlighting how the Child Jesus was no mere child but in truth is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of all the whole Universe.

Then, for the gift of frankincense, we all know how incense has been used for a very long time to offer worship to the divine, to various gods and idols. People from various cultures and origins always associate the pleasant aroma of the various incense blends with the aroma pleasing to their deities, and offered them on their altars. Frankincense itself has an even more significant meaning, as it is the highest quality incense, just as frankincense itself meant high quality incense. It is the purest incense of the highest quality and is reserved for the most solemn occasions.

Its offering to the Child Jesus served as a revelation to all of us that Jesus is not just a mere Man, but He is the Divine Son of God at the same time. He is the one Person with two distinct yet inseparable natures, of Divine and Human natures distinct but perfectly united in his one Person, in the same Child Jesus that the Magi had paid homage to. This offering of frankincense highlighted that divinity of Christ, which at that time was not yet visible behind the veil of His humanity. It is a reminder that Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Son of God Who willingly embraced our human existence, to be born into this world and to make God’s love tangible and approachable to us.

And in another explanation, frankincense is also representative of the Christ’s role as the High Priest of all, a foreshadowing of His own actions later when He would be standing between us and death, offering on our behalf on the Altar of Calvary, the Altar of His Cross, both as our High Priest and as the Paschal Lamb of sacrifice. This frankincense is the symbol of His office and role as the High Priest to deliver us all the redemption and forgiveness through His one act of supreme love by the self-sacrifice on the Cross. It is a prefigurement of the great work of His salvation for us.

Then, the last gift of myrrh by the Magi is a most peculiar and strange one, as myrrh is a kind of spice used in the embalming of the dead, and it was not meant to be offered to a living person and less still to be offered to a Child. Yet, it was a very powerful symbol of the Lord and what He would do in His ministry, again related to His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross. Although no one could have known it back then, but this was a prefigurement of Christ’s death, and how He would have to go through death in order to accomplish His mission.

Myrrh is also significant because in the various cultures, the embalming of the dead, particularly that of royalty and the nobility was symbolic of their desire to seek eternal life and way out of death. People had always feared death from time immemorial as the end of our earthly life, and because of that, people had always tried to seek ways to prolong their lives without success. And in some cultures in fact, the people believed that they could transcend death and became like the gods.

This highlighted how the Lord our God is so unique among all other beliefs and schools of thoughts out there, from all different faiths and religious beliefs, as when everyone else desired to transcend their mortality to become divine, Our Lord alone willingly humbled Himself to embrace our humanity and take up our human nature, to make His infinite and vast glory into the small and perceivable form of a small Child lying in a manger in Bethlehem. And not only that, as He also willingly later on embraced the worst of sufferings and pain, the scourges and the piercing of nails, as He was condemned to death on the most humiliating punishment on the Cross, for our sake.

As we have just heard and discussed, all the three gifts of the Magi, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are all very symbolic and serve to reveal to us all, to the people of all the nations Who this Child Jesus really was. He is the Almighty God and Ruler of all, the King of Kings and the Lord over all creation, the High Priest of all of us mankind, Who has offered on our behalf the most worthy offering, the offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, Who endured suffering and death for our salvation.

The Magi who came from the very far country to seek the Lord bearing the gifts actually represent all of us mankind, all the peoples who have the desire to seek the Lord and to find Him as their Light and salvation. It is a reminder that God came to us not only to save a certain group of people and to gather the children of Israel only, unlike what some among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would have asserted. Instead, God is calling all the peoples to follow Him, to embrace His truth and love, the same truth and love that His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ has brought unto us.

The Magi followed the bright light of the Star that pointed them towards the Saviour. And this is a reminder for each and every one of us as Christians as we gather to remember the importance of the Epiphany to us. Through the gifts of the Magi, the gold, the frankincense and myrrh, we have been reminded of the nature of Our Lord’s Incarnation and coming into this world, all that He had done for our sake. Through His suffering and death, and by His glorious Resurrection, He has restored us back to life. And yet, are we following Him as the Star and the Light of our lives as well?

How many of us have disregarded the generous love that God has given us and rejected the kindness and mercy that He has shown us? This Christmas season we are constantly being reminded of all that God has done for our sake, and we should do our very best to focus our attention to Him and to glorify Him through our actions and service. Let us do whatever we can, even in the smallest things we say and do, so that our lives become a reflection of God’s Light, truth, hope and love in our respective communities.

In our world today, with so much suffering and difficulties encountered by us and many of our brothers and sisters, let us bring hope and encouragement to each other, and be each others’ pillar of support that we may endure the challenges that we may face together as one Church and one community of the faithful. We are all called to be the bearers of our Christmas joy and hope to all others, that God and His wonderful love and deeds may be known to all through us.

Let us all proclaim our great Lord and Saviour, the One Who has manifested and revealed Himself to the nations through the Magi, the Almighty God, Incarnate in the flesh and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother. Let us all proclaim Him before all the peoples with true faith and sincerity, so that more and more people may come to believe in the Lord through us. May the glory of Our Lord, He Who has manifested Himself and dwelled among us be with us, and may He bless us all in our every good efforts, works and endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 2 January 2022 : Second Sunday after Christmas (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we celebrate the second Sunday in the Christmas season, for all of us who are celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord on its traditional date of the sixth of January. This Sunday as we have heard in the Scripture passages, we are again constantly being reminded of what we are celebrating in this Christmas season, that is celebrating the great appearing of Our Lord and Saviour in the flesh, Jesus Christ, the One Whom God has sent into our midst to be our Hope and the Light of our salvation, the Divine Word Incarnate.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of God’s salvation and promise of redemption being proclaimed and spoken before the people. At the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the fortunes of the people of God, the Israelites and their descendants had been at an all-time low, as they were facing great distress, humiliations, defeat and a lot of trials and troubles from different sources, one after another. All those things were caused by their own lack of faith in God and by their constant disobedience against God, preferring to walk in their own path than to walk in the path that God had set before them.

As a result, not only that the Assyrians had destroyed the northern kingdom and carried most of the northern ten Israelite tribes into exile and destroyed their cities, but even the southern kingdom of Judah was soon to face its own twilight and end as well. The enemies of the people of God rose against them and due to their continued disobedience and rebellion against God, even to the persecution of the faithful prophets and servants of God like Jeremiah, the kingdom of Judah was bound to be destroyed as well, which would later happen at the hands of the Babylonians.

But all the while God and the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed how the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem would become because of the evil deeds and the wickedness of the people, their kings’ bad influences and all of their infidelities, in worshipping pagan idols and demons, but God still in truth loved His people and did not abandon them. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because just as what we ourselves often experienced, it is the people who had consciously chosen to abandon God and His truth and love instead, and chose to walk the path of evil and sin.

That is why, through what the Lord has spoken and done for His people, He wants to show them that He still loves us despite all that we have done to hurt Him, in betraying and abandoning Him. He revealed how all of them would be gathered back from being scattered amongst all the nations. The Lord has shown His commitment and dedication to the Covenant He had made with us even when we have repeatedly disobeyed Him and betrayed Him. He still tried very hard to reach out to us and to help us to find the path to redemption.

To this extent, He has shown us His salvation through none other than Jesus Christ, His most beloved Son, Whom He had sent into the world, incarnate in the flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate as we heard in our Gospel passage today. In his Gospel, St. John the Apostle began his account with the most beautiful and detailed exposition of the truth and reality of the Lord God, the Word of God, Who was with the Father and is God, coming down into this world by the power of the Holy Spirit, indwelling in the womb of Mary, His mother, and became the Son of Man, born and revealed to all in Christmas.

Through Christ, the love of God has been manifested perfectly in the flesh and His love is no longer intangible. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, God’s love takes form and is approachable to us, and He came to us as He had promised, through the prophet Jeremiah and many others, to gather all of us back to Himself and to show us the path to eternal life with Him. God has not abandoned us and He has embraced us, through His Son, Emmanuel, God Who is with us. His coming into this world as we celebrate at Christmas is a truly significant event in our human history, and in the history of our redemption.

For through Him, we are no longer without hope and we have no more need to fear because while once we have been destined for destruction and damnation because of our sins, God’s love triumphs even over those sins and all the wickedness we have committed, and through His Son, Whose sacrifice on the Cross became the worthy offering for the atonement of all of our sins, God has shown us the path out of the darkness and into eternal life. He is indeed the Light for the people who are still living in the darkness, that is all of us sinners.

Yet, how many of us actually realise this truth, brothers and sisters in Christ? How many of us actually remember God’s love and see His love in the coming of His Son into this world? We do not have to look far beyond our own actions in life. How many of us celebrated Christmas without Christ Our Lord as the centre and focus of all of our celebrations? And how many of us spent our Christmas mostly in merrymaking, revelry and celebrations and forgetting all that God has done for us out of His enduring love? We cannot truly celebrate Christmas without Christ, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore this Sunday, as we continue to go through the Christmas season and as we continue our celebrations of the Christmas joy and exultation, we are called to remember the reason for all of our rejoicing and happiness. It is because of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem into this world that we have seen God’s light and salvation, tangible and approachable, and no longer just something that we cannot understand or grasp. This Sunday we should remind one another of God’s love made Man, in His ever generous love poured down to us in Christ His Son.

And because God has loved us so much, and given us the reason to rejoice much as the Israelites of old had received those glad tidings and hope amidst the darkness of their state then, let us all be the bearers of Christ’s light and hope in our communities today, spreading the joy that has come with Our Lord and which we celebrate this day and this season. Let our actions bring hope and encouragement to our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are sorrowful and without hope. Let us share our joy and celebrations with those who have little or no joy at all in their lives.

May the Lord, our Saviour and King, our loving God and Creator, Who has willingly come down to us in the flesh, be with us all and bless us in all things, so that our year ahead may be most blessed and wonderful. And may all of us draw ever closer to the Lord, as we commit our every living moments to serve and glorify Him, now and always. May God bless all of our works, efforts and endeavours, and may we have a truly blessed Christmas celebrations. Amen.

Saturday, 1 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Blue

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the first day of the solar Gregorian calendar year, marking the New Year and the beginning of a year ahead that I am sure we all hope to be better than last year and also the previous year before that. And today, the Church also celebrates a great Solemnity in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God or Theotokos, on this Octave or eighth day of Christmas, capping the great eight day celebrations of the Christmas Octave, although the Christmas season itself will still continue through the Epiphany this coming days and beyond.

First of all, the importance of this great Solemnity cannot be underestimated, as the belief in Mary as the Mother of God is a fundamental and essential Christian tenet that is inseparable from our believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as God Himself, incarnate in the flesh. That is why today’s celebration is a fitting reminder of the true nature and importance of Christmas, a reminder for us all why we celebrate and rejoice during this Christmas season, a time for us to remember the love of God manifested to us in the flesh and appearing before us in Christ.

For at the time when the Dogma of the Divine Motherhood of God was officially proclaimed by the Church at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus almost a thousand and six hundred years ago, there had been a lot of arguments and divisions amongst the members of the Church regarding the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The debates were whether He was truly the Son of God or just a mere Man, and whether He was the Co-Eternal and Co-Equal Son of God or subordinate to the Father. These divergent ideas and teachings had led to a lot of heresies which had misled many among the faithful and caused divisions in the Christian communities.

That was why, beginning with the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the Church and its many leaders have already gathered together and inspired by the Holy Spirit to safeguard the true teachings of the Church as handed down to all of them and which we have also now received, from the hands of the Apostles and their successors. Firstly, the relationship between Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour and the Father was clarified, that He is not only just the Son of God, but is also Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, not subordinated but in equal and indivisible unity within the Holy Trinity, the One Triune God that yet maintains its distinct identities, One God in Three Persons.

This became the Nicene Creed as we know it today, which was then further updated at the subsequent Ecumenical Council of Constantinople to become the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that we are still using regularly to this day. Through this Creed and the many other decisions by the venerable and courageous Church fathers inspired by the Holy Spirit, those who sought to subvert and change the teachings of the Church to suit their own self interests and ambitions were thwarted and many of those who have fallen to the heretical teachings and thoughts eventually returned to the Holy Mother Church.

Nonetheless, there were still disagreements and controversies surrounding the nature of Christ until that time particularly with regards to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord as there were disagreements between those who thought that Mary, as a mere woman could not have been the Mother of God, the same Infinite God and Creator of all the Universe. They thought how it was possible for a woman, a created being to become the mother of the One and Eternal God and Creator, for a created being to become the Mother of the Creator. This was the argument of those who also held the view that Jesus the Man was distinct and separate from the Divine Son of God.

Hence, they used the terms such as the Mother of Christ, or the Bearer of Christ in their references of Mary, highlighting that Mary was merely the mother of the human Jesus Christ, and not the Mother of God. But this view was totally flawed in that in the true nature of Our Lord, we can never completely separate His human and divine natures. Instead, as affirmed by the Ecumenical Councils at Ephesus and Chalcedon, the Lord and Saviour, Son of God and Son of Man is indeed one and only Person but with two distinct yet inseparable natures, Divine and Human at the same time. Each natures are distinct from each other and yet perfectly and completely united in the one Person of Jesus Christ.

And naturally therefore, if Jesus Christ is not just Man but also God, then Mary being His mother, as the one who bore Him in her womb, is also the Mother of God and not just the mother of Jesus Christ the Man. Just as Christ’s Divine and Human natures are inseparable, we cannot separate Mary’s motherhood of Christ from the fact that she is indeed the Mother of God. She was indeed full of grace and blessed among all women as said by her cousin Elizabeth, because she alone from all the creatures of the Lord was to bear the Almighty God Himself in the flesh, in her womb.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect today on Mary as the Mother of God, today all of us are also called to look to her examples and dedication to the Lord. She is not just honourable because she is the Mother of God but because she is also truly dedicated and faithful in her own way as well. She has obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly and followed Him throughout His life and ministry, ever since He was still in her womb, and then after He was born and then grew up, she still cared for Him, followed Him even throughout His works and then even through to the foot of the Cross. She remained true and faithful to the mission which God has entrusted to her.

Today we look up to Mary, who is not only just the Mother of God but also the mother of us all. For through His incarnation in the flesh, Our Lord has become part of our humanity and by sharing in our nature and in entrusting His own mother to us from the Cross, He has made all of us to be Mary’s own adopted children. She has watchfully guided us all and has never ceased praying for each and every one of us, and hoping that we can also follow her examples and also the examples of many of our faithful brothers and sisters, that we may also be truly faithful to God in all things.

Today we may then be wondering why is it that we are celebrating this occasion on the New Year’s Day. This is important because on this New Year’s Day, all of us are called to start the year right and not to continue living our lives in the manner that is not proper and unbecoming of our calling as Christians if that is what we have been doing all these while. All of us ought to remember that first and foremost, as Christians all of us are called to live our lives faithfully in accordance to the Law and the commandments that God has placed before us, which He has taught us and revealed to us through His Church.

If we call ourselves as Christians, then it is only right that all of us commit ourselves to a new life in God, to be true followers of Our Lord and be genuinely dedicated to Him in the way that Mary, the Mother of God and our mother had done. As we rejoice for her sake today, let us remember how all of us should also listen to her and her Son, in how we live our lives so that we do not end up being hypocrites in our Christian faith. That is why, as we begin this current new year, all of us should do our best and spend the time and effort to begin a year that is new, blessed and filled with true joy in Christ. The Lord has given us many opportunities in life and as such let us not forget to give Him thanks and to show our gratitude towards Him for His ever enduring patience and love for us.

In our lives in this new year, let us do whatever we can to be a source of light and hope, inspiration and strength to one another, especially to our brothers and sisters who are now suffering and are filled with sorrow and despair. In whatever way we can, and at least even through prayer, let us reach out to those who need our help, our love, care and attention. Just as Christ, Our Lord and Saviour has brought us the light of God’s salvation and revealed to us the wonders of His love, let us all pass on the light, love and all the wonders we have received to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Today, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Peace, and hence it is an appropriate time for us to also dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of peace in our world. We all know how conflict and troubles had affected our world and many innocent people out there. If we do not actively make strides to go forth towards bringing Gos’s peace and harmony into our midst, then let us know just how our year and livelihood could be ruined by the conflicts, disagreements and hatred that are all around us. As Christians, all of us are called to pray for peace and to always work hard in championing the cause of peace.

Let us all do our best to live out our new year with ever greater faith in God and be ever fuller in love for Him, as we all gather together to celebrate this new year. And as we rejoice in all the new year celebrations, let us not forget to put Christ back at the centre of our hearts, our lives and existence so that we may live our lives from now on with Him as the focus and the inspiration for everything that we say and do.

Let us follow Mary, the Mother of God and our loving mother that we may be ever more righteous and obedient in following the Lord and in living our lives as role models to our fellow brothers and sisters, as genuine Christians at all times. And let us not forget to share our joy and blessings with others, especially those who have little or none to rejoice with this new year. Let us bring hope to the downtrodden and those who are in need of strength, encouragement and hope.

May God bless us all and may He empower each and every one of us so that we may grow ever stronger in faith and that we may always ever strive to seek Him and to walk in His ways. May our new year be blessed and be filled with joy, through Christ our Lord, through His light and hope. May God be with is all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 26 December 2021 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the occasion of the Feast of the Holy Family, celebrating the Holy Family consisting of Our Lord Jesus Himself as the centre and heart of that most blessed and wonderful family, and Mary, the Mother of God, as well as St. Joseph, the legal husband of Mary and the foster-father of the Lord as the Protector of the Holy Family. Today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and keeping mind what the Lord had done for us by coming to us in this world in Christmas, let us all reflect on God’s words and remind ourselves on the significance of the Holy Family and our own Christian families.

In our first reading today, we listened from the Book of the prophet Samuel about the time when the prophet Samuel as a baby was brought by his mother Hannah, the wife of Elkanah. Both of his parents had long been expecting a son together and although Elkanah, Samuel’s father had many children and sons with Penninah, his other wife, it was Hannah, Samuel’s mother that Elkanah loved more. Therefore, when Hannah prayed to the Lord asking for help as she was often bullied by Penninah for not having a child at all, God heard her and at that time, Hannah also made the promise to offer her firstborn son to the service of God.

And thus, Samuel, one of the greatest of the prophets of Israel and also a Judge over the people, the last one before the days of the Kings, came to be presented before the Lord after he was born and under the loving care of his parents, Elkanah and Hannah. He was brought up well and later on would prove to grow up in strength and faith, in his dedication and commitment to God, such that he came to succeed Eli, the Judge and High Priest of the Israelites who took care of him since his early infancy after being presented at the Temple of God.

This story of the prophet Samuel is in a way parallel to what we heard from our Gospel passage today regarding the famous story of Our Lord Jesus when He was only twelve years old, in the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God. At that time, the Lord and His family, the Holy Family, with Mary His mother and St. Joseph came to Jerusalem to attend and celebrate the feast of the Passover in accordance to the Jewish traditions. It was a time of great celebration and many pilgrims would have come and made their way to Jerusalem from all over the world.

In such a situation, it made sense why Mary and St. Joseph could lose track of the young Lord Jesus when He purposefully remained behind in the Temple after the celebrations and the ceremonies. He stayed there in the House of God, the dwelling of His Heavenly Father, to be close to Him and at the same time, engaging in conversations and debates with the wise men and the teachers of the Law assembled there, who were all astonished to witness His great wisdom. It was there that Mary and St. Joseph found Him after they realised that He was not with them.

They found Him there in conversation with the wise men and the teachers of the Law, and were also greatly amused by what they had heard, although they knew Who He really was. When the Lord spoke to them saying that He ought to be in His Father’s House, those words were remembered by Mary, who also surely understood what He meant, as the Archangel Gabriel himself had revealed to her at the Annunciation that her Son is indeed the Son of God Most High. Jesus was there in Jerusalem, at the Temple of God to be with His heavenly Father.

However, as we heard there, the Lord obeyed His mother Mary and His foster-father St. Joseph. He returned with them to Nazareth and put Himself under their tutelage and guidance. He is indeed the Lord God, King of Kings, the Master of all the whole Universe, Lord of all creation. Yet, by His incarnation, through the mystery of His indwelling in the flesh, He had also become the Son of Man, born as a Child in Bethlehem, the city of David in Judea just as we have just celebrated it in Christmas yesterday.

He placed Himself under the authority and power of His parents as part of the Holy Family to show us that as the Son of Man, He was just like all of us, who also have to obey our own parents and seniors, to listen to them and to hear their advice for us on how we ought to live our lives. As the Son, He listened to His mother Mary and also St. Joseph, both of whom must have been instrumental in teaching Him the life skills needed for Him to face this world as any man would have, and just like how we learnt our first skills from our own parents.

The Holy Family showed all of us what a true and loving Christian family should be like, full of love and care for one another, and each member doing their part in making their entire relationship work well together. The Lord as the Son followed and obeyed His parents, listening to them and their words. Even much later on, as we all remember in the Wedding at Cana, the Lord listened to His mother’s words and performed His first miracle there to help the wedding couple who then faced an embarrassing situation of running out of wine.

Meanwhile, Mary loved her Son as His mother, caring for Him and providing for Him, walking with Him and according to Apostolic traditions, following Him on His many ministries and efforts among the people of God. And she followed Him even to the foot of the Cross, as anguished and most sorrowful as she was to have witnessed her beloved Son battered and bruised, rejected and reviled by His own people, and was forced to take up the Cross, bearing it to His most painful and humiliating death. As a mother, Mary dedicated herself totally to her Son and loved Him unconditionally.

And St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster-father of the Lord, the Protector of the Holy Family took great care of Mary and her Son, since before the Lord was even born into this world. Following the guidance of the Angel of God, he took Mary as his wife and doing his part in the mission entrusted to him, in guiding the Holy Family, as he helped Mary on her way to Bethlehem, enduring a lot of challenges in the process. As a loving husband, he cared for Mary and the yet unborn Jesus in her womb, as they made the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and later on in trying to find a lodging and a place for Mary to give birth as all the inns and lodgings were full and rejected them.

Later on, St. Joseph would also lead the Holy Family to Egypt when King Herod the Great wanted to kill the Lord, as he came to know of His existence and coming, seeing Him as a threat to his own rule, power and authority. He followed the guidance of the Angel of the Lord and led his family to safety. Later on he would lead them back to Nazareth after those who wanted the Lord’s death had gone, and settled there, where he likely helped Mary in patiently bringing up the Lord. Although the Lord Jesus was not his own biological son, but he still surely cared for Him very much. He did not say any words throughout the Gospels, but in his righteousness and actions, in his attitude and according to traditions of the Apostles, he must have been a really good father figure.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to the story of the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus, Mary His mother and St. Joseph, all of us are called to reflect on our own families, our own parents and also our own children for those who have them and have been blessed with these. Today we are reminded that our families first and foremost must be grounded in love, the love that we ought to show one another and especially so in our respective families. Without love, the bonds that keep us together in our families will easily fall apart and that may cause our families and their members to go against each other and become divided and bitter.

This Christmas as we gather together to rejoice in the Lord Jesus and the salvation that He has brought upon us, let us all spend it together as a family. And let us use this opportunity to remind ourselves how important our family is to us. Many of us have often forgotten or sidelined our family members, in our pursuit for wealth, glory, fame and because of many other reasons. As a result, we have lost that cohesion and love that all of us ought to have as a family, and many become separated and even bickering among themselves in their families.

If we have been too busy so far in our lives, then let us all spend some time together this Christmas to get rid from ourselves all those excessive concerns and other thoughts we have, all the worries and desires we have for worldly things. Instead, let us do our best to celebrate Christmas together with our families and various family members, to reconnect ourselves and rekindle the love that we have between us, so that our family will still remain stronger together and hopefully become ever closer through. Christ and His love.

In our world today, there are many families that have been broken because of their lack of love and faith. Those families that fail to communicate with each other and spend time together often fall apart easily, especially when difficult times come. Many couples have divorced each other and many of their children were left without both parents caring for them and their love. And not only that but even the institution of marriage and family itself is often now under threat from the changing conditions and demands of our current world and society.

This is why all of us must look up to the Holy Family for strength, inspiration and guide in how we manage our own families. We should aspire to follow the examples of Christ, of His mother Mary and St. Joseph to ensure not just that our families will remain together and united, but that our families will be sanctified and holy just like that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. And often the best way for us to do this is to come together and practice our faith together through prayer. A family that prays together and love one another will have a much better chance of staying together.

May the Lord our God and Saviour, in His most holy and loving Holy Family continue to strengthen us and our faith, and give us the courage to live our lives with faith, and united in love in our respective Christian families. May He awaken and strengthen the familial love that we have among us, between spouses, between parents and children, among siblings and even among the members of our extended families. May He empower us in love, to love Him together as a family, all of us, in our own families striving to be filled with holiness and love. May all of us rejoice together this Christmas, and be blessed with ever greater love imitating the great love found in the Holy Family, our inspiration. Amen.

Saturday, 25 December 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Day Mass (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we have finally come to the moment of our glorious celebration of Christmas, as we gather together on this Christmas Day rejoicing together because the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Saviour has come upon us and He has fulfilled God’s promises for our salvation, our liberation from the certain destruction and annihilation due to our many sins. He has shown us His ever generous love, compassion and mercy, and God has never given up on us. He even gave us all His only begotten Son, that through Him we may be saved and have eternal life.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the glorious proclamation of the Lord to His people, proclaiming the coming of the King to the people of God, to Zion or Jerusalem, the city of God. Through His coming into the midst of His people, God Who is their King would free them all from their troubles, their sufferings and break free their fetters and the chains that were holding them. He would restore their joy and glory to them, so that they would no longer be in shame and suffering from their predicaments.

For the people of God, it was truly words of reassurance that they must have heard from the prophet Isaiah, as they were back then beset by many troubles, having been oppressed by their neighbours and facing many threats even to their own independence. The remnant kingdom of Judah, the southern half of the old united kingdom of Israel held its position precariously amidst rivalling great powers of the region, while the northern kingdom of Israel had been laid waste and destroyed by the Assyrians years earlier and its people brought off to exile.

The Lord showed His people that if they remained faithful to Him, they have no need to worry and be fearful, and they and their cities would be saved, as God would reveal His power and saving help before all, and gather all of His faithful ones and make them once again to be His beloved flock and people. This is the same promise that God had made and renewed repeatedly over the years, which He gave through His many prophets, and especially through the prophet Isaiah, who spoke many prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah.

In our second reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of the Epistle spoke of the Lord Who has sent His own Son into this world, that by appearing in the flesh, He has become the manifestation of the love that God has for each and every one of us. He, the Son of God and the Divine Word Incarnate came down upon us to dwell among us that the power of God’s Word may be reflected through all who have witnessed His mighty works, the foremost of which is how He has lifted us all up from our sins and from the darkness surrounding us, by His sacrifice on the Cross.

For that is exactly how He rescued all of us, His beloved people. He sent us down His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, that by His coming in the flesh, He has shown us the means out of the darkness surrounding us. He has come down to us, the Word that was made flesh, as mentioned by St. John in the beginning of his Gospel that we heard today, so that His words and His truth may become tangible and accessible to us. He is no longer unreachable to us and has made Himself as One Who is approachable, crossing the chasm that once existed between us due to our sins.

Sin borne out of our disobedience, our wickedness and evil deeds have sundered us away from the love of God, but God’s love has overcome even our many sins, as He willingly assumed our humble human existence to be reconciled and reunited with us. He assumed our human appearance and existence because He wants us to know that we belong to Him and we should no longer be separated from Him. He came to us as our Good Shepherd, full of love for us and full of His most compassionate and generous mercy.

Through His coming into the world, He has become for us the beacon of Hope and brought to us the undimmed Light of salvation. He became the New Adam and the New Man, showing His perfect obedience to His Father’s will, and through His willingness to bear all of our sins and their consequences, bearing those burden on His shoulders, by picking up His heavy Cross, He was scourged and suffered for us on our behalf. And by His offering of His own Most Precious Body and Blood on the Altar of the Cross, He offered for us, on our behalf before His Father, the perfect offering of sacrificial love in atonement for all of our sins.

Yet, despite everything He has done for our sake, we still often ignored and even rejected Him, preferring to sin rather than to love Him and follow His path. And as we come to celebrate Christmas, many of us scarcely even remember Him and less still placing Him at the centre and as the focus of all of our rejoicing and celebrations. That is because we have often been swayed by the secularised and over-commercialised Christmas as we have often been exposed to in our world today.

As Christians, all of us are called to remember our faith and love for God. We are called to remember just how beloved and dear we are to our Lord. And knowing that we are truly beloved by Him, then it is only right that we recognise that love and strive to love the Lord wholeheartedly if we have not done so yet. In Christmas, we are celebrating this love of God made evident and real, tangible and accessible through the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Therefore, all of us should reflect this in the way we are celebrating the joy of Christmas.

It means that we should not end up celebrating Christmas with great excesses and merrymaking, in order to satisfy our own desires for pleasure and comfort, for earthly goods and wants. Instead, our Christmas celebration and joy should come from the genuine desire we have in loving God and in thanking Him for all that He has done for us. We celebrate this Christmas because God has done so much for us, in extending His love and mercy towards us through Christ, His Son, Whom He had sent to our midst in order to show us all His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all share our Christmas joy and blessings with one another, with our fellow brethren who need them the most. Many of our brethren out there are in fact unable to rejoice this Christmas in the manner that many of us are able to do. Some are suffering even from remaining faithful, in those parts of the world where being Christians may mean certain suffering and death. Not only that they have to celebrate Christmas in secret, but they must also practice their faith in secret or else risking persecution and death. And many others still are suffering and in difficult times, especially as we know how these past two years had been difficult for so many of us.

Many people had lost their loved ones or are still suffering the effects of the current pandemic, as well as its related complications and negative impacts on the communities all around the world. This Christmas should be an inspiration to all of us, especially if we have received more joy and blessings than others, for us to generously share those joy and blessings with those who have little or none of them. Let us all not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to their plight and need, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us all share the true joy of Christmas, that is the joy in the Light and Hope that Christ our Lord and Saviour had brought into our midst, in His coming into the world that all of us now have the assurance of eternal life and true happiness with Him. Let us be the bearers of this joy, this Hope and Light that we have received from Him, and help others who are suffering, sorrowful and are in difficult moments, to be able to see the Light and the Hope of God’s salvation, through our faith and actions.

May the Lord, our Saviour and King, born to us and celebrated this Christmas day, continue to be with us and bless us all in our every good endeavours and deeds. May God give us the strength, courage and joy to live in our world today with true Christian virtues, and bear with us the joy of His love and grace, now and always. Wishing all of us a most blessed and happy Christmas! Amen.

Saturday, 25 December 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas Mass at Dawn (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this morning as we gather together to celebrate this Christmas Mass at Dawn, all of us are called to reflect on the coming of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as the bearer of God’s great light and hope, in His glorious coming and appearance in this world, born in Bethlehem of Judea over two millennia ago. As we heard in our Scripture passages today, the Lord proclaimed His most generous and wonderful love to us through the Nativity or the birth of His Son, Our Saviour.

In our first reading today, we heard of the passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, in which we heard the proclamation of God’s saving grace and His salvation to His people, how He would rescue them and deliver them from their troubles. God has always loved all of His people, that is all of us without any exception. All of us who are sinners are beloved by God and He wants us to be redeemed and be forgiven from our many sins, and that is why He gave us so great a deliverance by sending to us His Son, to free us from the tyranny of sin.

As St. Paul made it clear to St. Titus in our second reading today, God sent us His salvation through Jesus Christ His Son, through Whom His grace, blessings and forgiveness has come down upon us. Incarnate in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, by the power of the Holy Spirit, He has become for us the source of Hope and the fount of God’s most generous mercy. God’s compassion and love has been extended to us, and He has given us this most wonderful means to reach out to Him, that we are no longer going to be separated from Him anymore.

He came as the Child born in that stable, placed in a manger, a small Baby, the Son of Mary. He is the fulfilment of God’s promise of salvation and the long awaited Saviour of all. Yet, unlike what most people at that time would have imagined, He came not as a glorious conqueror or a mighty King, but rather as a small Child, weak and vulnerable, Who had no place to lay His head but on a dirty manger suitable only for animals there in the stable. He came into this world in a very simple and humble way, and although He is a King, but He was born not in a palace, but in a most unworthy of places.

If we remember the story of the Nativity of the Lord, we should remember how St. Joseph and Mary, who was then about to give birth to Jesus, were struggling as they reached Bethlehem after they travelled a long way from Nazareth in Galilee for the census ordered by the Roman Emperor. All the inns and lodgings were full and they were rejected at every places and at every turns. It was probably thanks to a kind person who helped and guided them to a stable located just outside the town of Bethlehem, the place where the Saviour of the world was to be born.

And it was there, amongst animals, sheep, cows, horses, goats and others that the Lord, the King of Kings was born. He was laid in the manger and revealed before the shepherds and others who witnessed His birth. Thus at that time, the coming of the Lord into this world was marked not by great celebrations and throngs of joy on Earth, but in quiet silence and in the presence of shepherds, with only Angels attending to the King, proclaiming His glory with the words, ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Glory to God in the Highest heavens!’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord has come into the world, to be in our midst and among us, so that He may deliver us from our sins. Much as how God has sent Moses to His people, the Israelites to deliver them from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, from their enslavement and humiliation, from their suffering and hard life there, the same He has done for us all through Christ. The Lord Jesus, by His coming into the world, He has delivered us all from the tyranny of sin, from our enslavement to those sins, and receive from Him the freedom and assurance of liberation from eternal death.

We are truly fortunate that the Lord has done such marvellous things for us, even when we are still sinners and delinquents, rebels who are often testing the limits of His patience. Any other men would have consigned us to destruction and abandon us to our fate. But that was not what the Lord had done, as His love for us remained even after all that we had done to Him, in abandoning Him and in disobeying Him. He still did all that He could to reach out to us and patiently caring for us, and by giving us Christ, His Son, He has given the most generous gift of all.

As we enter into this season of Christmas and as we are going to celebrate the festivities of Christmas, therefore let us all spend the time to reflect on what Christmas is all about, brothers and sisters in Christ. Is Christmas to us just like any other holiday, festivities and celebrations? Is it just about all the parties, the glamour and all the merrymaking, about the gifts and the goodies that we are going to receive and exchange with each other? Is it just another time for us to look forward to good food and good pleasures, happiness and joy of this world?

Or is it a time for us to remember once again just how fortunate for us to have been beloved so generously and wonderfully by God, so much so that He has given us His only begotten Son as Our Lord and Saviour? This is unfortunately not what many of us are doing, as many of us in our celebrations of Christmas do not even have Christ at the centre and as the focus of our celebrations and joy. Instead, what we have done is placing ourselves, our greed and ego, and our selfish desires instead as the focus of our Christmas celebrations. To do so is for us to rejoice without understanding the true meaning and significance of Christmas.

Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, all of us who should have been consigned to annihilation and eternal destruction have received new hope and lease of life through His love and grace, by His most generous love in coming to us and in reaching out to us, in looking for us sinners. He is our Good Shepherd Who has come to us, the lost sheep and gathered all of us, calling on all of us to follow Him and be lost from Him no more. He came to us and showed His love to us, only for many of us to shut Him out and ignore Him. Is that something that we should be doing, brothers and sisters?

That is why today as we begin our Christmas joy and celebrations, let us all return to the true roots of the meaning of Christmas. Let us all remember once again why we even rejoice this Christmas, and that is because Christ and His presence in our lives, even today. We rejoice because of the love we have received from Him, and as Christians, all of us are called to share this love with one another. Of course we have to love God first and foremost of all, but we also must not forget to love all those others whom God had placed all around us in our lives.

Let us all share the love of God and the joy we have received this Christmas, and be generous in giving and sharing especially to those who have little or none to celebrate with this Christmas. And instead of excessive revelry and merrymaking, let us all share in the true joy of Christ by reaching out to one another with the genuine faith in Our Lord and His salvation, and share His love and blessings in our everyday lives with those who need them the most. May God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born and celebrated on this Christmas day, be with us all and may He continue to bless us and watch over us throughout our joyous Christmas celebrations. Wishing all of us a most blessed Christmas! Amen.