Wednesday, 21 September 2022 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Universal Church and all the faithful people of God rejoice together in the great Feast of one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and who is also one of the Four Evangelists. St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist was the author of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which is chronologically usually the first Gospel listed in the New Testament, as the first of the four Holy Gospels. He was once known as Levi, a tax collector in Judea, who was called by God and who responded to that call with faith, leaving behind his past life and work as tax collector in order to follow the Lord and serve Him wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today, we heard of how St. Paul spoke to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus regarding the many gifts and graces of God given to them, that each one of them have been called by God and granted with various gifts, abilities and opportunities to be His disciples and followers, to be His witnesses and the ones to deliver His truth and love to the people of all the nations. The Lord has reached our to us all and sent us forth with His message, His words and wisdom, and told us all to deliver them through our lives and faithful witness by our actions and deeds, our role model and examples each day in life.

Each one of us are called to be faithful disciples of the Lord like that of St. Matthew the Apostle but at the same time we are also reminded that we have been given unique opportunities and we should not be worried about our backgrounds and origins, for the Lord called His disciples from all walks of life and various origins. Many of the greatest ones among His saints, like St. Matthew himself were once sinners who were unworthy and unlikely to be saved, at least in the eyes of the world, but yet proved them all wrong because they had a change of life and direction, and dedicated themselves to the Lord, embracing Him wholeheartedly and making Him the centre and focus of their lives.

St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist for example was a tax collector, and back then, a tax collector was often seen with great suspicion and disdain, and sometimes even with great hostility as they were often considered the scum of the society, and they were often treated as outcasts due to the nature of their work. They were seen as traitors to the nation and the Jewish society, as they were collecting taxes on behalf of either the Romans who were overlords of the lands of Judah, Samaria and Galilee, or on behalf of the Herodian kings, whom some of the people considered as foreigners as well.

Regardless of the circumstances, the tax collectors had often been reviled simply because they did what others hated, collecting taxes and no one really liked to be taxed for their wealth, property or income, be it those who were rich or those who were poor. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often categorised them together with those like the prostitutes, criminals, the sick and the diseased, the possessed and all others whom they often deemed and labelled as being unworthy of God and His grace. Hence, they were often hated and despised by many, ostracised and treated like outcasts.

But the Lord proved them all wrong and showed us all how even great sinners can become great saints and servants of God. That is because what matters is how each one of those sinners reject the sins and wickedness they had committed, and endeavour to free themselves from the bondage and attachment to sin. And it requires our conscious efforts and dedication, to turn away from the path of sin and evil, and embrace God’s mercy and forgiveness, as well as allowing God to lead us down the right path as St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist himself had shown us by his life and dedication.

St. Matthew embraced a new life after abandoning his past life as Levi, following the Lord and making that change of name as a sign of his dedication to God and to his newfound faith. He wrote his Gospel targetted on the Jewish community and spent a lot of time and effort in his writings in order to reveal the truth of God to the Jewish community. He also ministered to the faithful and others in Judea and other parts of the region according to Apostolic and Church traditions, and he went through many hardships in proclaiming the Good News of God. He was martyred in the end, and faced death with faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the faith, dedication and commitment which St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist had shown us serve to remind us that each and every one of us, though sinners, but we are all capable of great deeds in God. What we need to do is to embrace God’s love and mercy, and answer His call as St. Matthew and many other saints turned sinners had done. We must realise that the Church is not reserved only solely for the righteous, but is in fact a hospital for sinners. Through the Church and all of our efforts, many sinners may hopefully find their way towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may the good faith and examples showed by St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist and so many other holy men and women of God be the sources of inspiration for all of us that we may always be ever faithful and committed, and be righteous and full of virtue in our every words, actions and deeds from now on. May we all no longer live in sin, but strive to be truly good in our lives, and be worthy of God and His grace. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (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, 21 September 2022 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 4 : 1-7, 11-13

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, one of the Lord’s Twelve Apostles, and who was also identified as Nathanael, his alternate name as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. St. Bartholomew as known by Nathanael was an intellectual and educated person, who accepted the Lord’s calling and devoted himself henceforth in the service of the Lord. He would go on to proclaim the Lord’s truth and Good News among the people in various distant lands and committed himself to a ministry of service, right up to his martyrdom, which inspired yet many more to follow the Lord.

St. Bartholomew according to Apostolic and Church traditions went on missionary journeys to various regions including but perhaps not limited to Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Lycaonia in Asia Minor, Armenia and even India. He spent many years and a lot of efforts in proclaiming the Gospel of truth among the people there, some of whom received the Lord and the Good News with enthusiasm, while others rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him, and refusing also to believe in St. Bartholomew and the other missionaries sent to their midst. Through those works, St. Bartholomew sowed the seeds of faith and built the foundation of the Church in many places, but he had to face a lot of hardships too.

St. Bartholomew was credited with an early mission to India and the regions far east from the land of Judea. He visited several regions in ancient India, establishing probably the first Christian communities there together with the other famous Apostle, St. Thomas the Apostle, who established the foundation of the Christian communities in India, that survived until the present day and could trace their faith lineage all the way since the days of the Apostles, both St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew. Then, St. Bartholomew was also involved in an important mission to Armenia where most stories agreed that he faced persecution and martyrdom there.

In Armenia, St. Bartholomew likely proclaimed the Lord together with another Apostle, namely St. Jude Thaddeus, and it was there that the first seeds of the Christian faith was sown. While Armenia would eventually become the first Christian nation in the world about two and a half centuries later after the time of the Apostles, but back then, it was still a land of pagans, although St. Bartholomew managed to convince some of them to listen to the Good News of God, and some were convinced to become Christians. Not only that, but one of the rulers, traditionally according to historical stories, named Polymius was convinced by St. Bartholomew to become a Christian, and that led to a vicious reaction against the Apostles.

Depending on the version of tradition, St. Bartholomew was either crucified upside down in the similar manner as St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, or the more popular and common one being that he was flayed or skinned alive before he was martyred in Armenia. Regardless of the way and the circumstances of his martyrdom, what each one of us can really be sure of is that St. Bartholomew had dedicated his life to the service of God and he had suffered greatly for that, and yet, he embraced his martyrdom happily and with great faith, knowing that he had suffered for the sake of the Lord and His Church, for the salvation of many more souls.

The courage and faith showed by St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles, saints and martyrs still inspire us even right to this day. St. Bartholomew showed us all what it means to be genuine and true Christians, to become true followers and disciples of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us had been called and chosen, to become the Lord’s disciples and followers, and we have been given the mission to go forth and proclaim the same truth and Good News just as St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles had done in the past. As members of God’s same Church, we are all called to be evangelising disciples and missionaries through our lives.

This does not mean that we have to do what St. Bartholomew and the Apostles had done. Each one of us have been given different talents, abilities, gifts and opportunities by the Lord. What the Lord wants us all to do is that, we should make good use of all those in whatever opportunities and goods we have, whatever blessings and talents we have gained, so that we may glorify the Lord and His Name, and proclaim His truth by our worthy lives, our worthy actions, words and deeds. This is what we should be doing, brothers and sisters in Christ, namely to live our lives worthily for the Lord and to do our best to obey His Law, His commandments and His will.

Let us all strive to be missionary and evangelising disciples and followers of the Lord, in everything we say and do, in our every vocations in life, be it as married couples, as family members, youth or elderly, be it as laypeople or members of the presbyterate, or be it as members of religious orders and other institutions. Each and every one of us have our own unique roles to play as part of the Lord’s Church to fulfil what He has called us to do, to obey Him wholeheartedly and to be exemplary and sources of inspiration for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters at all times. May God be with us always, and bless our every good works and endeavours, and may St. Bartholomew continue to intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 1 : 45-51

At that time, Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets : He is Jesus, Son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked Him, “How do You know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.”

Nathanael answered, “Master, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 21 : 9b-14

And one of the seven Angels who were with the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues said to me, “Come, I am going to show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

He took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the colour of crystal-clear jasper. Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve Angels.

Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.