Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the glorious Feast of not just one but two of the Lord’s glorious Apostles, two of the Twelve Apostles, namely that of St. Philip and St. James, the two faithful servants of God who had dedicated their lives in the service of God, and who had persevered despite the challenges and trials they had to endure as part of their ministry. Both of them laboured hard to spread the words of the Gospels and the Good News to the far corners of the world, enduring many sufferings and joy during their ministries, and eventually martyrdom for the sake of the Lord and His Church. They are celebrated together because historically, their relics were translated to Rome on the same day.

St. Philip was one of the Lord’s closest disciples who was mentioned in several occasions in the Gospels, especially in the Gospel of St. John, one of which accounts was part of our Gospel passage today. St. Philip was mentioned in today’s Gospel when he asked the Lord Jesus to show him and the other disciples the Father, God the heavenly Father Whom Jesus had been speaking about. This was met with the incredulous words from the Lord as He told St. Philip and the other disciples that they had seen the Father just as they had seen Him, all because He and the Father are One, and seeing Him means that one has seen the Father manifested in the flesh, as the Lord Jesus was indeed the Divine Word of God Incarnate.

St. Philip was also mentioned when the Lord miraculously fed five thousand men and many others with just five loaves of bread and two fishes, which was our Gospel passage just a few days ago. He was the one to present the food offered by a child to the Lord, and was also the one who introduced Nathanael, also known as St. Bartholomew the Apostle, to the Lord. He was also the one who proclaimed the Lord to the Ethiopian official as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles early in the Church history. And later on, he was also involved in many works of evangelisation, preaching the Gospels and the Good News to the people in far off places, in Greece, parts of Syria and Asia Minor in Phrygia.

Meanwhile, St. James, also known as St. James the Less, to distinguish him from St. James the Greater, the brother of St. John the Apostle, was identified as either St. James, son of Alphaeus or as St. James, one of the brothers or more accurately, relatives of the Lord Jesus. He was called ‘Less’ because of his relatively shorter stature as compared to St. James the Greater, and he was a relative of one other follower of Jesus, identified as Mary, wife of Cleopas. He was often widely credited with the authorship of the Epistle of St. James, and he was also involved in many evangelising missions in various places, although the details were less than that was available for St. Philip and the other more renowned Apostles.

Regardless of the details of their exact activities and involvements in the Church and its missions, what we all ought to know is the fact that each and every one of them and the other Apostles had dedicated their whole lives in the service of God, and having been encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they had proclaimed the Lord with joy and fervour, seeking to glorify Him by their lives, by their every words and actions. And those Apostles did not fear even persecutions, trials, sufferings and challenges in life, and they bore their crosses with true dedication and love for God and His people.

As we come together today to celebrate and mark the great memories of these two wonderful saints, the Holy Apostles of Our Lord, St. Philip and St. James, we are all called to reflect on ourselves and on our own calling in life. Each one of us as Christians are disciples and followers of the Lord, and we are all called to the same mission that the Lord has entrusted to His Apostles. The Lord has given to us the mission to reach out to more people among the nations, that we may be the genuine witnesses of His truth, love and resurrection among all the people of God. We are the ones to be the beacons of God’s light in our respective communities today.

The question is, are we all ready and willing to embark on this journey of faith, together with God and following in the footsteps of the Apostles like St. Philip and St. James? Are we also willing to make sacrifices of time and effort, offering our best to serve the Lord and to be the examples and inspirations for one another, that we may ever be more courageous in living our lives with faith? Each and every one of us have been given and entrusted with the mission to call more and more people to the light and truth of God. We have to make that conscious effort to live our lives worthily and devote ourselves thoroughly to His cause from now on.

Let us all therefore do our best to serve the Lord by our every contributions, even to the smallest and seemingly least significant actions we do. For it is by our combined works and efforts that God will extend His reach and works ever more gloriously among His people. Let us all spend more time in building up our relationship with God and in deepening our understanding of our faith, so that we may be truly inspirational to all those who witness our lives and works. Let us walk in the path of the Apostles and do whatever we can to proclaim the Lord in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always in our every efforts and good works, now and forevermore. St. Philip and St. James, Holy Apostles of the Lord, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 6-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father Who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do. Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father.”

“Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (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, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Monday, 2 May 2022 : 3rd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the nature of our faith, this faith that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, Our Saviour. Each and every one of us as Christians are called to proclaim the Lord and His truth through our lives and actions, in everything we say and do. We ought to do what the Apostles and all the holy men and women of God had done before us, in proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the One from Whom the salvation of the world had come from.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the time when St. Stephen, one of the seven first deacons of the Church, was confronted by the opponents of the Church, those who refused to believe in God and His truth as revealed through the Lord Jesus and His Apostles. The Sanhedrin and all those who have arrested and oppressed the Apostles tried a lot of effort to suppress the rapidly spreading Christian teachings and faith. And in order to do that, they even chose to employ false witnesses and other methods to try to persecute the disciples of the Lord like St. Stephen.

Hence, St. Stephen encountered great difficulty in going against the plots of those who sought to destroy him, against the authorities with the power to persecute him and who turned the people against him. Yet, he remained firm in his faith and convictions, not fearing the repercussions and threats against himself, but instead, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, encouraged and strengthened, he preached about the Lord and Saviour, openly proclaiming Him before the people, revealing all that God had done to them through His Son, Whom they had recently persecuted and gave to the Romans to be crucified, died and then risen in glory for the salvation of all the people.

Those false witnesses employed against him tried to bring St. Stephen down, and they used increasingly desperate means to discredit him, and yet, the great wisdom and courage that St. Stephen had shown would overpower whatever wicked means and plots arrayed against him. The Lord was working through His servant, and now, many years after his martyrdom, we are still inspired by the great courage and dedication that St. Stephen had shown, in facing even persecution, suffering and death squarely in the face, never once flinching or giving in to his fears and doubts, because he trusted fully in the Lord and His providence.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the interactions between the Lord Jesus and the multitudes of people who had followed Him and tried to follow Him wherever He went. They followed the Lord and He pointed out that they followed Him because of their desires to be satisfied and fulfilled, by the amazing miracles that He performed, particularly that of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and many more. The Lord knew that in the hearts and minds of those people, there were still yet doubts and lacking in genuine faith, and hence, He wanted to convince and persuade them to truly believe in Him and His truth, and not just superficially showing their faith.

This reminds all of us of the very important mission that God has entrusted to us as Christians, that each and every one of us ought to proclaim the Lord, our God and Saviour, His love and compassionate mercy, His kindness and His truth to all the people, to everyone we encounter throughout life. We are all called to be the ministers of God, following in the footsteps of St. Stephen, the Apostles and the many other saints and martyrs, all those who have devoted their time and life, who have often suffered for the sake of the Lord, His Church and His people. We are all called to continue their efforts and works in our own ways.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Athanasius, the great and renowned Church father and Doctor of the Church, who was especially remembered for his dedication in defending the orthodox and true Christian faith and teachings against the dangerous influence and the falsehoods of the many heresies and false teachings that were running rampant during his time and ministry, threatening to destroy the unity and harmony within the Church, and also threatening to mislead countless souls down the path towards damnation. Against this, St. Athanasius persevered faithfully, committing his time and effort to go against those who proclaim those falsehoods, much like how St. Stephen himself had courageously proclaimed the Lord before those who persecuted him.

St. Athanasius was the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria whose tenure of work and ministry happened after the important Ecumenical Council of Nicaea. He led the Church in Alexandria and beyond against the heresy of Arius, the popular preacher who initiated the Arian heresy and controversy, who amassed a large following and support even amongst the bishops and the powerful rulers of the Roman Empire. However, that did not deter St. Athanasius from persevering in his efforts to bring the people of God and the Church out from the erroneous teachings of heretics like Arius among others, and even though he had to endure about seventeen years in various exiles from his See due to the opposition against him, he endured in his faith and struggle to the very end.

In what he would later be well known for, St. Athanasius was credited with the authorship or as the inspiration for the later codified Athanasian Creed, the expanded version of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that emphasised heavily on the true nature of God, the relationship of the Members of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, against the erroneous heretical teachings, particularly that of Arius and his Arian heresy and which is recited especially on this day, his feast day. St. Athanasius showed all of us, just as St. Stephen had done, what being true Christians is all about, to stand up for our faith and proclaim the truth of God, faithfully and courageously even amidst opposition and oppression.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves in the same way as St. Athanasius, St. Stephen and the many other holy servants of God had done? Are we able and willing to follow the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly, and making use of the various talents, gifts and opportunities that He had provided for us, so that we may glorify the Lord by our lives, by our words, actions and deeds? Let us all reflect carefully on how we can be ever better and more committed disciples of His, from now on. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us that we will remain faithful and true to our calling, and be courageous in proclaiming our faith in our respective lives, now and always. Amen.