Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus, also known as St. James the Greater, the brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. He was counted among those, together with St. Peter and his brother, St. John, whom the Lord always called to be by His side during the important events in His ministry, such as the resurrection of the young daughter of Jairus, the Transfiguration and the Agony in the Garden.

St. James was among the first if not the first of the Twelve Apostles to face martyrdom in the performance of his work and mission, as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. The king Herod Agrippa was recorded as the one who arrested St. James and then brought about his execution as a martyr of the faith. But even before that, St. James had managed to perform his ministry in faraway places where his popularity remains to this very day.

It was told that St. James went to the faraway areas of Iberia, now areas known as Spain and Portugal, which were indeed far away from the land of Judea, from where the Apostles began their missionary journey. He preached the Good News of the Gospel in those regions, establishing the foundations of the Church and sowed the seeds of the faith among the people in that region.

At that place, which is now famous for the pilgrimage of St. James, or the St. James’ Way, culminating at the Cathedral of St. James of Compostela or Santiago de Compostela, it was told that, the Holy Apostle performed his many works, and even had apparition of the Blessed Virgin at that place, now known as Our Lady of the Pillar after the place where the apparition took place.

St. James performed many other, unrecorded missionary works and evangelising activities before he returned to Judea, and under the reign of king Herod Agrippa, as mentioned earlier, was arrested and beheaded as the first Apostle to be martyred. Yet, through his martyrdom, many more Christians took up the cross and followed his examples, doing even more work of evangelisation in many places, calling ever more people to turn to the Lord and accept Him as their Lord and Saviour.

In the first reading today, what we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Corinth was in fact a summary of what we have just discussed. St. Paul himself mentioned how the faithful would be persecuted and be condemned by others, facing difficulties and challenges that would make their life difficult, and yet, in each of them, is found great treasure hidden in our physical existence, which he compared to a treasure hidden in a clay.

And in the same passage taken from the Epistle, we know what this treasure is. It is the Lord Himself Who has come to dwell in us, and share with us His love. All of us who have shared in the Lord through the Eucharist, receiving His Body and Blood into ourselves, and have faith in Him, are those who have been called from the world to be the Lord’s disciples and followers.

To each and every one of us God has revealed His truth, which He preserved through His Church. And through this, we are to share in the cross of Christ, which is the cup that the Lord mentioned in the Gospel passage today. And it is a reminder to each one of us, that we are also called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, to serve the people of God, one another, and to love God with all of our hearts.

Through the Gospel passage today, we are reminded, just as we have been through the life, suffering and martyrdom of St. James the Apostle, that following Christ is not one of seeking personal and worldly glory. The Apostles St. James and St. John came with their mother to the Lord, asking for special favours and positions above and over the other Apostles, at that time still thinking of discipleship in the worldly manner.

Indeed, the same can be said of us as well, those who are in the Church. There are indeed many among us who think about following the Lord and being His disciples in materialistic and worldly manner. But that is not what being a disciple of Christ is truly about. To be a follower and disciple of Christ means that we have to learn to die to ourselves and our ambitions, pride, greed and all sorts of things that prevented us from truly following the Lord in our hearts and minds.

Therefore, let us all pray that today and from now on, each one of us as Christians will be able to carry out our duties and responsibilities as followers and servants of our God. May the Lord also strengthen our resolve to live in faith, and to devote ourselves ever more to Him through all of our actions and deeds. May He inflame in us the spirit of faith and love, and zeal which He has also given to St. James and the other Apostles.

May He continue to empower each and every one of us to live with ever greater devotion to our role as Christians, in loving God first and foremost, and then loving our fellow men and women, at all times. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : 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.”

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : 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.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018 : 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, 22 July 2018 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Let us go off by ourselves into a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving, and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 1-7

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the Twelve Apostles : first Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon, the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, the man who would betray Him.

Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Do not visit pagan territory and do not enter a Samaritan town. Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Tuesday, 3 July 2018 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, also known as St. Thomas Didymus or St. Thomas the Twin. St. Thomas was well remembered in the Gospels as the Apostle who doubted the Lord Jesus on more than one occasion. The first time was when the Lord Jesus wanted to go to Jerusalem again after the chief priests and the Pharisees had sought out to arrest Him, and St. Thomas sarcastically remarked that indeed, the Apostles and disciples should all follow the Lord Jesus, to their own deaths.

And then, on the more well-remembered occasion, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, St. Thomas refused to believe that the Lord Jesus had appeared to them after He has risen from the dead. He adamantly and stubbornly said that unless he was able to tangibly prove that the Lord did indeed exist in the flesh and body, then he would not believe in Him.

When the Lord Jesus appeared in person before St. Thomas and the other disciples, showing the truth of His resurrection from the dead, and even challenging him to do what he had said he would do, that is to put his fingers into the wounds made by the nails on His hands and feet, St. Thomas was dumbfounded, and on his knees, acknowledged with faith, that it was indeed the Lord risen from the dead, his Lord and Master.

Today, all of us reflect on this stubbornness and lack of faith which St. Thomas had exhibited in his life. Now, we ought to look at our own lives, and evaluate whether we have also followed in the examples shown by St. Thomas in his lack of faith, doubt and refusal to believe in the Lord’s truth. Have we also doubted the Lord and His love, or complained that God has not been there for us?

This is something that many of us commonly said, when we were disappointed or even angry at God, for we often wrongly thought that God refused to listen to our prayers, or that He did not listen to our prayers. Then we ended up even doubting whether God was really present. We failed to realise that, first of all, our prayers are not means for us to demand that God must do something for us. Instead, prayer is truly a way for us to know what is God’s will for us.

Let us now take a look at the first reading passage we heard today, from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Ephesus. In that passage, we heard about the comparison which St. Paul made between our body and physical existence with the Temple and House of God. In another occasion in his Epistle, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, reminding them that they are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

And hence, all of us are the Temples of God’s Holy Presence, especially because we have received the Lord Himself, in His Body and Blood, His Real Presence through the Eucharist. And God is always present in us, for all of us are created by God, and God is present in His Spirit inside each and every one of us. The Lord Jesus once walked physically with His disciples on this world, but now that after He had ascended into heaven, we can no longer see Him physically, but many of us did not realise that He is still always present, with us and within us. That is why we also end up like how St. Thomas was initially.

And why is that so? That is because in our daily lives, we are often so busy with our various preoccupations, and all sorts of noises coming from the world, from our career, from our relationships and merrymaking, from our pursuits of wealth, power, influence, fame and all sorts of other worldly enjoyments. We are simply too distracted and too preoccupied with all the noises of the world, that we were not able to recognise the Lord speaking deep within our hearts.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is up to us whether we want to remain in this state, or whether we want to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas the Apostle, who went on his knees, and acknowledged that the Lord was there, his God, Master and Saviour, with all of his hearts, despite the long time it took for him to recognise that fact. The same applies to us as well, brethren, as it may also take us a long time before we recognise this truth, but eventually, we must strive towards this state of faith.

In the end, St. Thomas would go on to preach the Good News and wholeheartedly devoted himself to the cause of the Lord. There was no longer doubt that was once filling his heart and mind. He went on to many places, especially to India, where he preached the faith and converted quite a number among the local populace, who were known thenceforth as ‘St. Thomas Christians’, descendants of which are still present today in parts of India, holding faithfully to the truth in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us ought to follow in the footsteps of St. Thomas, in the journey of faith, and the dedication which he had, that he persevered through all the challenges and the oppositions, to accept martyrdom while defending his faith in God. We have seen how he was transformed from someone who doubted and lacked faith into a true servant of God. The same should also happen to us all.

Let us all therefore seek the Lord from now on, with all of our hearts, devoting our time, effort and attention to serve Him. And we should hence open our hearts and minds to the Lord, by quieting ourselves down and spending more time with God through prayer. Let us do this, brothers and sisters, deepening our relationship with Our God, that we may truly, indeed, be able to follow in the footsteps of the Holy Apostles, in our ever increasing devotion and love to God and to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. May God be with us all, and bless us all in our endeavours. Amen.