Sunday, 12 January 2014 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast of the Church, commemorating the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan river by St. John the Baptist. This baptism marked the beginning of the ministry of our Lord Jesus, after thirty years of His life in this world since He was born.

A detail on the early life of Jesus besides His birth, presentation at the Temple and the time when He was left behind in the Temple at twelve was scarce and absent, but it was likely that He lived normally as any man would, under the care of His loving family, Mary His mother and Joseph, His foster-father. He would have lived normally as any sons of a carpenter would live, learning and understanding the world from Joseph, His foster-father.

Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptised by John because it had been prophesied as such by the prophets, and it therefore the very first instance when Christ the Saviour was revealed to the world, the very first instance when many could see and hear the witness of God’s sign of salvation. The truth about God and His saving plan was made clear at that moment when Jesus was baptised.

God made His Son, Jesus Christ to be the Christ or the Messiah, or the Saviour of the world. That was because it was only in Christ that the world could be freed from the chains of sin and evil that had enslaves it since the time when sin first entered the world. And all those who believe in Him would receive the great reward of salvation.

In that event too, God made obvious His nature for the world to see. First, that He is the one and only true God as opposed to all other false gods. He is the one and only supreme Lord and King of all, as the One who created this universe and everything in it, including all of us. But in this Oneness and unity, He has three Divine persons, all coexisting with each other in perfect unity, Three distinct persona, but One in nature and in perfect and indivisible unity.

Yes, what was shown in the event of the baptism of Jesus was what we know as the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity. God that is One and yet has Three distinct persona of Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. All of them are God, and One. The Father is the aspect of God as the Creator and the Omnipotent ruler and Lord of all things, while the Son, who was the Word of God made flesh, is the One who made things come to be, including the creation as well as the plan of salvation. The Holy Spirit is the force and power behind all things and all creation, as well as the life that God has given us.

The Father is not seen or visible to us, as He was portrayed in the Old Testament as a burning bush to Moses, or as a gentle wind to Elijah. It was often His voice that was heard, speaking His will to the prophets or directly to the people of God. Meanwhile, the Son who was the Word of God since the beginning of time and before that, was made known to us, in the person of Jesus Christ, incarnate as a Man, to become the Saviour of the world.

The Holy Spirit was also not directly seen like the Father, but is often portrayed as the flames of fire symbolising the flames of the Spirit of God, just as what happened in Pentecost, as well as a dove, which is the form that the Spirit took when Jesus was baptised at the Jordan. Thus, the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, recalling the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan.

How is this important to us? That is because when we were baptised, we were immersed with the water of baptism much like Jesus as He was immersed in the waters of the River Jordan. And not only that, to show that our baptism is not symbolic, but instead a Sacrament, we were all sealed in the Most Holy Name of the Holy Trinity, to be the possessions of the Lord, and marked for His saving grace, which He had revealed to the world through Jesus.

Jesus Christ was unique among every beings that had ever been in creation and in this universe. That is because He is one Being with two distinct natures, one that is fully divine and the other that is fully human, the two natures of which are united much in the same way the Holy Trinity is united to each other, perfectly united in love and indivisible from one another.

The divine nature of Christ is the One who had existed before all ages with God and was God, the Logos or the Word of God, who came down into the world, and with the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, was conceived into the world in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, and that was the time, when His human nature, that is Jesus Christ, becomes extant.

The two natures had always existed together in Jesus, but as He grew as a baby and then as a young child, the complete truth about His appointed mission in this world was not revealed to Jesus. Nevertheless, He grew to be great with wisdom and knowledge as He aged, and whatever had been taught to Him by His family in this world. It was however at His baptism in the Jordan, when the Trinity once again come together, in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that the fullness of the divine mission of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was made completely clear.

Hence, it can be said that this is the moment of new beginning in the earthly life of Christ. He began His ministry and teaching the Good News for the next three years or so, gathering His disciples and performing miracles and healing for the glory of God. It marked the beginning of the period of great graces of God, just as it does for all of us.

When we were baptised, we were marked to be the possessions of the Lord, that the mark of the Lord will remain for us for the rest of our lives. We were made completely clean once again, without any taints of sin with the water of baptism, and most important of all, we are all made children of God upon our baptism. But then we cannot just be idle or engage again in sinfulness, as we were indeed made clean upon baptism, but there also began our journey of faith towards the ultimate salvation in God, just as Jesus embarked upon His ministry.

May the Lord our God remind us of our holy baptism, of the time when we were made His children and welcomed into the Church, today, when we celebrate the baptism of His Son at the Jordan. May we remember always the water of baptism that made us whole again and worthy of the Lord, that we will resolve from now on to continue living in faith and devotion to God, without turning to the left or right.

Stay faithful, brethren, and as we rejoice in the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us also remember our own day of baptism! Yes, when we were made glorified as the children of God! God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast in the Church, that is the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, when our Lord is transformed into His true divine nature on top of the mountain, and seen by the disciples Peter, James, and John, together with Moses and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets of God.

Yes, Christ our Lord and Saviour is indeed our God and divine in His nature, and He, through His birth by our Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, is also human in nature, the Word of God made flesh and man by the power of the Holy Spirit that reside within the womb of Mary. He is in His nature, fully and completely divine as well as fully and completely human at the same time, separate yet one, one in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yes, our Lord is human, and He has human emotions as well, the love and compassion He has for all of us. He was overwhelmed with sorrow when Lazarus, His beloved friend died and when He witnessed the sorrow of his sisters, Martha and Mary. He showed compassion to the people gathered to listen to His sermons and speeches when they were hungry and without food. He showed compassion and love to the widows and people with afflictions and showed to all of them His great love.

Yet He is also fully divine, the Son of God, who revealed the fullness of His glory to the three of His disciples on the mountain, an occasion which we celebrate today as the Transfiguration. He revealed the truth about Himself and the truth about His power and glory to the three disciples, showing that He is not a mere human, neither is He merely another of the prophets, nor is He merely a liar. Yes, He is the divine Son of God, the Word of God made flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the Blessed Virgin Mary, was made man, fully human, as the Son of Man.

Then, what is the significance of Moses and Elijah appearing to Jesus on the mountain during His Transfiguration and speaking to Him about His death? The significance is that Jesus is the perfect embodiment of what Moses and Elijah each had embodied, as the greatest of the servants the Lord had sent into this world. Moses embodied the Law of God, the commandments and precepts He had given to His people to follow, while Elijah embodied the teaching authority of the prophets granted by the Lord. Jesus, as the Word of God made flesh is the greatest of all the prophets, delivering directly God’s will and message to mankind, and He also perfectly fulfilled all the prophecies the prophets had told about Him, the awaited Messiah, the awaited Saviour of all men.

In Jesus Christ lie our salvation, the perfection of the Law God had granted us, that is the commandments of love, through His explanation and His revelation on the truth about God and His laws, as well as the fulfillment of the prophecies and the teachings of the prophets in all its perfection. All of these, through His birth, His life, His works and ministries, and finally completed with His suffering and death on the cross, that cross on Calvary, and all are completed, just as He said “It is completed.” Yes, the completion of the grand plan on salvation God had prepared for all of us, that we can finally escape the slavery under sin, into freedom of eternal life in God.

However, to reach there, and to complete the plan, Christ had to bear our sins and our faults, as the sacrificial Lamb, the Lamb of God who bared Himself for us, in our place, and suffer instead of us. For we deserve to be punished severely for our sins, and not just any sins, but the persistence and the heaviness of our sins and evils that we have committed since the days of Adam and Eve our ancestors. Our Lord Jesus is without sin and pure, although He is indeed fully human like us, and yet He was made to bear our sins and our punishment in our place, that we will not suffer and experience death allotted to us for our rebelliousness, but instead have a new hope of eternal life and bliss.

He has to suffer, drink the cup of bitterness that God had given Him to drink, and die a prisoner’s death, a criminal’s death on the cross, judged by a Roman governor, condemned by His own people, scourged with lashes and crooks, and pierced by nails and elevated high between the heaven and the earth, all for our sake. Yet, He came down from that mountain where He showed His glory to His disciples, from the place where He manifested Himself as the great and glorious God, into His suffering and Passion, on the way to Jerusalem to die.

The disciples did not understand this, nor why did Christ do so, and what they wanted was that they remain in that wonderful place, in the fullness of the glory of God, that is because they have tasted heaven on earth on that mountain, and certainly they did not want to leave that feeling behind, that happiness and joy being in the glory and perfection of the Lord. That was why Peter suggested to Jesus to build three tents for Himself, for Moses, and for Elijah.

Christ could simply choose to stay there at the place for eternity, because indeed, He is God, and everything is within His power to do. He can remain forever in His great glory, and He did not have to face suffering, rejection, pain, and death. However, Christ knew what must be done, and despite the vast extent of suffering that He must go through in order to save us from our own destruction, His love for us is so great, that He is willing to go through all that, for our sake. He left His comfort zone, that He can exercise what He had come to this world for, that is to be our Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate today this great feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ, let us take some time to reflect on ourselves, on our own actions and deeds. Have we overcome our fear of what is outside our comfort zone, and dared to take a step outside that comfort zone, so that we can make use of whatever gifts and talents God had given us, in order to bring love, comfort, and happiness to one another? Or have we chosen to be like the disciples, who prefer to remain in their comfort zone forever?

Brothers and sisters, to follow Christ means to take up our crosses and follow Him, through difficulties and oppositions that will surely face us in this uphill battle we have to reach our salvation in Christ. It does not mean that we should all suffer or die the same way that Christ had suffered or died for our sake, but certainly it means that it will not be easy either. We have to go the extra mile brothers and sisters, in our service and dedication to the people of God, especially those who are poor, in material and in spirit, and those who lack love in them, those who are unloved and forsaken.

Just as Christ chose to go down from the mountain and face His suffering to come proudly and courageously, we too should follow the example Christ had given us, going down that mountain, and gladly make ourselves available to others, sharing our love with them, bearing one another’s crosses on the way to God and His salvation. Let us be courageous to go an extra mile, stepping outside our comfort zone in our service to God and His people.

Do not fear, brothers and sisters in Christ! For the Lord Transfigured on the mountain and glorified in His might will always be with us, and He will bless us tremendously if we follow in His footsteps, carrying our crosses, in our journey, sharing the love and the Spirit He had given to all of us who have faith in Him with one another. May the Lord Jesus Transfigured bless all of us and our endeavours, and remain with us forever. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013 : Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 28-36

About eight days after Jesus had said all this, He took Peter, John, and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the aspect of His face was changed, and His clothing became dazzling white. Two men were talking with Jesus : Moses and Elijah. Appearing in the glory of heaven, Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about His departure from this life, which was to take place in Jerusalem.

Peter and his companions had fallen asleep; but they awoke suddenly, and they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. As Moses and Elijah were about to leave, Peter – not knowing what to say – said to Jesus, “Master, how good it is for us to be here! Let us make three tents, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

And no sooner had he spoken, than a cloud appeared and covered them; and the disciples were afraid as they entered the cloud. Then these words came from the cloud, “This is My Son, My Beloved, listen to Him.” And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was there alone. The disciples kept this to themselves at the time, telling no one of anything they had seen.

Thursday, 2 May 2013 : 5th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor (Scripture Reflection)

Today, we hear the words of Christ, that we all should love, just as Christ and His Father, our Lord have loved us, so then we should also love them back with all our hearts, our minds, and our souls. For love lies at the very centre of our faith in God, and it is in love that we truly can have faith in Christ. If we have no love in us, we can never be truly faithful to Christ and to God, for without love, we cannot possibly understand what they are doing and what they have done, for our sake, and for our own good.

Love one another as God has loved us. Indeed, it may seem to be easy for many to say that they can love, but in fact, love should not be taken for granted, for the ability to love is not as easily obtained as one would think, but true love require great dedication and effort, in order for love to be present, to be maintained, and to be able to flourish. Our world lacks love, and it is in this lack of love, that the many problems of our world can trace their roots from.

Have we followed Christ’s commandments, the commandments of love, to love one another as unconditionally as Christ had loved us? He died for all of us, by suffering on the way to Calvary and finally hung between the heaven and the earth, so that all of us may be saved from death that is our fate, and by His resurrection we can share in His life, that all of us will have eternal life in Him. This He offered to everyone, even to those who hated Him, and even to those who persecuted Him, and His people.

To be able to love is a great blessing to all of us. If we are able to learn more about love, and how to love, we will be able to transform ourselves, but indeed not just ourselves, but also those around us, and many other things surrounding us. Love is indeed the key to life, life eternal in God, both for ourselves and to those to whom we show and reflect God’s love.

Today, we celebrate the memorial and feast of a great saint, Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, who was one of the great early Church Fathers that helped to establish the Church of God, and strengthened the faith of the people of God, in the onslaught of heresies and heretical thoughts espoused by those who the devil had entrusted to destroy God’s Church. The devil hates love, and therefore, it is only natural that he will want to destroy the very place where love can still be found in this world, that is in the Church of God.

St. Athanasius defended the Church against the heretical teachings of Arius, the popular presbyter and preacher, who espoused the idea that Christ is not fully man and fully divine, and rather just as a man, a mere human, without divine qualities, as we believe in our Creed. St. Athanasius had to suffer exile and persecution due to his steadfast defense of the Lord and the true faith in God, against these heresies. Yet he prevailed, and due to his ceaseless efforts to bring many back to the true faith in God, he managed to prevail in the end, and bring back countless ones back into God’s Church and therefore into God’s love.

For we have to remember always that Christ is no mere human, for He is the Son of God, both fully human and fully divine at the same time. He is God, and with God since the beginning of time. And it was because of the great and infinite love that God has for all of us, that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to be man like us, and in this great love, we are saved and are given chance for eternal life, if we would receive His divine love and that He is our Lord and God.

For if we believe that Christ is just mere human, then there would be no hope for all of us, all of us beloved by God and who place our trust in Christ. For a human’s blood has no power to free us from the chains of slavery of sin, which Satan has imposed on us, since the rebellion of our forefathers, Adam and Eve, our ancestors. But because Christ is God, and with God, one with He who created us, we have hope since the Lamb of God Himself shed His Precious Blood, that we can be saved, out of His great and infinite love for all His people.

Now that we know how much God has loved us, and how much He wants us to remain within His love and care, should we now then vow to our Lord and God, that we will love Him ever greater and ever more? Let us put our full trust in Him and follow in His ways, in the footsteps of St. Athanasius, the great defender of the true faith in Christ. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, pray for us. Amen.