Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture passages, beginning with the promise of salvation which God would show His people, Israel, as He prophesied through His servant Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and then, what we heard from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Jewish Christians, about the coming of Christ, Who is the High Priest of all the faithful, in Whom is found the salvation of the world.

In the Scripture readings today therefore, we heard about the the love and mercy which God has shown to us all, to His beloved people, a reminder of the constant gift which the Lord has given us despite all of our disobedience, rebelliousness and the refusals we have made against Him. The prophecy made through the prophet Jeremiah had to be understood in the context of what happened at the time, when the people at the kingdom of Judah was suffering and was in the brink of annihilation, having been subjugated by their enemies, principally the Babylonians.

It was a time when everything seemed to be hopeless, and the enemies of Israel were mounting and plotting against them. Yet, the people of God still rebelled against Him and did what was wicked in the sight of men and God alike. They worshipped pagan idols, committing adulterous and wicked actions in life, and refused to listen to the words of the prophets sent to them to remind them of God’s love and mercy, including that of prophet Jeremiah.

The prophet had to suffer persecution from all those who resisted God’s will and those who turned a deaf ear to the word of God. The king and his nobles, the people and many of the members of the community continued to sin against God, and even considered Jeremiah as the bearer of bad and wicked news, when he continued to prophecy about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, as well as its Temple because of the sins of Israel. But Jeremiah through today’s passage, showed us that God, despite of His anger against the sins committed by His people, He still loved them and wanted them to be reconciled with Him.

The second reading today, as mentioned, is taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. Again in that occasion, the Lord spoke to His people through St. Paul, His Apostle, reminding them of the great love and mercy which He showed them, by the perfect gift of Jesus Christ, His Son, Who was appointed the One and True High Priest of all, above all other High Priests of the people of God since the time of Aaron. Christ is the ultimate sign and symbol of God’s love.

How is that so? First of all, as mentioned by St. Paul, the High Priest appointed by God ever since the day of Moses and Aaron is supposed to be the one through whom God exercised His mercy and forgiveness of the sins of the people, by the means of offerings of sin offering and love offering on the Altar of God. The animal offering was meant to be atonement for the sins of the people, and since the High Priest himself was also a sinner, then he was also offering the sin offering for himself.

But the Lord Jesus, the One True High Priest is blameless and without sin, as He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man, having in Himself the perfection of divinity and the perfection of humanity, having two natures of divine and human united in His person. He also offered not the imperfect offering of lambs and goats, their blood and fats, which although according to the Law, only physically blameless and good quality animals should be chosen, but they paled in comparison to the offering that the Lord Jesus made.

For in the Lord Jesus, the Lord our God showed the perfection and the perfect manifestation of His love and compassion for us, His beloved people, whom He loved despite our sins and rebelliousness, as the example from the Old Testament had shown us earlier. God was patient and filled with love for us, His people, that despite the sins which Israel had done in the past, He forgave them and still brought them to the Land which He promised them and their ancestors.

And He forgave them many times, when He brought them back from exile in Babylon, and continued to take care of them, sending them prophets and messengers, one after another, to remind them of the promise of the salvation He has given to them, and calling on them to remain faithful and true to the Law and the teachings which He has revealed to them. And in Jesus, the Lord’s faithfulness and promises were fulfilled completely.

How is that so? The Lord Jesus came and showed the Lord’s mercy, when He healed the sick and the people who were dying, those who were ostracised and shunned by the society, and calling them back to the right path towards God, healing them both from their physical afflictions and spiritual sickness, caused by sin and disobedience. One example was what we have just heard in the Gospel today, as the Lord healed the blind man who called on Him for help and for healing.

But even more so, the Lord Jesus did not come just to heal and to perform all those miracles as He had done before the people, but He showed His love for us, so great and so amazing, in a way that He Himself had said to His disciples, that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down his life for his friend. He laid down His own life, by suffering on the Cross, that through that act, offering His own Flesh and Blood, to be the perfect offering for our sins.

Through that act of ultimate sacrifice and selfless love on the Cross, the Lord showed us all, that He is truly a loving and merciful God, Who was willing to endure such pain, such suffering, such tribulation and difficulty, just so that, by His death, we may be spared our fate of eternal death, because of our sins. Instead, by sharing in His death and united through His resurrection from the dead, we are freed from that terrible fate, and receive a new hope of a new life in God.

Today, all of us ought to spend some time to reflect on this reality, the love of God which He has shown so generously towards each and every one of us, that He willingly took up upon Himself our sins, and to bear them patiently, that as our True and Eternal High Priest, His prayers for our supplication and for the atonement of our sins are heard by God, His heavenly Father. Through the obedience of Christ, our High Priest and the New Adam, all of us who believe in Him are saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of two of Christ’s Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude, both of whom dedicated their lives after they accepted the calling to be an Apostle of the Lord, and they worked hard in evangelising and preaching in faraway lands, speaking the truth about God and His love, His sacrificial gift to all mankind, and the call to repentance, that all the children of God may be reconciled to their loving and merciful God.

St. Simon and St. Jude went to various places, spreading the word of God, suffering persecutions and troubles from those who refused to believe in the truth they brought with them. But they placed their trust in the Lord, and they were encouraged and empowered by the knowledge of the love which God had generously given to them and to all mankind. Truly, if God Himself had suffered for the sake of all men, then what was their suffering compared to God’s suffering?

Although St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord died in martyrdom against those who refused to believe in the Lord, but this inspired only even more people who wanted to follow the Lord through their courageous examples. Now, we are therefore also called to emulate their examples, and to live faithfully in accordance with the will of God. Are we able to devote ourselves in the same way as they have done?

Let us remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as Christians, we know how much God loves each and every one of us, and as a result, we should also love Him in the same manner. We can do so, by living a virtuous and courageous Christian life and distancing ourselves from sin. Let us all turn to God with a renewed faith and with a new love that comes from within us. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in this journey of life. St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord, pray for us. Amen.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 46-52

At that time, Jesus and His disciples came to Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he began to call out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Many people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying, “Take heart! Get up, He is calling you!” He immediately threw aside his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.

Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Master, let me see again!” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” And, immediately, he could see, and he followed Jesus along the road.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 5 : 1-6

Every High Priest is taken from among mortals and appointed to be their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to understand the ignorant and erring for he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he is bound to offer sacrifices for his sins as well as for the sins of the people.

Besides, one does not presume to take this dignity, but takes it only when called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ become High Priest in taking upon Himself this dignity, but it was given to Him by the One Who says : You are My Son, I have begotten You today. And in another place : You are a Priest forever in the priestly order of Melchizedek.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 31 : 7-9

For YHVH says this, “Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : ‘YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!’”

“Look, I will bring them back from the land of the north, gather them from the ends of the earth, the lame and the blind, mothers and women in labour – a great throng will return. They went away weeping, they will return in joy. I will lead them by the streams of water, on a level path so that no one will stumble, for I am Israel’s Father and Ephraim is My firstborn.”

Friday, 24 August 2018 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great feast day of one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, namely that of St. Bartholomew the Apostle. As our Gospel passage mentioned today about Nathanael, one of Christ’s Twelve Apostles, it was often attributed that St. Bartholomew and Nathanael were the same person. He was one of the most intelligent ones among Christ’s disciples.

At first, he was also skeptical and did not believe at first that the Lord Jesus Christ could have been the Messiah that the people of Israel had been waiting for, as the Scriptures in the Old Testament and the prophets did not write about Nazareth being the place where the Messiah would come from. The same attitude was also actually echoed by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who doubted Jesus over the same reason.

But the Lord showed the truth about Himself and revealed the greater extent of His divine wisdom that far surpassed the intellect and wisdom of man. This has so profoundly affected St. Bartholomew that he devoted himself to the Lord from then on, becoming one of His disciples and appointed by Him as one of the Twelve Apostles. He was called to a greater purpose, that is to be part of God’s saving work among His people.

In our first reading today, we listened to the passage from the latter part of the Book of Revelations of St. John, which told us about the coming of the new Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, from God. In the vision of St. John, he saw the magnificent city as the symbol of God’s everlasting presence among His people at the end of time, when sin and death will be dealt a total and final defeat.

And in that vision, St. John saw twelve thrones as the seats prepared for the Apostles of the Lord, as a fulfilment of what the Lord had told them, that they would even judge the people of God. They would be the ones seated at the side of the Lord, as His most trusted confidants and assistants, for their great faith and commitment to the continuation of the good works He had begun among His people.

But the Apostles did not have an easy life at all, when they were still living in this world, brothers and sisters in Christ. As a matter of fact, they suffered greatly from the persecutions against the faithful by the Roman authorities, as the ones who were the leaders and as main pillars of the Church. But they faced all of the challenges and persecutions with faith, and remained true to their calling and mission to the very end.

All of the Twelve Apostles save for St. John, including St. Bartholomew, suffered martyrdom for the faith and the Lord. It was told by Church tradition that St. Bartholomew went to faraway places such as India and Armenia to evangelise the people living in those regions, suffering persecutions from all those who refused to listen to the truth and those who rejected the Lord.

St. Bartholomew was martyred in Armenia, defending his faith to the very end, persecuted while ministering to the faithful. It was told that the king of Armenia himself was converted by the works that St. Bartholomew and St. Jude, another Apostle, had done in Armenia. They helped to establish the Christian faith and the Church in Armenia, which persevered to this very day after many generations of martyrs and the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great courage and the hard work of the Apostles, are we not stirred in our hearts to be faithful just as the Apostles had been? And we have to realise that each and every one of us are the successors of the Apostles, as we have to continue all the works that the Apostles had begun, in our own world today.

Therefore, let us all renew our commitment, and do our very best to live up to the faith which the holy Apostles, St. Bartholomew and his companions had shown us. Let us all be exemplary in our own actions, that, living by our faith and doing what the Lord has commanded us to do, we may also follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, to call more people to the Lord and save many more souls still living in darkness and ignorance of God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen our faith and resolve, to live faithfully in accordance with His ways, day after day. May He bless us all and continue to watch over us, His followers and disciples, that we too may be like His Apostles, Holy Apostles St. Bartholomew and others. Amen.

Friday, 24 August 2018 : 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.”