LUKE 2:40 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40)

Jakarta, 2 February 2021

A Christian Pilgrim


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MATTHEW 2:10-11 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12)

Jakarta, 3 January 2021

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(A biblical reflection on THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD – Sunday, 3 January 2021)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalms: Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13; Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6

The Scripture Text

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern My people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared, and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:1-12 RSV).

The word Epiphany means to make manifest, reveal, or bring out of concealment. To be specific, the Epiphany is the manifestation and revelation of God in the lives and hearts of all peoples. The poetic words of “Third Isaiah” capture the coming of the Lord in the following way: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1-2 RSV). These are pretty heavy words, but the words of the poet help us to lift our hearts and minds to the heavens. What do we see? His star is rising!

It is indeed amazing, that in this age of science and sophistication there is so much interest in horoscopes and astrological signs. We do not have to lie to ourselves that most of us are secretly pleased when the newspaper “prophet” predicts a day for us to take life easy and be prepared for something great to happen. So, with today’s outlook, it is not too hard to appreciate ancient man’s dependence on stars and heavenly occurrences. Any event in the skies caused excitement and great expectation. The heavens were the television screen of the gods predicting in some hidden way man’s coming events. Thus, it was natural for Matthew to choose the star as the sign of pagan men hoping for answers from heaven.

Whether it was a real or symbolic star is not important. Matthew’s narrative skillfully shows that Christ fulfilled the ancient predictions of the coming Great One. It also shows that nature responds more appropriately to God than man, that foreigners (non-Jews/pagans) were more adept at recognizing Christ than the Jews themselves, and that the mission of Christ was to extend to a world scene far beyond that of Palestine. And the wise men from the East were indeed blessed. Of all who must have noticed the appearance of a special star, they were the most eager. They yearned to join the new King.

Longing for something is usually a delightful experience. We all experienced the longing for the warmth and surprises of Christmas. And very often the longing, or expectation of something, is happier than the actual event which comes and goes in a flash. Longing for a home of your own, or planning a vacation in the future, can be a delight. And on a deeper level, picture the husband and wife who long to get away from the kids just to be alone and appreciate each other. The honeymoon might never come, but just longing for it is a good sign of the love that exists between husband and wife. It proves that love is there. How sad if that desire ever disappears. And how many of us would long to get away from job and distraction, just to spend more time with our Lord. “I would go on a retreat right now, if I could get away.” “I would love to spend more time in prayer at home, but the phone rings, the kids come in. I get so distracted, that Christ seems a million miles away.” As disheartening as it seems sometimes, there is a good side. Be happy you have the desire to reach Christ. This desire, this longing only shows how limited things are on this earth. Only in heaven will we possess Christ perfectly. He will be right there face to face.

Some of the greatest saints in history – Saint Francis of Assisi [c.1181-1228], Saint Teresa of Avila [1515-1582], Saint Teresa of Lisieux [1873-1897] – all had to fight the problems of business and distractions. But the struggle of years never dampened their longing for Christ. And in the end, their patience with themselves and their life situation won Christ for them. Epiphany celebrates Christ showing Himself to the world. But even Christ our Lord and Savior had to be patient to wait for 30 (thirty) years before the right time came to fulfill what He longed for.

The longing of the Wise Men from the East brought the reward of the discovery of the Baby Jesus. Our own patience with our longing for Christ will give us Christ. So, please do not be impatient with your distractions in prayer or even at the Holy Mass today. Be happy about this desire you have. Know that Christ will come to us. He comes in the Holy Mass to increase our faith, our hope to be closer, our imperfect love. Please do not worry at all, because – like the Wise Men from the East – if you long for Christ, you are following the right star.

The story of the Wise Men from the East in today’s gospel is part of Saint Matthew’s way of teaching the early Christians the universality of God’s salvation plan. God does not despise poor Jewish shepherds, or the rich men from the East. How many and what other people came to see the infant, we do not know. But we can be sure that they were all graciously received. It is an interesting tradition that we retain the shepherds in the Christmas crib, even after the time of their visit is passed, while we introduce the Magi into the scene. There is something in this that admits our equality before God.

Like the Magi, we, too, come offering our gifts. Representatives of the congregation will carry to the altar the water, wine and bread, as we prepare to offer ourselves with Christ to the Father. Let this offering of ourselves not be marred by feelings of prejudice, bigotry or discrimination. Rather let us be joyful that before God, our Creator, we stand as equals, redeemed in the precious Blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank You for revealing that Your “plan of salvation” is meant for everyone, including myself. Help all those who are searching for You to find the light of truth in Your Son Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Spirit keep convincing me that my own patience with my longing for Christ will give me Christ. Amen.

Jakarta, 2 January 2021

A Christian Pilgrim


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(A biblical refection on THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD – Octave of Christmas – Friday, 1 January 2021)

Gospel Reading: Luke 2:16-21

First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27; Psalms: Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8; Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7

The Scripture Text

And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this Child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days when He was circumcised, He was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:16-21 RSV)

Have you ever considered why we have a special feast to celebrate Mary as the Mother of God? Actually, this feast is meant to celebrate Jesus’ divinity. By recognizing Mary as the Mother of God, we are proclaiming our faith in who Jesus is. Early in the Church’s history, some heretics taught that Jesus assumed His divine nature at His baptism or at His resurrection. Others taught that Jesus was merely a good man who taught us how to please God. Recognizing Mary as the Mother of God, and not just the mother of Jesus of Nazareth, upholds a central truth of our faith: Almighty God became flesh in the womb of a human being.

As Mother of God, Mary bore Jesus into this world. Now, as Jesus’ mothers, sisters, and brothers (Mark 3:35), we are called to follow Mary’s example and bring the life and love of God to others. We too are called to be “God-bearers” (Greek: Theotokos).

Of course, we may ask, “How could I hope to have the kind of relationship with God that Mary did? After all, she is the Blessed Virgin!” Yet, God has a very specific plan for each and every one of us, to raise us up to His divine life. He wants to teach us how to treasure His word and ponder it (see Luke 2:19). He invites us to quiet our souls so that we can hear His voice. He wants to win our hearts over so much that our trust in Him and our obedience to His will would be undivided.

How can we become more open to God’s word? We can begin by setting aside time for Him – time without television, telephone calls, and other kind of distractions, among others from various social media. We can bring to Him our guilt, shame, or anxieties – everything that blocks our experience of His healing love. As we open our hearts to Jesus, read the Holy Scripture, and obey the promptings of His Spirit, we will begin experiencing the heart of peace that Mary knew. Therefore, let us set aside a little quiet time for God every day. As we do, we too will come to know His love, His promptings, and His grace.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, since You gave mankind a Savior through blessed Mary, virgin and mother, grant that we may feel the power of her intercession when she pleads for us with Jesus Christ, Your Son, the Author of life, who lives and reign with You and Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 31 December 2020

A Christian Pilgrim

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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2021, MARY


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LUKE 2:34-35 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40)

Jakarta, 27 December 2020

A Christian Pilgrim


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Jakarta, 2 February 2020

A Christian Pilgrim

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Posted by on February 2, 2020 in MISCELLANY


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(A biblical refection on THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD, Sunday, 2 February 2020)


Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40 

First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4 or Hebrews 2:14-18; Psalms: Psalm 24:7-10 

The Scripture Text

And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as is is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Thy people Israel.”

And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting, and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of Him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:22-40 RSV) 

Today’s Gospel talks about two important Jewish religious practices – the purification of a woman after childbirth and the presentation of a male baby in the Temple. Because these two Jewish rituals play an important role in today’s Gospel, we must take a closer look at each of them.

The Purification: The ancient Jewish people believed God was the source of life, using blood as a vehicle to communicate that life to human beings. Therefore, a person who came in contact with blood came in contact with God’s creative power. Since this experience of God set the person apart from the ordinary world, this individual had to undergo a purification before returning to everyday  life. This purification, usually a ritual bath, restored the person to “normalcy” before offering sacrifices to God or taking part in religious services.

Jewish women, therefore, underwent a ritual bath after each monthly period. After childbirth, the woman also offered a year-old lamb and a pair of pigeons or turtledoves at her purification. However, if the woman was poor, she offered only the birds. This explains Mary’s offering in today’s Gospel.

The Presentation: When the Jews were slaves in Egypt, God appeared to Moses and told him to lead His people to freedom. When the pharaoh refused to let the Jews go, God punished the Egyptian people with ten plagues, the last being the death of the first born Egyptian male in each family. Because God spared the Jews from this catastrophe, they believed their first born sons belonged to God (Exodus 13:11-16) and “ransomed” these sons back with an offering of five shekels (coins). In today’s Gospel, Joseph and Mary fulfil this Jewish law when they visit the Temple for Mary’s purification.

Today’s Gospel concludes with Joseph and Mary returning with Jesus to Nazareth in Galilee. Galilee, a region within the land of Palestine where most of Jesus’ ministry took place, was a relatively small area, only about forty-five mile long from north to south.

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 344-345.)

Short Prayer: Almighty, ever-living God, on this day Your Only-begotten Son was presented in the temple, in flesh and blood like ours. Purify us in mind and heart that we may meet You in Your glory. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Jakarta, 1 February 2020 

A Christian Pilgrim


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Jakarta, 29 December 2019

A Christian Pilgrim

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Posted by on December 29, 2019 in MISCELLANY


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(A biblical reflection on the FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY [Year A] – Sunday, 29 December 2019)

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 

First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Psalms: Psalm 128:1-5; Second Reading: Colossians 3:12-21

The Scripture Text

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” And he rose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called My son.”

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and to to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and His mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:13-15,19-23 RSV) 

Herod the Great ruled Judea (a region in Palestine inhabited by the Jews) from about 37 BCE – 4 BCE. Because the Romans who controlled Palestine sometimes sold kingdoms to the highest bidder, some historians believe Herod obtained his position of power only after making some very well placed bribes.

Buying one’s way to the top often led to sleepless nights because there was always the chance someone would come along with a bigger bribe. That thought must have crossed Herod’s mind because he was paranoid that someone was out to take his place as king. We know that he arrested and put to death anyone whom he suspected (including some of his own sons).

Herod must have gotten pretty nervous when the wise men from the East visited his palace asking where they could find the newborn king of the Jews. Because he was afraid the child they were looking for would one day take the throne away from him, Herod made plans to locate this new king and kill him. When the wise men from the East failed to return to him with the information he requested, Herod protected his power by killing all the boys who were two years old or younger.

Matthew also tells us that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus did much traveling because of Herod. There’s a good reason why Matthew includes this detail.

In the book of Exodus, we hear about how God rescued the Jews from enslavement in Egypt and brought them back to the Promised Land (the land of Israel). Matthew goes out of his way to tell us Jesus made a similar trip from Egypt to the Promised Land as a symbolic way of saying that God is once again rescuing the people. Through Jesus, God is about to save not only the Jews, but all those who believe in Him.

Jesus came to save all people, including Herod. Like Herod, is there anything in your life you are unwilling to ever give up? Why is this so important to you? Is it possible it is getting in the way of your salvation?

(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 12-13.)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please hold each family in Your heart. Where there has been hurt, bring Your healing touch. Where there is struggle, send Your Holy Spirit. Empower us all to withstand the evil one’s attempts to rob us of our hope. Amen.

Jakarta, 28 December 2019 [Feast of the Holy Innocents]  

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Posted by on December 28, 2019 in BIBLICAL REFLECTIONS 2019


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SITTING IN THE MIDST OF THE TEACHERS: The Feast of The Holy Family – Luke 2:41-52

Jakarta, 30 December 2018

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Posted by on December 30, 2018 in MISCELLANY


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