Saturday, 25 July 2015 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of the Holy Apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, St. James, also known as St. James the Greater to distinguish him from another St. James, the Lesser, who was one of the relatives of Christ. St. James the Greater was one of the Twelve, the principal disciples of our Lord in the spreading of the Good News of the Gospel, and among the first to be martyred for the Lord’s sake.

In the readings today we heard how in the Gospel, the mother of both St. James and St. John begged Jesus for favour and power for her sons, not knowing that for the Lord, the terms of this world do not hold weight at all. The other disciples of Jesus grumbled at what they saw as an attempt to gain favour over them, and they bickered over it, but the Lord Jesus rebuked them and reminded them that true greatness and power lies not in human favour and fame, nor in prestige or worldly power, but in humility and in leading by example, by a committed and devoted service to one another, that the greater a person is, the more humble and dedicated that person must be.

In the first reading, we heard how St. Paul exhorted the faithful of the Church in Corinth of the treasure that is in us, the true treasure contained within our beings. The treasure within a container of clay is truly a metaphor, showing how we have in our bodies, made by God from mere dust and earth, have inside a true treasure, that is the Holy Presence of our Lord Himself, who had decided to dwell within us.

And by sharing in the treasure which is in us, we have been made to share in the death and resurrection of our Lord Himself. And by His death, we have also died to our sins and to our old life filled with sins, while by His resurrection in glory and return into life, He had brought us all into a new life as well, one that is no longer bound by sin and death, nor by the wickedness of our past sins, but with a new hope of eternal happiness in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all these remind us that human life and all the glories and joys of this world are just temporary, and they do not last. Eventually, all the good things of this world must go, and the things we have accumulated in this world will not follow us to the world that is to come. Therefore, just as Jesus had reminded His disciples, we too should come to realise this fact, that to follow the Lord, we have to shed ourselves of the excessive pleasures of the flesh and worldly goodness.

And then the Lord also mentioned what would be the challenges for all of those who follow after Him, and that is the cup of suffering which He has drunk and shared with all of us, that is to have a share of His cross. St. James and St. John at first did not understand what the Lord spoke to them about, but eventually they would come to understand, that following Jesus would mean that they would encounter challenges and obstacles from all those who have refused to believe in the Lord and gave themselves into temptation.

And St. James who would spread the Gospel to the faraway lands, including what is now Spain and Portugal, the place where his most famous shrine at Santiago de Compostela is located, would encounter martyrdom at the hands of King Herod Agrippa, the king of Judea, who killed St. James in order to please the Jewish authorities and to increase his own prestige.

Thus through death, St. James would share in the suffering of Christ, having faithfully served Him through the spreading of the Good News of the Gospel to the far ends of the earth. And by shedding earthly glories and worldly fame, he has gained the true treasure which can only be found in the Lord, that is the glory of heaven and the joy of the world that is to come, an eternity of true happiness.

All of us should be inspired by what we have witnessed in the life and works of St. James and that of the other holy Apostles, martyrs and saints. We all should walk in their footsteps and be more like them. Remember, the greater we are, the humbler we should become. This is so that we will not fall into the traps of our own pride and arrogance, which is often our greatest undoing.

It was pride, greed and hunger for what we often covet, such as power, greatness, human fame and praise that had led many of us to sin and to fall into darkness, and that was what had brought Satan down from his glory days as the mighty angel of heaven but drunk with power and with his own vanity. Let us all learn to overcome our own desires to seek the temporary pleasures of the flesh, and aim higher to seek the true treasure that is our Lord and His love.

May Almighty God bless all of us, strengthen us in faith, and awaken in all of us the ever stronger desire to love Him and devote ourselves to Him in complete faith and dedication. God bless us all. Amen.

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