Wednesday, 30 November 2022 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles of the Lord, namely that of St. Andrew the Apostle, also known as St. Andrew the First-Called because he was indeed one of the first if not the first one among the Twelve Apostles to be called by the Lord to be one of His followers. St. Andrew the Apostle was once a fisherman of the region of the lake of Galilee, together with his brother St. Peter, the chief of all the Apostles and first Vicar of Christ, as well as the sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John, another two of the Twelve Apostles. Altogether, the four of them were the first of the Twelve Apostles to follow the Lord, and were the Lord’s first disciples, leaving everything behind in order to follow Him.

St. Andrew according to the Gospel of St. John and tradition was also one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist, and was one of the two disciples who became first followers of Christ because St. John the Baptist at the moment when he baptised the Lord Jesus at the River Jordan proclaimed, ‘Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world’, revealing that the One he had just baptised, was truly the One Whom God had promised, the Messiah and Saviour of the whole world. St. Andrew and the other unnamed disciple of St. John the Baptist therefore decided to follow the Lord from then on, and it was likely hence that St. Andrew was the one who introduced the Lord to his fellow fishermen, his brother St. Peter as well as the brothers St. James and St. John as mentioned.

St. Andrew the Apostle was often present at many important events in the Lord’s ministry as mentioned in the Gospels. He continued to carry out his ministry amidst the challenges and trials of the world, and all the persecutions facing the faithful after the Lord has suffered, died on the Cross and risen from the dead, and sent out His disciples and the Apostles to the many distant parts of the world to proclaim the Word of God and the Good News of His salvation to all the people in those places. St. Andrew himself according to Apostolic and Church traditions, went to the various regions in the distant north from the Holy Land, in places like Scythia, which corresponds to the modern day parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. He also ministered to the people in other places like the Balkans, establishing the See of Byzantium, which would later on became the principal See of Constantinople of his successors, and Greece among others.

St. Andrew later would suffer martyrdom as described by the traditions of the Church, as he was arrested and condemned to death in the region of what is now Greece. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which henceforth would be known as St. Andrew’s Cross. He remained firm in his dedication and faith in God, doing his best in fulfilling God’s missions and calling entrusted to Him. St. Andrew continued to persevere in the mission which the Lord has given him, to the very end. He chose to suffer and die rather than to abandon His mission and to endure the hardships of this world rather than to stay silent amidst proclaiming the words of God’s truth against the falsehoods and evils of this world. His examples, faith and convictions should inspire us in our own way of observing the Law of God and in following His path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect together on this Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle upon the actions and life work of this Apostle and holy man of God, let us all discern our own actions and way of life, in how we live our lives as Christians in our world today. Have we placed the Lord our God as the centre and focus of our lives, or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed by the many temptations and allures of this world that we end up being drawn further and further away from the Lord and His salvation? It is important that we reflect upon these today as we continue to progress through the season of Advent in preparation for the great celebrations at Christmas. That is because we must not be ignorant of our calling and mission as Christians, to be the beacons of God’s light and hope in our world today.

Often we may think that we are unworthy or incapable of doing what the Lord has entrusted to us to do, but this is because we do not realise or understand that it is not we who make ourselves worthy of the Lord or decide whether we are worthy or not. Instead, it is God Himself Who calls and has called upon all those whom He deems to be worthy. After all, He knows everything in us, all in our hearts and minds, even to the deepest of our secrets. Nothing is hidden from His All-Knowing might, and hence, He knows perfectly what we are capable of, and He empowers each one of us with unique and variety of gifts, blessings and opportunities to do His will, and to be fruitful in the missions that He has entrusted to each one of us. All of us should follow in the footsteps of St. Andrew the Apostle, and the other Apostles and saints.

The works that the Lord had entrusted to His Apostles and disciples are still far from being completed, brothers and sisters in Christ. There are still many areas where there are people who have not yet known the truth, wisdom and salvation in God, and there are many of those who can be called closer to God and His truth, His salvation and grace by our lives and actions. We have been entrusted with many things by the Lord, and sometimes we ourselves do not realise this, as we are often too preoccupied with worldly matters, our desires and ambitions that we end up being blindsided and unable to realise what a great opportunity that we have been given by God, and how we often squandered those opportunities and gifts, in ignoring and not answering to the call that the Lord has made upon us to follow Him.

Let us all therefore entrust ourselves to the Lord, following the examples that saints like St. Andrew the Apostle had done. Let us all allow the Lord to lead and guide us in our lives so that we may truly walk faithfully down the path that He has prepared for us. Let us all be active in the faithful living and carrying out of our Christian duties and obligations, in being true and shining beacons of God’s light and truth in our world today. Are we willing to commit ourselves to this path? And are we willing to commit our effort, time and attention to do what the Lord had called us to do and entrusted in our care? Let us ask St. Andrew to intercede for us, that God may always be by our side and strengthen us in whatever struggles and paths that He has called us to walk through, now and always, evermore. May our lives, and especially this time of Advent be a truly fruitful one. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 : 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.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022 : 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 Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded of how fortunate we are for having received the revelation of truth from God, of the coming of His future return, and how we shall all be partakers and inheritors of His glorious kingdom, when He comes again at the end of time. We are reminded that God will deliver us into a new existence and life free from the bondage and sufferings due to our sins and wickedness. The Lord has reassured us that He will never abandon us to the darkness, and all of us who are faithful to Him shall receive from Him the gift of everlasting grace and life, freedom from the darkness of sin and death. No longer shall we have to fear the threats of evil and the attacks of Satan, the evil one, because our Lord will lead us to His great triumphant victory in the end.

However, along the way there will indeed be plenty of challenges, trials and obstacles facing us. Hence, we really have to be patient and committed to the Lord, with all of our hearts and minds, so that we may remain firm and true in our faith in Him, and not be tempted to walk away and abandon Him for other comforts and pleasures in the world. And that is why we have to remind ourselves in this season of Advent of what we are expecting in the coming Christmas, as we approach the time of rejoicing because we see the coming of the hope and new life in Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are reminded that we rejoice greatly as we have seen the light of Our Lord’s glory and all that we shall enjoy in Him, the eternity of perfect bliss and happiness in His presence.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself praised His heavenly Father for all that He had planned for the salvation of all mankind, and how everything had indeed been fulfilled and accomplished perfectly through His coming into this world, He, the Son of God and Son of Man, incarnate in the flesh and born of His blessed Mother Mary. Through Christ, all that God has promised all of us and our ancestors and predecessors, all mankind from the beginning of time had come to a full circle and perfect accomplishment. He has shown us the fullness of God’s love manifested before our own eyes, where God became tangible and approachable, and hence, showing and proving to us that whatever He has promised us all and our predecessors are not merely empty promises.

Indeed, it was not just that the love of God has been made manifest in this world and tangible to us, but through His actions, especially by His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has delivered us the ultimate expression of God’s ever enduring love for all of us. As He Himself said that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down one’s life for a friend, that was exactly what the Lord had done for our sake. The Lord has shown us just much beloved we are and how precious we are to Him, that despite of our constant stubbornness and rebellion against Him, He still reached out to us and loved us nonetheless. His salvation has been extended to all mankind, even those who have hurt and persecuted Him. He is the one Lord of all, and all of us are His people, His beloved ones.

If God has loved us so much then we really need to ask ourselves, why then we have often neglected and ignored Him in our preparations for Christmas? Why have we spent so much time and effort in preparing and immersing ourselves in the festivities and merrymaking and yet, Christ is nowhere near the centre or the focus of our celebrations? The Lord has given us the wonders and riches of His love, and yet, we have not responded to His love with openness and willingness to embrace that love. How often is it that we remain stubborn in our refusal to embrace God’s love and mercy despite Him having patiently cared and reached out to us all these while? We have been busy preparing for Christmas, but is it the true Christmas that we are truly preparing for? Or is it the Christmas of our fancy and desires that we are actually looking forward to.

Let us all consider all of these very carefully even as we continue to progress through this season of Advent. We should not let the distractions and temptations of the secular and worldly Christmas from misleading us down the wrong path this season of Advent. Instead, we should do better in deepening our understanding of God’s love and compassion for us, and how we can do better in our respective lives to do what God has called on each one of us to do. We should this time of Advent to reflect on everything that God had done for us, in loving us and in showing us mercy and forgiveness, even when we have repeatedly disappointed Him and disobeyed Him, betrayed and rejected Him. Such pure love that God has shown us should be reciprocated and responded with our own love and devotion towards Him. But many of us realised it only too late that God has loved us so much.

Too many times we have been too busy with ourselves, our desires and pursuits in this world, blinded by our ego and pride, and as a result, we end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of worldliness and sin, and distracted away from the path of God’s righteousness and truth. Unless we keep this in mind and do our best to steer ourselves away from worldly temptations and resist their influences, we may likely end up going down the wrong paths, and end up being found unworthy to receive the Lord’s glorious inheritance on the Day of Reckoning. Is that what we truly want, brothers and sisters in Christ? To gain the temporary and short-term pleasures and happiness of the world, we sacrifice and forgo our assurance of eternal life in God?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey, and may He strengthen our faith, resolve and commitment to follow Him wholeheartedly in our way of life. May God be with us always and may He encourage us to walk down the path of righteousness and justice, and be ever vigilant against the allures, coercions and pressures of worldly corruptions, evils and temptations, as well as by deepening our relationships with God. May God bless our every actions and interactions, and give us the strength to carry out our calling and duties faithfully in life. Amen.