Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, our Lord Jesus Christ, the time which is usually associated with the ending of the Christmas season, or Christmastide, although in some traditional celebrations, the season of Christmas does not end until the second day of February, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, following a forty day period for Christmas.

On this day, we commemorate that moment, when Christ began His earthly ministry, to begin the works which He had been born into this world for, that is to herald and bring about salvation to all mankind, and to liberate them from their sins and from the chains of wickedness, evil, sin and death. It was at that moment of His baptism that He officially began His earthly ministry, and this is truly important to all of us as well in its meaning.

This is also the model of our Church’s sacrament of holy baptism, the first of the seven sacraments and the first one that a believer, either as a baby or as a catechumen deciding to follow the Lord, must receive, before he or she would be able to receive the other sacraments, such as the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Most Holy Eucharist, Penance or that of the Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders.

It was through baptism that a faithful is welcomed into the Church of God, and through baptism, the faithful was sealed with the seal of the Living God, and became one with all the other members of the Church, adopted as God’s children and become partakers of God’s plan of salvation and in His everlasting kingdom of joy and happiness. Without baptism, the state of our souls will continue to be in limbo and darkness.

Just as Christ was immersed in the waters of the Jordan, we too have been immersed in the water during our baptism. Water itself has many symbolic meanings, the most common of which is its purifying capacity, where water cleanses things that are dirty and corrupted, and washes away all dirt and unpleasant things. It is also a symbol of life, since water is crucial for life, and absolutely no life could have existed in the absence of water.

And thus, as we were immersed in the water during our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism, we were also purified from the taints of our past sins, the wickedness and corruptions of sin that had been with us, and by the holy water blessed and made pure by the hands of the priests, the Lord Jesus had made us all whole again in body and in spirit, just as He had once healed the lepers, the sick and the dying.

And water can also bring death, as we have seen how water can be so destructive in occurrences such as tsunamis, floods and various other forces of water that brought death and misery, just as it can also bring life, and indeed is essential for life. Thus, the waters of baptism symbolised that death which all of us ought to share in the Lord, that through this sharing with His death, we may also have a share in His glorious resurrection.

Yes, the waters of baptism is a symbol of the death and the end of our old life on earth, in our commitment to abandon and reject sin and Satan in all of its forms, and by dying to this old life, as St. Paul had mentioned, we left behind all of the attachments, the bonds and the chains that kept us in our old ways and which had prevented us from attaining God’s salvation and grace.

The baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ at the Jordan is a symbol for us all to remember, for even though He Himself was different, as He was without any taint of sin, and yet He chose to lower Himself and be immersed in the Jordan, and baptised by His servant John the Baptist, but through that action, we should now be able to understand clearly what our Lord had intended for us to do with our own lives.

Before the Lord Jesus was baptised, since the day when He was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in a stable, His parents had cared for Him very well, both His mother Mary, as well as His foster father St. Joseph. And He was brought up in Nazareth, the village where His family lived in, and where He Himself grew up as all men did, and He grew both in knowledge, wisdom and strength, and in the favour in the sight of God.

And as His father St. Joseph was a hardworking carpenter, and considering the fact that sons normally followed in the footsteps of their fathers, it was likely that Jesus was perhaps once a carpenter too, or at least that He knew how to handle things as His foster father had done. And so, He likely dealt with things and matters of the world such as crafting furnitures and other wooden objects.

Yet, when He was baptised by John at the Jordan, that was the moment when all was revealed regarding Jesus, His true nature and His mission on earth. And afterward, He began His ministry, tending to the sick, both in body and in spirit, and He blessed many people, fed them, and gave them the Good News of God through His own words.

And in the end, He carried up the cross that was burdened with all of our sins and iniquities, and He bore all these up with Him as He ascended the hill of Calvary, stretched up between the heavens and the earth, and He gave up His own life, as a perfect and fitting sacrifice to serve as the absolution and the forgiveness for all the multitudes of our sins and their effects.

In all these, we have to realise that the story of our Lord Jesus from His baptism to His death on the cross is actually the example of our own Christian life, of how we are all expected to live out our lives in faith. We who have received the gift of baptism should therefore go forth and do as the Lord Himself had done, loving one another, forgiving those who have done bad things to us, praying even for our enemies and for those who persecute us, as well as other things that He had commanded us all to do.

This is what we need to do, and this is what we should indeed do as those who call themselves as Christians, as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and wholeheartedly follow His laws and commandments, so that in everything that we say and do, we will always be faithful, and bring glory to our Lord and God. May God bless us all and keep us in His grace, now and forever. Amen.

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 3 : 15-16, 21-22

At that time, the people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could He be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water, but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal.”

Now, with all the people who came to be baptised, Jesus too was baptised. Then, while He was praying, the heavens opened : the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in the bodily form of a Dove, and a Voice from Heaven was heard, “You are My Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Titus 2 : 11-14 and Titus 3 : 4-7

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, teaching us to reject an irreligious way of life and worldly greed, and to live in this world as responsible persons, upright and serving God, while we await our blessed hope – the glorious manifestation of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus. He gave Himself for us, to redeem us from every evil and to purify a people He wanted to be His own and dedicated to what is good.

But God our Saviour revealed His eminent goodness and love for humankind and saved us, not because of good deeds we may have done but for the sake of His own mercy, to the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit poured over us through Christ Jesus our Saviour, so that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs in hope of eternal life.

Alternative reading

Acts 10 : 34-38

Peter then spoke to the disciples of Christ, “Truly, I realise that God does not show partiality, but in all nations He listens to everyone who fears God and and does good. And this is the message He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace He has sent to the children of Israel, the Good News of peace He has proclaimed through Jesus Christ, Who is the Lord of all.”

“No doubt you have heard of the event that occurred throughout the whole country of the Jews, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism John preached. You know how God anointed Jesus the Nazarean with Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all who were under the devil’s power, because God was with Him.”

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 103 : 1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30

Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment; You stretch out the heavens like a tent.

You build Your upper rooms above the waters. You make the clouds Your chariot and ride on the wings of the wind; You make the winds Your messengers, and fire and flame Your ministers.

How varied, o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Behold the sea, wide and vast, teeming with countless creatures, living things both great and small.

They all look to You for their food in due time. You give it to them, and they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.

When You hide Your face they vanish, You take away their breath, they expire and return to dust. When You send forth Your Spirit, they are created, and the face of the earth is renewed.

Alternative reading

Psalm 28 : 1a and 2, 3ac-4, 3b and 9b-10

Give the Lord, o sons of God, give the Lord the glory due His Name; worship the Lord in great liturgy.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the Lord thunders over vast waters. How powerful is the voice of the Lord, how splendorous is the voice of the Lord.

The God of glory thunders, the Lord strips the forests bare, and in His Temple all cry, “Glory!” Over the flood the Lord was sitting; the Lord is King and He reigns forever.

Sunday, 10 January 2016 : Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes your God with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty.

Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Alternative reading

Isaiah 42 : 1-4, 6-7

Here is My Servant Whom I uphold, My Chosen One in Whom I delight. I have put My Spirit upon Him, and He will bring justice to the nations. He does not shout or raise His voice. Proclamations are not heard in the streets. A broken reed He will not crush, nor will He snuff out the light of the wavering wick. He will make justice appear in truth.

He will not waver or be broken until He has established justice on earth; the islands are waiting for His Law. I, YHVH, have called You for the sake of justice; I will hold Your hand to make You firm; I will make You as a Covenant to the people, and as a Light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.

Saturday, 9 January 2016 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 3 : 22-30

At that time, Jesus went into the territory of Judea with His disciples. He stayed there with them and baptised. John was also baptising in Aenon, near Salim, where water was plentiful; people came to him and were baptised. This happened before John was put in prison.

Now John’s disciples had been questioned by a Jew about spiritual cleansing, so they came to John and said, “Rabbi, the One Who was with you across the Jordan, and about Whom you spoke favourably, is now baptising, and all are going to him.”

John answered, “No one can receive anything, except what has been given to Him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him.’ Only the bridegroom has the bride; but the friend of the bridegroom stands by and listens, and rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice.”

“My joy is now full. It is necessary that He increase but that I decrease.”

Saturday, 9 January 2016 : Saturday after the Epiphany (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to the Lord a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker, let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name and make music for Him with harp and timbrel. For the Lord delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night on their couches. Let the praise of God be on their lips. This is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!

Saturday, 9 January 2016 : Saturday after the Epiphany (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 5 : 14-21

Through Him we are fully confident that whatever we ask, according to His will, He will grant us. If we know that He hears us whenever we ask, we know that we already have what we asked of Him.

If you see your brother committing sin, a sin which does not lead to death, pray for him, and God will give life to your brother. I speak, of course, of the sin which does not lead to death. There is also a sin that leads to death; I do not speak of praying about this. Every kind of wrongdoing is sin, but not all sin leads to death.

We know that those born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them and the evil one does not touch them. We know that we belong to God, while the whole world lies in evil. We know that the Son of God has come and has given us power to know the truth. We are in Him Who is true, His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

My dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

Friday, 8 January 2016 : Friday after the Epiphany (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the Lord Who came into this world, proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation, mercy and healing upon all of us mankind, all of whom were sickened in our hearts, filled and tainted with the darkness of our own faults and disobediences, with our own sins and unworthiness before the Lord.

In the Gospel we heard how the Lord Jesus helped a leper who was suffering from his leprosy, the pain, the suffering, the shame and the stigma that came with it, and how Jesus brought him to fullness of healing and redemption, and his leprosy was healed when the Lord touched him, purging from him the imperfection and the filth of the physical leprosy of the flesh.

But Jesus did not desire for the man to trumpet out loud what He had done for him. In our human nature, it would be natural for us all to show off what we have been successful in, and boast of our achievements, but this was not what the Lord Jesus had done. This is because whatever He had done for mankind’s sake, His people and beloved children, He had done them for their sake entirely, and never for His own glory.

And yet, whatever He had done, out of His infinite and everlasting love for us all, He had been glorified through His actions, as we heard in the first reading today, by the testimony of the water, the blood and the Spirit, all of which acted in unison in proclaiming the love, the everlasting and great love that God had shown us all and manifested itself through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When Jesus was baptised at the Jordan, as He was immersed in the water by John the Baptist, the heaven was opened, and there came a great voice from Heaven, proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, and a dove, which represents the Holy Spirit, came to dwell on Jesus, the testimony of the truth which both the water and the Spirit agreed on, that Christ our Lord is the One Who had come into the world in order to save us.

And what is the testimony of Blood? It is the testimony of the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ Who had shed His blood and pour it all upon us as He lay dying and suffering on the cross. Had it been any other blood, animal’s blood or human blood besides that of Christ’s, it would have been useless and meaningless. But because our Lord Himself had shed His own Precious Blood, the blood which is worthy and capable of absolving all of us from our sins, then that was why, we have a new hope of salvation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all realise what great friend and help we have had in Jesus our Lord. It was because of Him that the love of God had reached out to all of us, and through Him we have this hope and promise of eternal life and salvation from all of our predicaments. We have once been condemned to a fate of eternal death and suffering because of our sins and disobedience, but the Lord Who loves us all, wanted another fate for us.

Have we therefore given Him thanks and gratitude for all that He has done for us? We have passed through Christmas and all of its joyful celebrations, where we revel and be happy knowing that our Lord Who had come into the world, had also blessed us with His presence and dwelling here among us, so that through Him, we may all be saved. And we see how the Lord had sacrificed Himself for our sake, which we will celebrate in the upcoming weeks as we proceed into the season of Lent and then into the Holy Week and Easter.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and let us all strengthen our faith in Him, so that in all things that we say and do, we may always bring glory to Him and also that we may remain always in His grace and love, that we will never be separated again from His love. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 8 January 2016 : Friday after the Epiphany (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 12-16

At that time, one day, in another town, a man came to Jesus covered with leprosy. On seeing Jesus, the man bowed down to the ground, and said, “Lord, if You want to, You can make me clean.”

Stretching out His hand, Jesus touched the man and said, “Yes, I want to. Be clean.” In an instant the leprosy left him. Then Jesus instructed him, “Tell this to no one. But go and show yourself to the priest. Make an offering for your healing, as Moses prescribed; that will serve as evidence for them.”

But the news about Jesus spread all the more, and large crowds came to Him, to listen and to be healed of their sickness. As for Jesus, He would often withdraw to solitary places and pray.