Tuesday, 25 July 2017 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together with the entire Church the great feast of the Holy Apostle St. James, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord. He was the brother of St. John, also Apostle and one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels, the sons of Zebedee. They were once fishermen working at the lake of Galilee, together with St. Peter and St. Andrew, whom the Lord called to follow Him and henceforth were counted among His principal disciples.

The Apostles of the Lord were the pillars of the Church, which foundation is St. Peter, the Rock, on which God had established His Church, and whose head is the Lord Himself, represented on earth by the Apostles and their successors. It was the Apostles who continued the good works of the Lord and established the strong structures and foundations for the early Church, which faced many persecutions and difficulties from those who wanted the Church destroyed and the faithful scattered.

The Lord Jesus Himself had reminded His Apostles in various occasions, including in what we heard today as part of our Gospel passage, telling His disciples James and John, that suffering would be the part of their lives for having followed the Lord and obeyed His commandments. He mentioned it as He said to them, that if they were to follow Him, they would have to drink from the same cup that Christ would drink from, the cup of persecution and suffering.

But the two Apostles did not understand this at first, and neither did the other Apostles. What we heard in the Gospel today, is how we mankind often respond in our own respective lives. When we are presented with the opportunity to gather for ourselves power, influence, fame, glory and honour, or even wealth and possessions, we will be tempted to do whatever we can in order to secure these for ourselves, and for our own benefits.

That was exactly what the Apostles St. James and St. John did, as they were brought by their mother to the presence of the Lord. The mother of the two Apostles asked if the Lord Jesus would be able to grant them special privileges above that of the other Apostles, by granting them positions of honour on His left and right. For that time, to be at the left and the right hand of a ruler such as a king, is an extremely honourable and great position to have.

If we look through the history of man, through many nations and peoples, we will then realise just how much mankind were willing to go in order to satisfy their own needs, wants and desires. It was the desire for more power and influence that had caused much sorrow and bickering among the peoples, even to the extent of going to wars and conflicts in order to accumulate more power for themselves, not minding the suffering those conflicts caused upon others.

And many of these were done by the leaders of the people, who themselves had had power and influence, wealth and possessions. One might be wondering that those people already had plenty of those, be it money, wealth, fame, and all other forms of worldly glory, but if we look deeply into ourselves and study our history more closely, we will quickly realise just how difficult it is to satisfy our desires and our greed.

We mankind are by our nature greedy and selfish, and we always want to seek what we do not have, and what we think will be good for us to possess. If we already have them, then we will be craving for even more, for whatever we have tasted and received, will soon be not sufficient for us to satisfy our ever growing greed and desire, especially for power, fame and material wealth.

That is what the Lord Jesus wanted to warn us against, that all of us Christians must not walk that path, but instead take an entirely different path. We are very familiar with the path I have mentioned earlier, that the greater the power we have, the more we desire power and glory, and the more we want our needs and desires to be served. Yet, the Lord showed us the meaning of our Christian virtues and what we Christians must do in order to follow Him faithfully.

The Apostles were called not to a position of honour and glory in the traditional sense of how honour and glory are seen by the world. They do not come to be served but to serve others with all of their might. The greater they become, the humbler they are called to be, and the more they are called to do for the sake of those who have been entrusted under their care.

And the Lord Jesus Himself showed by example, that even He, Who is the Lord, God and Master of all, were willing to serve His disciples, caring for them and humbling Himself before them, particularly at the Last Supper when He performed the washing of the feet on them, a job reserved only for the slaves, the lowest strata of the society at that time, those who have no power and dignity at all, and yet, God allowed Himself to do what He deemed was right.

Yes, and it was right according to the Lord, that all of us Christians should let go of our ego and pride, our desires and greed, and all those things that have in fact become great obstacles on our path to seek the Lord and His salvation. We must listen to the Lord and obey to Him, and follow Him in this path that He has shown to all of us, the path of the cross.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must realise that as Christians, we are continuing what the Apostles have begun before us, the task which God had entrusted to them, which are not easy tasks, but very difficult assignments, considering just how much the Apostles had to suffer in order to carry out their missions. They had to endure rejection, ridicule, persecution, torture, imprisonment, and they even have to literally shed their blood and lay down their lives for the sake of the Lord.

That is the cup of suffering that they have to share with the Lord, and the cross that they had to bear. The Lord said that all those who are faithful to Him and who wants to follow Him must take up their crosses and follow Him, walking with Him along the path of suffering. This is what we all also need to share together, that we have to persevere despite the challenges and obstacles from the world. We cannot give up, for what is at stake is none other than the salvation of our souls and those who are around us.

There are still many things left undone, which the Church is continuing to do, shouldering the same burdens and works entrusted to it by the Lord. The Apostles had shown us all the way, that to go greater in the sight of God, we do not do as what the world has always taught us to do, but instead, we become greater through humility, through selflessness and love for our fellow brethren, for all those who are suffering, that we show mercy and love to them.

Let us all therefore, follow the footsteps of St. James the Apostle, and work hard in our own ways to contribute to the Church. It was told that St. James went to many places including to what is today Spain, where his principal shrine at Santiago de Compostela is located at. Let us have the same fervour to bring the Word of God to our fellow men, by practicing our faith actively through actions and deeds, that we may become the bearers of the light of Christ to our brothers and sisters. May the Lord bless us always and may St. James intercede for our sake before Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 : 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."

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 : 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.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017 : 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.