Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to heed the words of the Lord in them, calling on us to listen to the Lord and to obey Him. We should follow the path that He has shown us and not be distracted by the temptations of following the whim of our worldly desires and the desire for glory and power of the world. We have to walk in the path of the Lord and be exemplary in how we live our lives as good Christians.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the time when the people of Israel were fighting against the Philistines who were often invading their lands and oppressing them, and because the Philistinian forces were strong, the Israelites were at a disadvantage and sought to use the Lord as their leverage. They therefore brought the Ark of the Covenant, the Ark of God’s Presence with them into battle, led by the two sons of the Judge Eli, namely Hophni and Phinehas.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time, as Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Judge Eli were wicked and corrupt, often taking from the sacrifices intended to God for themselves, in contravention of the Law and customs of the people of God. As such, they were wicked and evil in their deeds, and their participation at the battle marred the sanctity of the Ark of the Covenant. They were exploiting the Ark and hoping that the presence of God would help them to win the battle, and yet, the people did not truly have faith in the Lord.

As such, the people of Israel were defeated, those two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas were slain, and the Ark of the Covenant itself was taken by the Philistines in a most humiliating and crushing defeat for the Israelites. Their defeat was a consequence of their own disobedience and wickedness, as many of them, especially those two sons of Eli, had lived a wretched life and filled with sin. They refused to follow the Law and the commandments of God, following their own desires and their own worldly wishes instead of obeying God.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus healed a man who had been suffering from leprosy. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded conditions at the time of Jesus and before that, as those who suffered from leprosy must exclude themselves from the community and forced to wander off away from the towns and villages, not allowed to return until they could prove that they were no longer suffering from leprosy. That man had no one else to turn to, and he asked the Lord to have mercy on him.

The Lord healed him and told the man not to tell anyone but to show himself to a priest as prescribed by the Law. Instead, the man told others what the Lord had done unto him, and that made the Lord’s works difficult, as He could no longer enter any town. The healed man might not have intended any ill will or harm to the Lord, but may simply have been too excited having been healed from his condition. However, his disobedience came at a great price to the Lord and many others who needed His help.

That is because just as the lepers were ostracised and forced to stay away from the community, no one were supposed to come in contact with them, or else all those who came in contact with the lepers would themselves be considered as being unclean as well. Thus, as the man told everyone how he was healed by the Lord, then although the man had appeared to be healed, but it also meant that the Lord Jesus had associated and come into contact with the leper, and therefore, many would have considered Him to be unclean as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just yet another example of how disobedience could lead us to cause suffering either upon ourselves or on others. If we disobey God, then more likely than not we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the trap of sin. We have to trust in the Lord and obey His will, and not to go astray because of all the temptations around us. We have to be vigilant and focus ourselves on the Lord and His truth.

Today, we should follow the good examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, one of our holy predecessors. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the Bishop of Poitiers in southern France during the years of the late Roman Empire after the Christian faith had been accepted, tolerated and eventually adopted by many of the people throughout the Roman Empire. St. Hilary of Poitiers was well-known for his great dedication to the Lord and for his care for his flock despite the challenges he faced throughout his ministry.

At that time, the Church and the faithful communities were bitterly divided among the Arian faction, those who followed the heretical teachings of Arius, denying the equality and consubstantiality of Christ to the Father, and those who held on to the true teachings of the Church, the Nicene Creed and profession of faith. St. Hilary tried his best to bridge the divisions and bring all those who had been swayed by the false teachings back to the truth.

But this was not easily done, as he has to endure so many tough obstacles and even had to go through exile for several years away from his diocese, due to the actions and machinations of those who opposed him and the Church. Yet, St. Hilary never gave up and continued to do his works, even when he was away in exile. When he returned, he continued to work for the sake of God’s people to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek the Lord wholeheartedly and serve Him the way that St. Hilary of Poitiers had done, and obey Him and His will, walking in His path as we all should. Let us all not be swayed by the temptations of evil, and instead let us be exemplary in faith and in our way of life, now and always, so that we may be good source of inspiration to our fellow brothers and sisters. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and begged Him, “If You want to, You can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to; be clean.”

The leprosy left the man at once and he was made clean. As Jesus sent the man away, He sternly warned him, “Do not tell anyone about this, but go and show yourself to the priest; and for the cleansing, bring the offering ordered by Moses in this way, you will give to them your testimony.”

However, as soon as the man went out, he began spreading the news everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter any town. But even though He stayed in the rural areas, people came to Him from everywhere.

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 43 : 10-11, 14-15, 24-25

Yet now, You have rejected and humbled us; You no longer go forth with our armies. You have let our enemies drive us back and our adversaries plunder us.

You have made us the butt of our neighbours’ insult, the scorn and laughingstock of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; they look at us and shake their heads.

Awake, o Lord! Why are You asleep? Arise! Reject us not forever. Why hide Your face from us? Why forget our misery and woes?

Thursday, 13 January 2022 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11

At that time Samuel was a prophet of Israel. The Israelites went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, while the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines then drew up in battle formation. They attacked Israel and after a fierce fighting, Israel was defeated, leaving about four thousand men dead on the battlefield.

When the troops retreated to their camp, the elders of Israel asked, “Why has YHVH allowed us to be defeated by the Philistines? Let us take the Ark of God from Shiloh and bring it here so that YHVH may be with us and save us from our enemies.” So the people sent messengers to Shiloh to take the Ark of YHVH Who is seated on the Cherubim. Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, accompanied the Ark.

As soon as the Ark of YHVH entered the camp, the Israelites began to cheer so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines heard the shouting and asked, “What does this loud shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” And they were told that the Ark of YHVH had been brought to the camp.

The Philistines were overcome with fear. They exclaimed, “A God has come into the camp. Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can save us from the power of these mighty Gods? These are the Gods Who struck the Egyptians with all sorts of plagues – and in the desert. Take courage and conduct yourselves like men, o Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews in the same way they have been slaves to you. Be manly and fight.”

So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated. Everyone fled to his home. It was a disastrous defeat; thirty thousand foot soldiers of Israel were killed. The Ark of God was captured and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

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.

Thursday, 6 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 2 : 1-12

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the days of king Herod, wise men from the East arrived in Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? We saw the rising of His star in the East and have come to honour Him.”

When Herod heard this he was greatly disturbed, and with him all Jerusalem. He immediately called a meeting of all high-ranking priests and scribes, and asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

“In the town of Bethlehem in Judea,” they told him, “For this is what the prophet wrote : And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the clans of Judah, for from you will come a Leader, the One Who is to shepherd My people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called the wise men and asked them the precise time the star appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem with the instruction, “Go and get accurate information about the Child. As soon as you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may go and honour Him.”

After the meeting with the king, they set out. The star that they had seen in the East went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the Child was. The wise men were overjoyed on seeing the star again. They went into the house, and when they saw the Child with Mary His mother, they knelt and worshipped Him. They opened their bags and offered Him their gifts of gold, incense and myrrh.

In a dream they were warned not to go back to Herod, so they returned to their home country by another way.

Thursday, 6 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 3 : 2-3a, 5-6

You may have heard of the graces God bestowed on me for your sake. By a revelation He gave me the knowledge of His mysterious design. This mystery was not made known to past generations but only now, through revelations given to holy Apostles and prophets.

Now the non-Jewish people share the Inheritance; in Christ Jesus the non-Jews are incorporated and are to enjoy the Promise. This is the Good News.

Thursday, 6 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

O God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Justice will flower in His days, and peace abound till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

The kings of Tarshish and the islands render Him tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts, all kings bow down to Him, and all nations serve Him.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor, He saves the life of the poor.

Thursday, 6 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 60 : 1-6

Arise, shine, for your Light has come. The Glory of YHVH rises upon you. Night still covers the earth and gloomy clouds veil the peoples, but YHVH now rises and over you His glory appears. Nations will come to your Light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Lift up your eyes round about and see : they are all gathered and come to you, your sons from afar, your daughters tenderly carried. This sight will make your face radiant, your heart throbbing and full; the riches of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of the nations will come to you.

A flood of camels will cover you, caravans from Midian and Ephah. Those from Sheba will come, bringing with them gold and incense, all singing in praise of YHVH.

Thursday, 6 January 2022 : Thursday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord, we heard of the reminder of the love of God that has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Whose coming into this world brought forth upon us the fulfilment of the long promised salvation that God had promised to each and every one of us, to all mankind through His many prophets and messengers that He had sent to us in the past.

In our Gospel reading today, we heard how the Lord Jesus came to the synagogue in His hometown Nazareth, and reading the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, uttering the very words that the prophet had spoken regarding His own coming into this world. By proclaiming the words of God’s salvation, and reminding all of us of His promises, Christ has reassured all those assembled, and all of us here who have heard those words from the Scriptures, that He will always uphold and fulfil His promises, and we can truly trust in Him.

For it was by His Incarnation and coming into this world that He has shown us the gifts of His love, and the hope of redemption, for us to be reconciled to Him and to be able to find our way to Him. The Lord has sent His own Son into our midst that He may dwell with us and remain with us, and that we are not alone regardless of what we are facing in this world. He has come to heal us from our wounds, forgiving us our trespasses and transgressions, and calling us to repent from our many sins and be reconciled with us.

In our first reading today, the Apostle St. John in his Epistle spoke of the calling for all of us Christians to love one another and to show love in our daily lives and actions, just as God has loved us first, through all that He had done for us and ultimately through Christ, by His loving sacrifice on the Cross, as He selflessly took upon Himself all the scourges, the punishments and the sufferings due to our sins. He gave Himself for us, so that by His love and actions, all of us may receive the guarantee of everlasting life, and by His wounds and His death, we have been made sharers in the true joy and everlasting glory.

If we all profess to believe in God, then it is natural that each and every one of us should love Him to the best of our abilities, and to reach out to Him, loving Him first and foremost before all else. And with this same love, all of us should also love our fellow brothers and sisters, in our respective communities. For if the Lord has loved each and every one of us without any exceptions, even to the worst of sinners, then how can we not love our brothers and sisters, even strangers whom we encounter in our daily lives?

And not only that, but as the Lord Himself has also taught His disciples, we have to learn to love even our enemies and all those who hate us. It is easy for us to love those who love us back, but it is much harder to love those who have made our lives difficult and hurt us. But that was exactly what the Lord Himself had done to us. Remember how He has forgiven even those who have made Him to suffer, rejected and humiliated Him, all those who have condemned Him to die a most painful death on the Cross. He forgave those who hated Him from

His Cross and prayed for them all.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all learn to love generously and fulfil our calling as Christians to show love to one another in the same way that the Lord has first shown us. Let us not harden our hearts and open ourselves ever more to God’s most generous love and wonders. Through His love, God has rescued us and endeavoured to make us whole again. Yet, it was by our stubbornness that many of us remained attached to sin and placed ourselves under the bondage and the sway of sin, of evil and wickedness.

Today, as we continue to celebrate this Christmas season, let us all be witnesses of God’s love in the midst of our communities, and let us devote ourselves ever more courageously in order to love the Lord and to share that love with each other. Let us follow the Lord and His ways, of loving generously and tenderly from now on, always and evermore. May God bless us always and remain with us, at all times. Amen.