Thursday, 27 December 2018 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if yesterday we celebrated the feast of the first martyr or protomartyr of the Church, St. Stephen, then today, the second day after Christmas we celebrate the feast of another great disciple of Christ, namely St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. St. John was one of the Twelve Apostles together with his brother St. James the Greater and also one of the four Evangelists who wrote the Holy Gospels.

St. John was one of the closest disciples of the Lord, who was often present at the many important events in the life and ministry of Our Lord, such as the Transfiguration, the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the resurrection of the daughter of the synagogue official Jairus, and many others. He was also one of the two Apostles, together with St. Peter, as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, who went immediately to the tomb where the Body of the Lord had been buried after His crucifixion, when they heard of the Lord’s resurrection.

St. John was also the author of the Epistle from which we heard our first reading passage today about God’s love being present in our midst, and He also wrote the Book of the Revelations, in which he wrote all that he had seen in the heavenly visions of what was to come, about the end of time, when Christ is to come again in glory to judge all the living and the dead. St. John received these visions towards the end of his life, when he was exiled in the island of Patmos in what is today Greece.

St. John was the only one among the Twelve Apostles who did not suffer death in martyrdom for his faith, but instead, died in a very old age many decades after the resurrection of the Lord, likely the last of the Apostles to depart from this world. His works through the Gospel and the Epistles he wrote, his life and ministry among the people of God were essential in the early years of the Church, in strengthening the faith of those who lived in persecution. St. John himself endured many persecutions and exiles, and was likely imprisoned many times for his dedication to God.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, because we are all called through God’s Church, to imitate the examples, the faith and the dedication which St. John had in the Lord. St. John stayed by the Lord even when all the other disciples fled at the moment when Jesus was betrayed by Judas and handed over to the Sanhedrin. He followed Him with Mary, the mother of God, all the way through to Calvary and was at the foot of the cross with her.

And St. John was the one to whom the Lord Jesus entrusted His mother Mary, at the moment just before He was about to give up His Spirit and die, and at the same time, He also entrusted St. John to the care of Mary, to be her own son. In this case, St. John represents all of us humanity, which God has entrusted to be under the care of His mother, Mary; to be our mother as well, and Mary has been entrusted to us, as our beloved mother.

Today, this mission which the Lord Jesus entrusted to His disciples, and especially to St. John the Apostle, remain in us, that each and every one of us, first and foremost must love God, and must have that living and true faith in us, as St. John himself had throughout his life. And we are also called to love His mother, Mary, who is also our mother, for if we love the Son, we must definitely also love the Mother, and vice versa.

Have we, in our respective lives, showed this faith and love that we ought to have for God? If we have not done so, then during this time and season of Christmas, it is imperative that we rediscover this love and devotion which we must have for God. Otherwise, I am afraid that we still have not yet understood the true meaning of Christmas. For Christmas is the embodiment of God’s infinite and boundless love for us, that He chose to come into this world as one of our own, and to suffer and die for the sake of our salvation.

Let us all seek to grow deeper in our love for God and in our faith and devotion in Him. After all, He has loved us first, so much, despite of our constant disobedience and refusal to love Him. He is always ever patient, wanting us to return to Him and to be reconciled with Him. Let us also ask for the intercession of St. John, His beloved Apostle and also His mother Mary, that we mankind, all of us who are sinners, may come to find peace in God, and grow to love Him more and more with each and every passing day. May God bless us and our Christmas joy. Amen.

Thursday, 27 December 2018 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 2-8

At that time, Mary of Magdala ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Peter then set out with the other disciple to go out to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat.

The napkin, which had been around His head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.

Thursday, 27 December 2018 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are blameless, and give praise to His holy Name.

Thursday, 27 December 2018 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 1 : 1-4

This is what has been from the beginning, and what we have heard and have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, I mean the Word Who is Life…

The Life made Itself known, we have seen Eternal Life and we bear witness, and we are telling you of it. It was with the Father and made Himself known to us. So we tell you what we have seen and heard, that you may be in fellowship with us, and us, with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

And we write this that our joy may be complete.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the day after the Christmas day, every year, we celebrate the feast of the holy Protomartyr, St. Stephen. St. Stephen was one of the original seven deacons chosen by the Church, to be ministers to God’s people, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and he was a person filled with grace, and with wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. In the Acts of the Apostles, the story of his last stand and defence for the faith, and his martyrdom were written, how he eloquently stood up for the Lord before his accusers, and accepted death with faith.

We must be wondering why is it that in such a time and season filled with joy and celebration that is this Christmas, then suddenly just right the day after the glorious and joyous day that is Christmas itself, then we are celebrating the feast of a great martyr of the faith, whose account of his suffering and death was truly one that is terrible and painful at the same time. He was falsely accused by his enemies and all those who sought to silence him, and was stoned to death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the reason why we celebrate the painful death of a great martyr of the Church, the first to be martyred after the foundation of the Church, and hence, St. Stephen’s title of protomartyr, is because we must remember, that Christmas in itself, all the joy and celebration associated with it, is far more than all the revelries and celebrations that we often associate with Christmas, in how this world celebrate Christmas.

In truth, as we all should have known, Christmas is all about Christ and His coming into this world, with a special mission, and that is the salvation of us all. He is God, Who willingly embraced us mankind, by humbling Himself to take up the form and appearance of Man, being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of His mother Mary. He was born into this world, God Who became incarnate into Man, Son of God and Son of Man, two distinct and yet inseparable natures, in the person of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

It is this truth which St. Stephen had to suffer and die for, the truth that the Messiah has come, as God Himself, incarnate in the flesh, fully God and yet at the same time also fully Man. He proclaimed before the people gathered, the truth about the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Whom they have rejected and crucified, and yet, Whom St. Stephen proclaimed to be the Saviour that God had promised His people, and Who had not died, but rose from the dead into His heavenly glory.

The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and many of those who refused to believe in Christ and His truth, were angered by St. Stephen’s wisdom and revelation before them, his stand for his faith and for his God and Saviour, even when faced with a certainty of death amidst the throng and many people who wanted his death for the supposed blasphemy. St. Stephen courageously stood by his faith and became inspiration for countless generations of Christians even to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we continue to progress through the season of Christmas, we ought to reflect on the life and the works of St. Stephen, his love for God and his courageous stand for his faith in Him. How can St. Stephen have that courage to stand before his many accusers and all those who were obviously hostile against him and his faith in God? That was because St. Stephen had great faith and love for God.

He truly believed in the salvation which Christ had brought with Him, Who emptied Himself of all glory and majesty, to suffer a most painful death on the cross, all for the sake of the salvation of us, His beloved people. And although St. Stephen knew that the people who went up against him were unlikely to listen to him, but he did what he could, and what he must do, in proclaiming the truth about the Messiah.

In the end, conversion did come for some among them, most importantly and prominently, St. Paul the Apostle, whom in his previous persona of Saul, was one of those who stoned St. Stephen to death. God called Saul, and he went through conversion to the faith, and became like St. Stephen, in devoting the rest of his life to God, and suffered martyrdom in Rome for his courageous faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us should realise that Christmas is a reminder for us, that we are all those who believe in God, Who came into this world as a Man, as a Child born in the town of Bethlehem, Who has come to save the world, and yet many refused to believe in Him, persecuted and rejected Him as well as His disciples and followers. Throughout the history of the Church, many thousands and more have suffered from their devotion and faith to God, even to this very day.

Therefore, let us all pray, that our brethren in faith who are still constantly persecuted for their faith in various parts of the world, will remain strong in their commitment to God, and will not fall away from the faith. And let us also remain strong and committed ourselves, in our faith, by living our lives with true love and sincere faith in God, by sharing our Christmas joy with one another, especially with those who are in need and are suffering.

St. Stephen, holy martyr of the Church, the first of those in the Church who died because of your faith in God, pray for us all sinners, pray for each and every one of us, that by your intercession, we too may be strengthened in faith, and that we may live our lives ever more faithfully and ever closer to God, our loving Father. Amen.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 10 : 17-22

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it is not you who will speak, but the Spirit of your Father in you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn again parents and have them put to death.”

“Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved.”

Wednesday, 26 December 2018 : Feast of St. Stephen, Protomartyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 30 : 3cd-4, 6 and 8ab, 16bc and 17

Be a Rock of refuge for me, a Fortress for my safety. For You are my Rock and my Stronghold, lead me for Your Name’s sake.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed me, o Lord, faithful God. I will rejoice and be glad in Your love, for You have seen my affliction.

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, from those after my skin. Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your love.