Monday, 25 July 2022 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. James the Apostle, one of the great Apostles of the Lord and member of the Twelve Apostles. He is also known as St. James the Greater to distinguish him from the other St. James, such as St. James the Just, a relative of the Lord and first Bishop of Jerusalem, or St. James the Lesser, also known as St. James, son of Alpheus. St. James was also the elder brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, as one of the two sons of Zebedee, as was a fisherman at the lake of Galilee together with St. Peter, St. Andrew and his brother, St. John.

St. James was one of the first disciples and followers of the Lord, who committed himself to Him and followed Him through many important occurrences throughout the Lord’s ministry. He was often chosen together with St. Peter and his brother St. John as the three disciples who accompanied Him during important moments of His ministry, such as the resurrection of the dead young daughter of the synagogue official, during the moment of the Transfiguration of the Lord at Mount Tabor, where he, St. Peter and St. John all witnessed the Lord glorified and transfigured before their own eyes, and lastly during the time of the Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane just before the Lord was to be betrayed and arrested.

As such, St. James was one of the Lord’s innermost circle members and closest confidants. After the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, together with the other Apostles, St. James went on extensive evangelising missions and ministry, where it was told by Apostolic tradition and evidences that he went all the way to Hispania, the region now known as Spain and Portugal, where he preached the Gospels and the Lord there, and it was also there that he saw one of the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who at that time was still living in Jerusalem. She miraculously appeared to St. James in Hispania, in what is known as the apparition of Our Lady of the Pillar.

It was told that St. James was facing a lot of challenges and trials in his ministry, and faced opposition and hardships on his missionary journey which left him exhausted and discouraged by what he encountered. It was then that as St. James was praying, that the Blessed Virgin appeared to him, surrounded by multitudes of thousands of Angels of God, strengthening and encouraging him. This apparition gave St. James the courage and strength to finish his mission, and made him more fervent in his efforts to reach out to the people of the region and establishing the foundations of the Church there.

Later on, St. James would return to Jerusalem, and according to the records of the Acts of the Apostles, was the first among the Twelve Apostles to be martyred, when king Herod, in trying to appease the Jewish authorities and leaders, persecuted the early Christian communities and killed St. James, who therefore died a martyr for his faith. It was later told that his remains and relics were miraculously translated to where he performed his ministry in Hispania, where now stands the great Basilica of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, the site of his tomb and shrine today.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the faith of St. James the Apostle, his hard work and contributions, to the Church and to the glorification of God should serve to inspire us to do the same. And if we are not confident that we are able to do it, then we need to again examine who St. James was, a poor, illiterate fisherman from Galilee, a mere fisherman living in the periphery of the Jewish world at the time, not at all destined for greatness. He did not have the pedigree, the connections and the necessary education and background for greatness and status at that time. And yet, through him God had done so many wonderful works, that the impact is still felt even to this day.

St. James allowed God to lead him on his way, empowering and strengthening him on his journey, that by God’s providence and grace, he managed to do all the great things that he had done, in the many miracles he performed, in the communities of the faithful he had established, and the many souls that he had saved, that although his early martyrdom did not give him a long time to perform his missions, but it is undeniable that he had done so many great things, all for the greater glory of God, and it was for all these that we venerate and thank St. James the Apostle for, and why we are all inspired by his great courage and examples.

Now, are we all able to follow and commit ourselves in the same way that St. James had committed his life to the Lord? Are we willing to devote more of our time and effort in following the Lord and being His good disciples? Each and every one of us have been called and God has bestowed each one of us with variety of gifts and blessings, opportunities and chances for us all to reach out and to do His will. What matters is for us to respond to God’s call and our commitment to walk faithfully in His path. Are we willing to drink the cup that Christ and His servants had drunk, the cup of suffering? And if we suffer with Christ, we too shall be glorified with Him in triumph.

Let the examples of St. James the Apostles and all the other great holy men and women of God inspire us to do more for the greater glory of God, in fulfilling our Christian calling and our obligation to live our lives most worthily for the Lord. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us always in faith. Amen.

Monday, 25 July 2022 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 20 : 20-28

At that time, the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, You have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup; but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other then heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, Who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Monday, 25 July 2022 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Monday, 25 July 2022 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 4 : 7-15

However, we carry this treasure in vessels of clay, so that this all-surpassing power may not be seen as ours, but as God’s. Trials of every sort come to us, but we are not discouraged. We are left without answer, but do not despair; persecuted but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed.

At any moment, we carry, in our person, the death of Jesus, so, that, the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us. For we, the living, are given up continually to death, for the sake of Jesus, so, that, the life of Jesus may appear in our mortal existence. And as death is at work in us, life comes to you.

We have received the same Spirit of faith referred to in Scripture, that says : I believed and so I spoke. We also believed, and so we speak. We know that He, Who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us, with Jesus, and bring us, with you, into His presence. Finally, everything is for your good, so that grace will come more abundantly upon you, and great will be the thanksgiving for the glory of God.

Sunday, 24 July 2022 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us heard the words of the Lord calling on us to come to Him and to put our faith and trust in Him, because He as our loving God and Father will always listen to us and show His love for us, at every opportunities. Today’s Scripture readings remind us of just how beloved we are by God and how precious we are all to Him, that He has always been willing to communicate with us and to accommodate us, as we heard from those Scripture passages. Hence, as we spend the time to reflect on those passages let us constantly remind ourselves of God’s ever present love for each one of us.

In our first reading today, we heard of the story of the encounter between God and Abraham in the Book of Genesis during the time when God visited Abraham in human disguise to announce to him the coming of his long awaited promised son, Isaac, of which God told Abraham that Isaac would be born within the year. At that time, the Lord also spent time with Abraham to discuss regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, and told him of what He planned to do with the cities and their people who had committed grievous sins and wickedness against God. God would destroy and erase the memory of Sodom and Gomorrah as a punishment for their sins.

Abraham was immediately reminded of his nephew Lot, who had parted ways with him earlier on and was dwelling in Sodom with his family. Therefore, Abraham tried to ask the Lord for clemency and patience, and begged Him to reconsider on behalf of any of the righteous who could have been there in Sodom and Gomorrah, which would have included Lot and his family as well. Hence, we heard how Abraham negotiated with God, and continued to ask Him if God would destroy the cities should there be some of the faithful there in those cities, in cumulatively decreasing number of five.

God listened to Abraham and reassured him that if He could find the number of the faithful that he mentioned, He would reconsider and not bring harm to the two cities and the people in them. Unfortunately, based on what happened, Lot and his family alone were considered righteous among all the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, and there was not even ten people who could be considered righteous, and hence God did not spare the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. But God did send His Angels to help Lot and his family to get out of Sodom to safety, and He brought them all out safely, save for Lot’s wife who hesitated, looked back against God’s warnings and was turned into a salt pillar.

Nonetheless, Abraham tried and asked the Lord, and the Lord heard him. The Lord rescued Lot and his family from harm, and He also provided for them afterwards, just as He has also provided for Abraham, giving him the promised son, the inheritance and more blessings. The Lord has always ever been faithful, to the Covenant which He had made with us, His people, all that He had done for our sake, in all the promises He made and then fulfilled to us, among others that He had done, again and again throughout time and history. All these are because God truly loves each and every one of us.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples regarding the matter of prayer, how to pray to God and also on the matter of asking God, for help and attention. In that passage, we heard the Lord teaching the disciples how to pray, with the prayer that He Himself had composed, directed to God, Who is our Heavenly Father, the prayer we now know well as the Lord’s Prayer or the Pater Noster. The Lord’s Prayer is a model and exemplary prayer which embodies all of what a prayer is all about, as it combines thanksgiving, supplication and petition, praising and glorification, as well as seeking for forgiveness and mercy from God.

How this is significant is that, because God is our Father and like any fathers, as the Lord Himself mentioned, He would not purposely let us down, reject us or harm us. He loves each and every one of us because we are all like His children, and as both our Father and Shepherd, He listens to all of us just like how He listened to the petitions and prayers of Abraham, as well as those of many of our other predecessors. He did not turn His ears or heart away from us when we ask, plead or beg Him. Instead, He listens to us patiently, even when we make a lot of often outrageous demands and wishes on Him, or when we expected Him to do something for us, or to fulfil our desires among other things.

However, many of us often do not even seek the Lord in the first place when we are in need of help. We instead turn to other sources of comfort and possible solutions, turning to money, worldly means and others, to the idols of our world instead of entrusting ourselves in the Lord’s care and love. That was precisely how and why so many of our predecessors had fallen into the wrong paths, as they did not have strong faith and relationship with God. They were easily shaken and tempted to abandon the Lord for the other worldly refuge that brought us further and deeper into troubles in various ways.

Too many of us are also easily disappointed whenever we feel that the Lord is not listening to us or that He does not fulfil our wishes and wants, our demands and desires. But this is exactly where we must realise and remember that God as our Lord and Master, and our Father and Creator, has no obligation whatsoever to fulfil our needs and wants. But God knows us well, and He knows what we truly needs, and everything will happen according to His will, rather than our will and desire. We must not forget that we cannot and should not impose our will and desire on the Lord, as that is not how prayer and our relationship with God work. That is why, the Lord in His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, has these words, ‘Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven’.

And those of us who do not dare to ask the Lord, we did not realise that often we just have to speak to Him and ask Him. God knows what we want and what we need, but at the same time, He also wants to engage us in a conversation much as how we also want to engage in active conversation with our family and friends. It is by building up that genuine and strong, living relationship with God that we may come to know more of our path in life and what we need to do for us to achieve a more wholesome and faithful life as the disciples and servants of our Lord. We have to knock on the Lord’s door, and call on Him, ask for His help and kindness.

To do this, we often require the humility to do so. Often times, our pride and ego may come between us and God, as we become reluctant to lower ourselves and humble ourselves so that we may be the listener in our communication and relationship with God. That is why, for us to develop a truly genuine and vibrant relationship with God, we will need to be open-minded, humble and be willing to listen to God speaking to us. He has always been patient like that of a father patiently guiding his children, sometimes disciplining and punishing at times, rewarding at others, but with the intention for our own good and true happiness. But we as children, we often acted naughtily by being stubborn and not listening to our Father’s words.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to be grateful to God and to open ourselves to Him, with us having received so much favour and blessings from God, our loving Father Himself, so much so that as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Colossians in our second reading today, that He has given us the ultimate gift of love through Jesus Christ, His Son, by which He has provided us with the sure path to return and to be reconciled with Him. That is because through Christ, all of us have been made sharers in the new Covenant that He established with us, by His Passion, His suffering and death on the Cross.

God has given us so wonderful a gift, even before we asked Him, and without us even asking for it. Through Him and all that He had done, He opened for us the path to eternal life and everlasting joy. God has not spared for us even His most beloved and only Son, so that through Him, we may receive the sure guarantee of salvation. Therefore, all of us are reminded and called to turn our hearts and minds fully towards the Lord, entrusting ourselves to Him. Let us all not harden our hearts anymore, but open them to allow God to come knocking at us and enter into our lives, just as we come to Him, knocking on His doors seeking for His grace, love, compassion and mercy.

May the Lord, our most loving God and Father be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in our lives and journeys of faith, and may He continue to encourage us and strengthen us that we may persevere through even the worst of challenges and trials in life. May God bless us always, in all of our deeds and efforts, in all of our good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.