Saturday, 25 July 2020 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Lord’s holy Apostles, namely St. James the Apostle, also known as St. James the Greater to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser, who was either referring to St. James son of Alpheus or St. James, one of the first leaders of the Church of Jerusalem and brother of the Lord. St. James the Apostle was the elder brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, both sons of Zebedee the fisherman.

St. James was called together with his younger brother when they were fishing at the lake of Galilee, likely near Capernaum where the Lord began His ministry after His baptism. Consequently, he was among the first of the Apostles to be called by the Lord, together with St. Peter and St. Andrew, who were also brothers and fishermen. He followed the Lord together with the others who were called and left everything behind, beginning a life of faithful service to God.

St. James was also considered to be among the closest ones to the Lord as showed throughout the Gospels that during many occasions in the ministry of the Lord, he together with St. Peter and St. John, his younger brother, were often by the side of the Lord, during His Transfiguration, during the time when He raised the dead daughter of an official, as well as during the last moments before His arrest during His agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

As such, it was not surprising that as we heard in our Gospel passage today, the mother of both St. James and St. John came up to the Lord and asked Him for special favours and positions of honour for her sons. At that time, as it is still today, to be able to sit at the left and right hand side of an important person is truly a great honour, one that is not easily earned or given, and usually is a sign of immense honour or relationship with the person being mentioned.

The other disciples were angry when they heard of this seemingly unfair power-grabbing effort from the two Apostles and their mother, but the Lord firmly revealed what it truly meant to be His followers and disciples, both to the mother of St. James and St. John, to the two Apostles themselves, and to the other disciples. To be a follower of Christ is not like being followers of the other lords, kings and leaders of this world, as the latter sought for power and influence, for fame and glory, and for other worldly pursuits.

The Lord Himself told St. James and St. John, that if they follow Him, then they must be ready to drink from the cup that He was to drink, and at that time, the two of them did not truly understand what the Lord meant by this expression. In truth, this cup is the cup of suffering that the Lord also spoke of again just before He was to be arrested and suffered the pain of crucifixion, the suffering of the rejection of the world, the persecution from those who refused to believe in Him, and the agony of enduring the burden of the sin of the whole world.

And the Lord said to the two Apostles, that indeed, they would share in the cup that He was to drink, and this was a brief but important revelation that to follow the Lord is not meant for the pursuit of fame, influence, worldly glory, power, wealth, and many other things we usually desire when we follow someone. Instead, to follow the Lord meant suffering, to be prepared to endure the sufferings that may come our way, and following the Lord may also mean difficulties and challenges may come our way as we carry out the will of God.

St. James himself was the one who experienced this firsthand at the earliest opportunity, for according to the Acts of the Apostles and also Church tradition, St. James was the first if not among the earliest ones of the Twelve Apostles to suffer martyrdom for the sake of the Lord. In the Acts of the Apostles, it was mentioned that king Herod Agrippa arrested St. James and put him to death in prison, before arresting St. Peter seeing that this action pleased the Pharisees and many among the Jews.

But before St. James was martyred, approximately a decade after the Lord’s death and resurrection, he had managed to do wonderful works for the Lord, and he was credited with the evangelisation of faraway lands, as far away as the Iberian peninsula, what is now parts of Portugal and Spain. St. James’ most famous shrine, the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, was where this Apostle once preached to the local pagans and sowed the seeds of faith among them.

And we see how this Apostle of the Lord had been transformed from a humble mere fisherman, and from a man of the world probably seeking favour and glory of the world, into a faithful and devoted servant of God, who did all that he could do to bring the Good News of God’s salvation, His truth and love to all the people, even in faraway lands, a work that is without worldly honour and glory, and not just that, but also filled with danger and difficulties, and he himself suffered martyrdom for this cause he truly believed in and devoted himself wholeheartedly in. His brother, St. John the Apostle, although was the only one of the Twelve not to be martyred, but he endured decades of trials and challenges, exiles and prisons, for his equally great dedication to the Lord.

What then, is the significance of this to us all, brothers and sisters in Christ? St. James reminds us that each and every one of us have also been called by the Lord to follow Him, and by what we have discussed earlier, following the Lord means for us to walk in His path and put Him at the centre of our lives, and not to seek worldly glory and power, or fame or influence, or pleasure and convenience for us. Instead, following God is indeed not about ourselves, but about how we can serve Him and obey His will through our every words, actions and deeds in life.

Are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of St. James the Apostle? Are we willing to follow him in his dedication to serve the Lord, to evangelise the people we h in life, not just through words, but more importantly, through our every actions and deeds? We need to devote our time and effort to be genuine Christians, not just in name but also in deed, and inspire many others to follow our example, that by our actions and examples, we may bring more and more people closer to God.

May the Lord be with us and guide us in our journey of faith that each and every one of us, that through the inspiration and intercession of St. James the Apostle, we may be stronger in faith and be more Christ-like and be more faithful in our every day living. Let us all be transformed from creatures of desire and greed, of ego and pride, into faithful and devout children of God, from now on. May the Lord bless us and our endeavours, our efforts and good works, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : 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.”

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : 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.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : 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.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : 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. St. Thomas was mostly remembered in the Gospels as the one disciple who have always been skeptical and doubtful about the Lord, and was kind of lukewarm in his faith and in his commitment to follow the Lord. St. Thomas has always been kind of a dissident, and the last one to believe, including in His Resurrection.

St. Thomas doubted the Lord when He spoke of His coming persecution at the hands of His enemies, and when He mentioned that He wanted to go to Judea, St. Thomas sarcastically commented before everyone, that everyone ought indeed to follow Him, and follow Him to their certain deaths. And lastly as we heard in our Gospel passage, St. Thomas would not be convinced when the other Apostles told him that the Lord has risen from the dead.

St. Thomas was only convinced when the Lord Himself suddenly appeared again before him and the other disciples, and as St. Thomas earlier on challenged that he would not believe unless he could put his finger into the wounds and the side of the Lord, to know that He was truly the same Jesus Who suffered and died on the Cross and yet inexplicably rose from the dead, thus the Lord invited St. Thomas to do exactly what he had said that he would do.

It was then that St. Thomas declared before all, ‘You are my Lord and my God’, out of love for God and probably even ashamed and embarrassed for the lack of faith he has shown all those while. St. Thomas would then go on to serve the Lord faithfully, and his faith strengthened and no longer wavering, the Apostle has shown us all what it means by true conversion of heart, a profound change from one lacking in faith and filled with doubt into one ardent and firm in the love he had for God.

St. Thomas would later be remembered for his great contributions to the Church, especially for his ministry to the community in faraway region now known as the southern coasts of the Indian subcontinent, where unto this very day, the Christian communities are often called ‘St. Thomas Christians’ and the various communities traced their faith and the roots of their communities to St. Thomas and his courageous works of evangelisation as he preached the words of God’s truth in those mission lands.

Like the other Apostles, St. Thomas would also encounter martyrdom at the end of his earthly journey. But for all that he had done, for the sake of the Lord, he had certainly done a lot more than what he had once doubted about the Lord, being willing to suffer and die for the Lord’s sake, to endure bitter sufferings and hardships for His Holy Name and for His greater glory. And through all these, all of us should also be convinced and be ready and willing to follow the Lord all the same in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Thomas might once have doubted the Lord so much and stubbornly refused to believe in Him. But how are we then different from him? Are we not also often doubtful of the Lord, or else we also tend to forget about Him, ignore His words and truth and preferred instead to listen to the lies of the devil and follow his false leads and ways? Have we ourselves not been stubborn in refusing to follow the Lord and obey Him?

Let us all look upon ourselves and cast St. Thomas the Apostle as our model and guide, together with the many other Apostles, saints and martyrs of the Lord, the innumerable holy men and women of God. And even more importantly, let us all follow in the footsteps of these holy and dedicated people, and realise that indeed, there is no saints without a past and there is no sinners without a future. This means that all of us have sinned and erred at some point in our lives, but what matters is that we turn away from those sins, and embrace God’s love and mercy, be forgiven and reconciled to Him.

Let us all realise that each one of us are also unsteady in faith, having our own doubts and vulnerabilities, and that is exactly why we are easily tempted and pushed to turn into sin and rebellion against God. But we have to leverage on the fact that even the saints were once sinners, doubters, filled with sin and disobedience, and for some, even great sinners and wicked, and yet, in the end, they allowed God to enter into their lives and transform them for the better.

Are we willing and able to commit to this new path, brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we want to love God once again with renewed hope and strength, and do we want to dedicate ourselves to Him as the Apostles, the saints and martyrs had, particularly St. Thomas the Apostle, whose renewed faith and zeal led him to perform wonderful good works among the people of God even in distant lands?

Let us all be better Christians, be more dedicated and committed from now on, focusing our attention on God and spending time and effort to serve Him in whatever capacities and opportunities we have been given. May God bless us all and guide us in our journey, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 20 : 24-29

At that time, Thomas, the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with the other Eleven when Jesus came. The other disciples told Him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he replied, “Until I have seen in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, the disciples were again inside the house and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; stretch out your hand, and put it into My side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe!”

Thomas said, “You are my Lord and my God.” Jesus replied, “You believe because you see Me, do you not? Happy are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 116 : 1, 2

Alleluia! Praise YHVH, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Friday, 3 July 2020 : Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 2 : 19-22

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy Temple, in the Lord.

In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Monday, 29 June 2020 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the glorious memory of the two great Apostles of the Church in Rome in particular and also of the Universal Church as a whole. On this Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, we remember the great contributions that these two faithful follower and servant of God had given throughout their lives and ministries, in proclaiming the truth of the Gospel and revealing the truth of the Good News.

St. Peter the Apostle was the leader of the entire Universal Church as the Vicar of Christ, as the one to whom the Lord Jesus Himself has entrusted the leadership and care of the entire Body of Christ, the Church. He was known as the Prince of the Apostles and as the leader of the Twelve Apostles, the one whom the entire Church looked up to for leadership and guidance during the early days of the Church.

St. Peter went about his own missionary journeys and works, travelling from places to places recorded especially in the early part of the Acts of the Apostles, when he went to places like Lydda and Joppa, and he was also instrumental in leading the first Council of the Church in Jerusalem, when he led the Apostles in reconciling the two opposing sides that were then bitterly divided regarding the matter of obedience to the old Jewish laws and traditions, and the attitude shown towards the Gentile converts to the faith.

St. Peter founded several Christian communities and dioceses, most prominently of which were two of the greatest five Sees of ancient Christendom, namely the See of Antioch, the place where Christians were first called as they were by name, and among the first large Christian community of the time, and of course, the Apostolic and Papal See of Rome, the centre of Christendom by virtue of it being the place where St. Peter himself, the Rock of the Church and faith was martyred and buried.

Meanwhile, St. Paul was truly the greatest missionary and evangeliser of the faith, as he travelled on four great missionary journeys and many important travels across many cities and towns of the Mediterranean region, spreading the word of God to many of the communities of the people of God, composed of both Jews and Gentiles or non-Jewish people alike. Through St. Paul and his many works, tireless travels and efforts, as well as his many letters and Epistles to the many Christian communities, the Church has been greatly strengthened.

For all of these contributions and hard work, St. Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, and he has dedicated his life to the spreading of the truth of God among the non-believers, by ministering to them, speaking to them and patiently enduring all sorts of challenges and trials he had to face and encounter. He certainly did not have it easy and on more than one occasions, he truly brushed death itself very, very closely. He had to go against many people who opposed him, both from the Jews who refused to believe in the Lord, as well as from the Gentiles who viewed the Christian faith as a threat to their old, pagan ways.

Eventually, St. Paul at the end of his ministry and at the last of his missionary journeys went to Rome as part of his trial where he sought appeal to the Roman Emperor for his case put forward by his enemies among the Jews in Jerusalem. St. Paul would stay on in Rome for a while and ministered there to the people of God, to the growing community in Rome, before eventually, he was also martyred in Rome as St. Peter had also suffered.

Listening to the examples and inspiring greatness of these two Apostles, we must have been swayed to think that the Lord had such wonderful and mighty servants by His side, and that we are nothing compared to them. But this is something which we need to dispel from our thoughts, and which we all need to realise just how all of us, every single one of us are equally blessed and called by God to be holy and to walk in the footsteps of St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of God.

Why is this so? That is because, looking at these two holy men of God, we cannot but wonder just how great a transformation they had experienced, as they were in the beginning just like us all, sinners and unworthy, weak and vulnerable, and in both cases, they were seemingly most unlikely to be the ones God would be using as His tools and instruments in bringing His salvation and truth to His people.

That is because, in the beginning St. Peter was merely an uneducated and illiterate fisherman of the lake of Galilee, someone who was of little importance and often overlooked and ignored. St. Peter was also not truly firm in his faith, and he was tempted by Satan before and in moments of distress such as when the Lord Jesus was arrested, he denied knowing the Lord not just once but three times, fearing for his life and worrying that his affiliation with the Lord would be discovered by the bystanders at the trial of Jesus. This was after at the Last Supper, St. Peter proclaimed that he would even lay down his life for the Lord.

And St. Paul was known earlier on as Saul, a great enemy of the Church and the Christian faithful. Saul persecuted the Church throughout Jerusalem and all of Judea, and was even in the midst of trying to expand this persecution to beyond the land of Israel, in Damascus when he encountered the Lord and was converted. The persecution was truly great and many suffered and had to endure prison and more for being a believer of Christ. Saul was burning in his heart with ambition and desire to destroy the Church and the faithful.

Looking at these things, then we must wonder just how amazing God has been, in calling people from the most unlikely sources and origins. God has made the unlikeliest and the most mind-boggling choices in His choice for Apostles and followers, servants and champions of the faith like St. Peter and St. Paul, and many other Apostles, saints and martyrs, all those who have given their lives in the service of God.

This is exactly where the Lord showed us that it is Him Who made us worthy and not we ourselves who consider ourselves to be worthy of Him. In fact, the more we think that we are worthy of God and be proud of it, the less worthy we may become. Instead, let us all be open-minded and allow God to enter into our lives, in order to transform us and change us, that each and every one of us may be just like St. Peter and St. Paul in their courage in faith and deeds, having themselves been transformed by God’s grace.

Seeing how the once uneducated, brash and doubtful St. Peter became such a great defender of the faith and as the foundation of the Church, and also how a great enemy of the faithful like Saul could have become one of Christianity’s greatest defenders should have reminded us that for God, nothing is truly impossible. If God calls us, and if we are willing to respond to that call and welcome God into our lives, with His guidance, we too can walk in the footsteps of the Apostles.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what each and every one of us need to realise is that many of the works of the Church and the Apostles were still in progress, and there are still many areas in which, more people are needed and even more have been called to contribute. Each and every one of us have been blessed in our own unique ways with gifts and talents, all of which we can make good use of for the greater glory of God. Are we then willing and able to commit ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all be inspired by the courage and faith of St. Peter and St. Paul, who dedicated the whole rest of their lives from the moment they accepted God’s call, to serve God wholeheartedly, not withstanding the trials and sufferings that they had to endure. Let us all be ever more faithful and dedicated from now on, and seek to glorify God at all times through our lives and actions, in each and every moments of our living. May God bless us all and our good endeavours in faith. St. Peter and St. Paul, Holy Apostles of the Lord, pray for us all, and pray for the Universal Church! Amen.

Monday, 29 June 2020 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 16 : 13-19

At that time, Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They said, “For some of them, You are John the Baptist; for others Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”

Jesus asked them, “But you, who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “It is well for you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for it is not flesh or blood that has revealed this to you, but My Father in heaven.”

“And now I say to you : You are Peter; and on this Rock I will build My Church; and never will the powers of death overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven : whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you unbind on earth shall be unbound in heaven.”