Saturday, 21 September 2013 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, that is of St. Matthew the Evangelist, one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels. St. Matthew was once the tax collector, known also as Levi, whom the Lord called out of his previous life as money collector for the Roman overlords, to be the collector of souls, to take part in the salvation of mankind.

Brethren, today the Lord wants us to know that firstly, He loves us all without condition, with all of His heart. Then, He also cares for all of us His children, whom He loves best over all of His other creations, particularly the lost sheep, the ones who had been lost to darkness. That was why He mentioned the need for these lost ones for His love, and He made Himself available for them, calling them up from the depth of darkness into the light.

The Lord Himself called His Apostles and disciples from the rank of sinners, those who were sinful in various ways, from various backgrounds, and all of them, in one way or another, repented from their sinful past, and open themselves to God’s love, and eventually become great tools of salvation through which Christ our Lord made manifest His saving power. And St. Matthew, once sinner and tax collector, became the writer of the Holy Gospels, the bearer of the Good News of salvation.

However, being the followers of Christ were not an easy thing, just as it is not easy in our world today. There will always be opposition and even persecution against us, just as the world had hated Christ, they too will hate us, His followers and disciples. Many sneered at us, as they had done so for the Apostles and disciples of Christ through the generations. They mocked us for the sins we have, although they themselves were sinners and did not repent.

Jesus was mocked by the Pharisees and the scribes very often, for eating and gathering together with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, whom they considered to be the lowest tier in the society, and whom they considered damned and cursed to hell. That was why, they distanced themselves from these sinners, trying to keep their own purity, disassociating themselves from all these ‘impurities’.

Yet, in doing so, they had instead incurred the wrath of the Lord. Not only that they praised themselves for their own achievements and deeds, but also that they had put down in contempt, the people of God whom they were supposed to lead. They had not reached out to them, and instead distanced themselves from the most needy of God’s people and condemned them for their sinfulness while they themselves were equally sinful as well, if not even more sinful.

The Lord brought His disciples from the depth of their sinfulness, lifting them up, and bringing them, including St. Matthew, from their fate in hell, to the new heavenly glory, with Him in heaven. Yet, the process is not a simple one, brethren, as the path was truly difficult, filled with the traps and devices of the evil one, attempting to bring them from God. All but Judas Iscariot survived those tests victorious, rebuking the devil and his temptations.

They were sorely tempted, and fear crept into their hearts when the Lord was arrested at the Garden of Gethsemane, after His Last Supper with them. They were scattered and broken, as if sheep without a shepherd. Even St. Peter, the leader of all the apostles and disciples of Christ, fell, and denied Christ three times, out of fear for his own life and safety.

But, brethren, this is where they were different from Judas the traitor, as they persevered while Judas gave in fully to Satan’s advances, and in the end, chose to take the quick way out by suicide, instead of seeking for the Lord’s mercy and reaffirmed his faith and love for Him, as the other Apostles had done.

The Lord had prepared His apostles through trials and difficulties, as St. Paul had mentioned, and they passed, not because they were righteous, but because they had risen up from their sinful ways towards righteousness, towards their love and dedication, for the Lord their Master and our God, and towards all of God’s children, whom they spilled their blood and shed their life for, following the very example Christ had set Himself.

They feared no human authority nor persecutions, for the Lord was always with them throughout their mission journey, to bring all God’s people and gather them to Himself, that they may be saved. St. Matthew was a part of this, and through the Gospel he wrote, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he saved many souls from damnation.

He was himself once a sinner, a tax collector shunned by many of his own people, branded as traitors, since they were seen as the collaborators of the Romans, and yet, he became a great fisher of men, bringing many towards the Lord their God. What then, about the Pharisees? What is their fate? It is possible to deduce that indeed, their lack of true faith and love for God, had doomed them to hell for eternity, for they care nothing about their brethren or God, and all they ever cared about was themselves.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, as we commemorate this great feast of St. Matthew the Apostle and the Evangelist, let us follow in his footsteps, in his readiness to leave all that he had once had, and abandon his old, sinful life, to start anew in Christ, that the Lord who loves all, will put His Spirit within us, empowering us to be like the Apostles of old. May the Lord continue to bless us and embrace us with His love, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, 21 September 2013 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

As Jesus moved on from there, 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.”

Saturday, 21 September 2013 : 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.

Saturday, 21 September 2013 : 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, for God, in calling you, gave the same Spirit to  all.

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.

Monday, 16 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, and St. Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Timothy 2 : 1-8

First of all I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for rulers of states and all in authority, that we may enjoy a quiet and peaceful life in godliness and respect. This is good and pleases God. For He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth.

As there is one God, there is one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave His life for the redemption of all. This is the testimony, given in its proper time, and of this, God has made me apostle and herald. I am not lying. I am telling the truth : He made me teacher of the nations regarding faith and truth.

I want the men in every place to lift pure hands in prayer to heaven without anger and dissension.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles, that is St. James the Lesser, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple of Christ, and one of the sons of Zebedee, whose mother’s pleading to Christ we heard in the Gospel Reading today. St. James the Lesser was also the first of Christ’s Apostles to be martyred and went to heavenly glory, leading the way for his fellow Apostles, in glorifying Christ and God through his death.

St. James and his brother, St. John were courageous and fearless defenders of the Gospel, and brave messengers of the message of salvation, that is brought by Christ unto this world. They became witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. He witnessed the Risen Lord who gave them the mission to spread the Good News to all mankind, to the ends of the earth, and to make disciples of all the nations, a mission which is still true even until today.
Just as St. James was captured, imprisoned, and eventually martyred by the actions of King Herod, the King of Judea at the time, he did not give up his faith, and neither did he slacken from the mission the Lord had entrusted him with, despite the relatively short time that he had in his mission, him being the first to be martyred and die among the Apostles of Christ.

But that reminds us all of the reality of following our Lord Jesus Christ, that as St. Paul mentioned in the first reading today taken from the Second Letter to the faithful in Colossus, that following the Lord is not an easy way, and there will be many persecutions awaiting the faithful, many trials and tribulations inflicted by those who hated the Lord and His people. The devil is at work, brothers and sisters in Christ, because he is ever busy undermining the work of Christ in this world, trying to snatch us away from His embrace, and bring us into the eternal darkness of hell.

However, let us not fear the devil and his devices, Satan with all his wicked tools of corruption, temptation, and blasphemy against the Lord. That is because Christ our Saviour had conquered, and He had shown His might to all creation, freeing mankind forever from their bondage to sin, and therefore to death and Satan himself. For Satan, the evil one, had been our jailor and our master, the slave master ever since our ancestors chose to follow and obey his words rather than the commandments of the Lord.

Christ had given up Himself as the sacrificial victim, offered to everyone without exception, so that out of the outpouring of His love and His blood from the cross, everyone will be washed clean from the taints of their sins, like the way how the saints and martyrs in the vision of St. John, the brother of St. James, washed their cloaks and robes clean and pure white in the Blood of the Lamb, in his vision written in the Book of Revelation, as a vision of the end times.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, while following Christ will be difficult, with opposition from many, and even persecutions and oppressions may accompany it, but the Lord will be with us, walking alongside us. He carries us whenever we are weak and downtrodden. He gives hope to us whenever our hearts are heavy and filled with despair. For He is our God, a loving God, and a Good Shepherd, who cares for His sheep so much, that He would give His life for their sake, that they may live.

Today, brothers and sisters, we are still called by the Lord, to be like His disciples, and to be like His Apostles, particularly like St. James whom we remember today, in our zeal for Him, in our love and dedication for Him, and most importantly, in our actions and words, that we always reflect Christ at all times in them. Never speak a word without contemplating Christ, and never lift up your hand before listening to the Lord’s will.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that we base ourselves on a good, strong, and vibrant prayer life, because prayer is the way for us to communicate with the Lord our God. Prayers are not supposed to be one-way request hotline for us to bombard the Lord with our needs and petitions, but it is rather a channel for us, to be able to listen to the Word of God speaking silently inside our hearts. Once our internal dispositions are good, based on a good faith and prayerful life, then we can embark on our mission of love, that is to make disciples of all the nations, by preaching the Good News of salvation, to the ends of the earth.

In his Epistle, that is the Epistle of James, St. James wrote especially about how faith without good works is the same as a dead faith. There can be no salvation without a living faith, that is faith made alive with good works based on the love of God. Therefore, it is important that we have a good prayer life and a heart dedicated to the Lord, and use this love in our heart, to do good for our neighbours, our brothers and sisters in need, that our faith is made alive, because we practice our faith, in following the Lord’s commands, that is to love one another just as we love ourselves.

The world today has ever greater need for missionaries and labourers of Christ, as more and more people are in need of God’s love and mercy. More and more people are turned away from the Lord because the world and its goodness have deceived them and led them away from the true path towards the Lord. Materialism and consumerism had made so many people paying less attention to the very God who had saved them from damnation, and they turned their backs on the Lamb who had shed His blood for their sake.

Be not afraid, and inspired by the zeal and example of St. James the Apostle, and the other Apostles and disciples of Christ, let us renew our effort to make a difference in our world, by bringing Christ into it, and fearlessly preaching the truths of the Gospel. We do not have to aim high nor go far, brothers and sisters, because we should indeed begin within our own families, within our own circle of friends, and within our own respective societies.

Have we as a family or within our friendships reflect Christ in all our words, deeds, and actions? Have we showed love in all the dealings we have with others. Do we bring life and love to others through what we have done to them? Have we brought peace to people who are in conflict and have we stood up for those who had been unjustly treated and persecuted?

All of us can do our own respective parts to play in our own respective communities, be it at home or outside, between our friends and our families. Let us all then resolve, and renew our commitment to the Lord, to be truly His disciples, not just in name, but also in our actions, and every words that leave our mouth. Let us bring light to all the nations, the Light of Christ, which reveals the way to the salvation of Christ.

Let us pray also for all the participants of the World Youth Day, which is now ongoing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that the youths of God will be new missionaries and new disciples of the Lord, committed to their mission, to bring the Good News to all, to comfort the sorrowful, to bless and heal the sick, and to love those who are unloved and rejected by the society.

St. James the Apostle, pray for us and intercede for our sake, all of us sinners and weak at heart, to the Lord our God, that He will strengthen us and give us His Spirit that we will all be courageous to glorify Him and to show Him to the world, a world that still lies in darkness, and badly in need of the Light of Christ. May God bless us all and give us all courage and faith. Amen.

Thursday, 25 July 2013 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Matthew 20 : 20-28

Then 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, when You are 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 ten heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations act as tyrants over them, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be more important in your community shall make himself your servant. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man who has come, not to be served but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”