Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve Apostles and in fact the first one among them to be called, that is St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of Simon, who was later known as St. Peter the Apostle, leader of all the Apostles and the Church. St. Andrew was according to the tradition, one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist, and was one of his disciples that decided to follow the Lord right after He was baptised at the Jordan.

As such, he was the first one of the Apostles to be called and to respond to that call, which is why he is also often known as St. Andrew the First-Called. Through him, he likely introduced his brother Simon, the later St. Peter, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee to the Lord. They were all fishermen at the Lake of Galilee where they worked and laboured every day. The Lord came by there after His baptism and preparation in the desert, calling the first of His disciples to follow Him.

As one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Andrew was a close confidant of the Lord and was present in much of the Lord’s works and ministry, and he was also present at the most important events in the work of God’s salvation. Receiving the Holy Spirit together with the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he was empowered and strengthened to carry out the mission entrusted to him and many others to spread the Good News of God to all the nations and peoples.

According to Church tradition and history, St. Andrew went to far-off regions including the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus, in what is today Ukraine and Crimean region, spreading the Christian faith and the Good News of God to places as far as the northern reaches of Russia. He also went to Greece and other places in the vicinity, helping to build the foundation of the Church in those places. By tradition, during his journey, he also established the foundation of the present day See of Constantinople, then known as Byzantium at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

That is why St. Andrew is regarded as the Apostolic origin of the current Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the second most important See in Christendom and also the leader of our separated brethren in the Eastern Orthodox communion. St. Andrew meanwhile was arrested and martyred in the city of Patras in the Peloponnesus region of Greece, for his perseverance in evangelisation and preaching the Good News among the pagans and many people. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross which is now popularly known as St. Andrew’s cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the life, work and ministry, the faith and dedication showed by St. Andrew in his mission and life today on his feast day, in fact all of us are also called to reflect on our own lives and our own mission that has been entrusted to each one of us as fellow disciples of Christ. What St. Andrew had done in his life and ministry is part of the greater works and efforts of the Lord through His Church to bring His truth, salvation and Good News to more and more people, and this work is still far from being done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Lord has called His disciples and Apostles from various backgrounds, empowered them and gave them the mission to evangelise the Good News, then through our baptism we too have been called to be missionaries of our faith, the faith that we have in the Lord and which we are all called to share with zeal and conviction, and with genuine desire for the salvation of souls and for the love of our fellow brothers and sisters. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the commitment to follow the Lord and to do His will in our daily lives?

St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of are reminded of the faith we have in the Lord and the salvation and wonders that we have received with full assurance from Him. And he reminded us all, the faithful that those who bring with them the message of God’s Good News and truth will be blessed, and God’s grace will be with them. It means that despite the trials and challenges that we may face in our journey as Christians and despite the obstacles we may encounter in our mission as faithful servants of God, we must not be easily disheartened by setbacks and sufferings.

God will be with us and He will be by our side, providing for us and our needs, and even if we suffer, we suffer together with Him, He Who Himself has been persecuted for the truth, and Who had suffered and died for our sake. We do not need to be afraid and be hesitant to stand up to our Christian faith and beliefs, and instead we should inspire one another not just with words, but through genuine actions and commitment in our daily living. After all, it is not by our own power and might that we do the work of God successfully, but God Who empowers us to be His instruments in this world.

Let us all entrust ourselves to the Lord and His providence, and remembering the faith and courage with which St. Andrew, Holy Apostle of Our Lord has laboured hard for the glory of God and for the salvation of all His people, may all of us be inspired to follow in his footsteps and be ever more committed to live our every moment with genuine and devout Christian faith. Let us all make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves wholly, to be worthy to welcome the Lord into our midst, from now on and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and, in your heart, you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips, you are saved.

For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him, without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him, if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him, if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of Good News. Although, not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ.

I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But, of course, they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth, and their voice was heard, to the ends of the world.

Monday, 29 November 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to have faith in the Lord, in Whom alone is our salvation and glory, and through Whom we shall receive true happiness and joy, true satisfaction and fulfilment, for the Lord is our Hope and our Light, the Light of our salvation and our redemption. As we enter into this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on this truth and redirect our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King.

Today in our first reading we heard from the passage in the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord spoke to Isaiah regarding the coming of God and His salvation to His people, Israel and all the nations, in the vision that He has given to Isaiah, then a prophet working in the kingdom of Judah. At that time, the land of Judah was in turmoil and far from its past glory days during the glorious reigns of King David and King Solomon. The northern kingdom of Israel had been crushed by the Assyrians and their king, and its cities destroyed, its population mostly brought away into exile in far-off land.

Then the kingdom of Judah was also attacked by the same Assyrians, just as they had endured centuries of humiliation and hardships under attack from their neighbours and other great powers of the region. The kingdom and people of Judah themselves would later on be crushed by the Babylonians over a century after the time of the prophet Isaiah, due to their continued disobedience of God and refusal to repent from their sinful ways. But as we heard from the words of the Scriptures today, that despite all these, God actually still loved His people.

He loves all of us and although we are sinners, He does not despise us, but rather our many sins. The fact that He still sent His prophets, messengers and many others to His people, including that of Isaiah and speaking the words that we have heard today, the promises of the coming of God’s glory and kingdom, the coming of His salvation and days of rule over all the nations are proof enough that God cares for all of us, without exception. Had He despised all of us, He could have erased us all from existence and condemned us all immediately into hell without giving any of us a chance for repentance and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is an important truth that we must realise as we enter into this holy season and time of Advent, a time for purification and reorientation of our lives, a time for discernment and self-introspection that we may find our path in life going forward, ever closer to God. We must have faith in Him and hold on fast to that hope and faith that we have in Him, and believe that in God alone is our salvation, and that He alone is our Hope and our desire, through our repentance and the forgiveness of our many sins.

In our Gospel passage today that we have heard earlier on, we should be inspired by the faith of the army centurion or the officer whom the Lord met in His way. The army centurion had heard about the Lord and His miracles and power, and being an army officer, he likely must have been a Roman, whom as an officer was an even more prestigious member of the community. As a high-ranking persona, he had no need to humble himself, and yet that was exactly what he did before the Lord and everyone.

He asked the Lord to heal his beloved servant, who was very sick to the point of death, and he believed wholeheartedly that the Lord has the power to heal his servant. His faith was such that he did not need to see or witness the Lord performing the healing, and humbling himself before the Lord by saying that he was unworthy to welcome the Lord in his house, likely due to the common belief among the Jews at the time that one should not enter the house of a Gentile or risk becoming impure, the army officer asked the Lord to say and to command that everything is to be as He said.

This was a genuine faith that the army centurion had in the Lord, believing without even seeing the action, as compared to many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had seen many of the miracles and yet, still refused to believe and stubbornly opposing the Lord and His works. The Lord then praised his faith and commanded that everything be as He said, and true enough, later on the army centurion’s servant was healed, and it was likely that after this, the army centurion’s faith in the Lord became even firmer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to have the same faith as showed by the army centurion? Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly in the same way, to believe in Him and the Hope that He has brought unto us, and not be distracted by the many temptations found in this world? We are all challenged to have deeper faith in the Lord and to discern our path in life as we enter this blessed season of Advent, so that we may truly be ready to welcome the Lord, not just for Christmas, but for the time when He comes again one day, to claim us all as His own.

Let us all make our Advent season to be a blessed and most fruitful one, by committing ourselves anew to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the perfect manifestation of God’s Love in our midst. Let us seek the Lord wholeheartedly and sincerely repent from our sinful ways, abandoning our wicked and evil ways and desires, turning away from those and be reconciled with our most loving God and Father. May God bless us always and may He remain with us, now and forevermore. Amen.