Sunday, 2 February 2014 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a great feast day which marks the official end of the Christmas season, forty days after Christmas, when we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, when Jesus Christ our Lord was presented according to the custom of the laws of Moses, at the Temple, as the firstborn of His family, the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

This feast of the Presentation of the Lord has deep symbolic and real meaning in our faith, because Jesus Christ was indeed special in all things, as the Lord divine incarnate into the flesh as Man. As the One who became one of us and dwell among us, He was destined to become the High Priest of all creation, over all of us mankind.

Yes, as the High Priest He was to be the One in between us and our Lord, Our Father and Creator. The high priests of Israel offered the offering of mankind, the people of God to the Lord, as the mediator and intermediate, that the sins of mankind may be absolved and forgiven. The same too therefore happened with Jesus Christ, who was the High Priest, the One and only High Priest, who offered nothing else but Himself as a perfect offering for the absolution of mankind.

And if the high priests and priests of Israel continued to offer animal sacrifices, in the blood of lambs and goats for the temporal absolution of the people’s sins, Christ as the High Priest offered Himself as the only worthy Lamb of sacrifice, to once and for all liberate mankind from the sins of their ancestors, that through Him mankind may have hope once again in salvation and eternal life.

As the sacrifice for the sins of all mankind for all times and ages, therefore Jesus and His death on the cross marked our liberation from the power and tyranny of sin. Never again would death have unchecked power over us, as we have been given a new hope of life through Jesus. His death and sacrifice justified us and we who accept His sacrifice and recognise Him through baptism receive eternal life and redemption.

Then you may ask, if He was to be the Saviour of the world and the High Priest of all, why then He was presented to the Lord at the Temple? Why was Jesus presented to the Lord as the firstborn Son of Mary? That is because Jesus indeed came to this world not to destroy the Law revealed through Moses, but to make it perfect through God’s love.

As all the people of God offered their firstborn son and consecrated them to YHVH, their Lord and God, so was Jesus offered, both as the firstborn Son of Mary, the Son of Man, and as the Son of God, the Word of God incarnate into flesh. The Presentation event that we are celebrating today showed to the world, in a revelation, who Jesus was, and what He was going to bring into this world, that is salvation.

Simeon the seer had been waiting for long, expecting for the coming of the Messiah in Jesus, and he was indeed fortunate among many prophets and servants of God, that he was given the opportunity to see the salvation of the world even a small, little Baby. Many longed to see the Messiah and His coming, and did not see Him, and Simeon as well as Anna was fortunate among them, not only because they were able to witness the coming of the Messiah, but both of them also became the heralds of the Lord’s coming by revealing Him to the people of God.

They told the people that the Baby being offered to God at the Temple, as frail and fragile and weak He was, Jesus was destined to be the One who was to bring liberation to a world immersed in darkness. He was offered as the unblemished and perfect sacrifice, that would free mankind from their slavery to sin and evil.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is imperative for all of us to take note of this occasion and rejoice for the gift of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God our Father had given us all as the gift for our salvation. He offered Himself to redeem us from our sins, and despite our constant rebellion and disobedience, He wants equally constantly for us to be reunited with Him in faith and love.

Today we also commemorate, fittingly, the Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, that is we pray for the sake of all those who had dedicated and consecrated themselves to the Lord, be it as priests, religious, or consecrated people, who forsook the world and all its goodness, to be with God, and to serve Him and His people.

Just as Jesus had been dedicated to the Lord, to be the Saviour of the world, and the liberator of mankind, therefore, the priests and the religious also dedicated themselves to God their Lord and Master, professing solemnly their faith and dedication to Him, till the end of their lives. They become our intermediary with the Lord, much in the same way as how Jesus, as our High Priest, is the mediator between God and all of us.

The works of our consecrated priests and the other servants of the Lord are heavy and burdensome. They have many challenges and trials to go through daily, especially opposition to their works and rejections to their teachings. Many also do not appreciate their works, and even put themselves in the way of their ministries.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today, as we recall the Presentation of our Lord Jesus, let us also pray for our priests and religious brothers and sisters, that they may stay faithful and dedicated to the flock and the works they have been entrusted with. May they persevere despite the increasing opposition against their works and persecutions against the faithful in general.

And we too, brothers and sisters in Christ, also have our own roles to play. We are also called by the Lord in baptism, to be the messengers of His Good News. Even though we do not dedicate ourselves as closely as that of our priests and religious, we can also take part in the Lord’s work aimed at the salvation of all mankind. In order to do that, we need to love and love tenderly.

Yes, through our actions and deeds, we can show God’s love to everyone, and make them to understand God’s love for them and so that they may believe in Jesus, in the love He had shown to all of us that He did not even mind to doe a humiliating and painful death on the cross for our lives and salvation. He turned that cross of shame into a triumphant cross of victory.

May the Lord Jesus deepen the faith within our hearts, that we too may commit ourselves, our lives and all our actions, for the sake of our Lord, and out of love for our brothers and sisters who are still separated from God’s love. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 2 February 2014 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-40

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord : ‘Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God.’ And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.

So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see.”

“Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a sign, a sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four.

Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom : the grace of God was upon Him.

Alternative Reading (shorter version)

Luke 2 : 22-32

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the Law of the Lord : ‘Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God.’ And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.’

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.

So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see.”

“Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

Sunday, 2 February 2014 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 2 : 14-18

And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus likewise had to share this nature. This is why His death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime because of the fear of death.

Jesus came to take by the hand not the angels but the human race. So He had to be like His brothers and sisters in every respect, in order to be the High Priest faithful to God and merciful to them, a priest able to ask pardon and atone for their sins.

Having been tested through suffering, He is able to help those who are tested.

Sunday, 2 February 2014 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 23 : 7, 8, 9, 10

Lift up, o gateways, your lintels, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? The Lord, the strong, the mighty, the Lord, valiant in battle.

Lift up your lintels, o gateways, open up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may enter!

Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory!

Sunday, 2 February 2014 : Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Malachi 3 : 1-4

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts.

Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching. He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be.

Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

Sunday, 19 January 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Brethren in Christ, today we heard how every reading proclaimed the glory of God in Jesus, His Son, who came down upon us, incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who walked in this earth, and who went on a blessed ministry of healing and purification of the people of God, after He was baptised in the Jordan by John the Baptist.

John the Baptist, who was also the relative of Jesus, was sent ahead of Him, to be the one who was prophesied in the first reading today, in the Book of the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied that the servant of God would come, and through him, prepared for such a ministry from the womb of his mother, the Lord would be known to everyone.

And that was precisely what John the Baptist did. He was prepared for a mission for the sake of the Lord ever since he was still in his mother’s womb. John the Baptist went on to live in the desert and became a great voice that shouted in the wilderness, calling the people of God to repent and forgo their old, sinful ways. He called for the repentance of peoples and for them to mark their repentance with the baptism of water at the Jordan.

John the Baptist baptised people and they came to him, seeking forgiveness for their sins. He therefore prepared the way straight for the Lord, who came immediately after him, Jesus, the Son of Mary, his relative. And John the Baptist, despite his popularity and his following, did not succumb to the usual weakness of human pride and arrogance. Instead, he did what he was supposed to do, that is to prepare and welcome the coming of the Lord the Saviour.

He proclaimed the Lord to his own followers and to the people after he baptised Jesus and witnessed the events which confirmed to him that Jesus was indeed the One he had been waiting for, and the One indeed whom John had done all those hard work for. John did not complain or hold any grudge against the Lord, for having received all the good fruits and benefits of his hard works. Instead, he joyfully proclaimed the Lord to all.

John the Baptist, as is often said, is a role model for all of us Christians who believed in the Lord. He humbly acknowledged the superiority of the Lord, who grew in glory and majesty, while he declined in importance. Even after his own disciples complained about the fact, he told them the truth about Jesus, who He was and what great things He would do, for the salvation of all mankind.

We should follow the examples of John the Baptist, that we also be humble before the Lord, especially in full awareness of our sins and our unworthiness, despite which our Lord and God Jesus Christ still came to save us. John the Baptist showed us how to lead a Christian life. We cannot be Christians if we do not proclaim Christ in our life, be it through our words, deeds, or actions. We should be always ever ready to confess that Christ is the Lord and the Saviour, that all will also believe in Him, much as how John convinced his followers that Jesus is the Christ and the Lord.

But today, there are even many more things we should talk about, because today is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, commemorating the many millions today who are refugees away from their homeland, because of war, because of hatred and injustice, and because of prejudice and lack of love among mankind. Also commemorated today are the migrants who had gone away from their homeland to a new land, often far far away, for many reasons, most important of which are for economic reasons and also to seek peaceful life away from warfare.

As mentioned in the prophesy of Isaiah in the first reading, the coming of the Messiah was also associated with the reunion of the people of God who had been scattered throughout the world in exile. The coming of Christ was supposed to bring forth the peace and harmony, which would see that mankind no longer hate or despise one another, but instead live in harmony and love.

Yes, that is what we expect will happen, when the Lord who had come in Jesus Christ and died for our sins, comes again for the second time, when He will come as a victorious and conquering king, to bring all those who are faithful to Him into His eternal kingdom, where there will be no more hatred, divisions, or violence. Nevertheless, for us who are in this world, who still live in this world before this time, unfortunately this world is still very much in a mess.

If you follow the world news, you will realise that in many parts of the world, if not most, there are still much hatred, violence, and prejudice which existed between mankind, between one person and another, and between peoples. The world is rife with rivalry between human interests, either for land, or for more natural resources, and for many other reasons, including greed.

People were driven from their homes and their land, because violence often still ruled the day. As we all know what had happened recently in places such as Libya and Syria, especially what is still happening now in Syria, where thousands upon thousands die because of the violence there, because of the disregard for human life, and hatred for the others, that is hatred against those considered to be different to one’s group and therefore abominable.

Men fought one another and slaughter the innocent, because love has yet to take root in them, and many parts of the world if not most are still subject to this evil. And the result was pain, sorrow, and death. Many had to be driven from their homes and the land which they had inherited from their forefathers, and which they had lived in so peacefully until recently.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord is love, peace, and harmony, and He has given to us His peace and His love. While we await for His second coming in glory, it is actually our part to play, in order to bring peace and love to our brethren, especially to whom peace and love had been taken away, such as our migrant and refugee brethren. They need peace, as well as our love and care. For it is often that they lost everything when they were forced off their land, and they had nothing.

Therefore brethren, let us show our faith and dedication to the Lord who loves us all and wants us to be reunited to Him, by showing our love to the refugees and migrants of this world, especially if any of them are present in our societies. Let us not follow the trend of this world, that is to shun them and cast them out of our societies, making them into a ghetto of refugees and migrants. We should instead help them, and talk to them, and then we will understand better the difficulties they had faced.

Let us then not close our hearts to the plight of the migrants and refugees, and seek to welcome them as our fellow brothers and sisters, helping them in any way we can to help alleviate their sufferings. Let us proclaim the love of God to them and to all men, following in the footsteps of John the Baptist, who proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Messiah to all people he taught.

May we all then proclaim the Lord as our God, as one people, and seek to heal any divisions, pains, or sufferings that exist among us, that we may let go of any hatred or negative feelings, and instead embrace the way of peace, the way of the Lord. May God bring us together, as fellow brothers and sisters in the unity of God’s loving family, and may we all be blessed forever. Amen!

Sunday, 19 January 2014 : 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, World Day of Migrants and Refugees (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 1 : 29-34

The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him, and said, “There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! It is He of whom I said : A Man comes after me, who is already ahead of Me, for He was before me. I myself did not know Him, but I came baptising to prepare for Him, so that He might be revealed in Israel.”

And John also gave this testimony, “I saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove from heaven, and resting on Him. I myself did not know Him, but God, who sent me to baptise, told me, ‘You will see the Spirit coming down, and resting, on the One who baptises with the Holy Spirit.'”

“Yes, I have seen! And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God!”