Friday, 14 May 2021 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of one of the Lord’s great Apostles, namely St. Matthias, the one who was chosen as Apostle and as member of the Twelve Apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, who was the one that betrayed the Lord to the chief priests, and subsequently killed himself in grief, as noted in the Acts of the Apostles passage today in our first reading. The other Apostles had also abandoned the Lord and fled in fear when the Lord Jesus was arrested, and St. Peter also denied Him not once but three times.

However, what made the actions of Judas Iscariot to be different is that while the other Apostles returned to Him and were reconciled to Him, as especially illustrated by the encounter between Jesus and His Apostles and disciples at the Lake of Galilee after He has risen from the dead. St. Peter was called by the Lord, Who then asked him, ‘Peter, do you love Me?’, not only once but three times, at which each time, St. Peter reaffirmed his love and dedication to his Lord and Master, ‘Lord, You know that I love You.’ And through these words, the Lord did not only forgive St. Peter and the other Apostles, but also then entrusted them with the care of His faithful people.

Judas Iscariot did not have the faith in the Lord, and instead gave in to despair and regret, to fear and doubt, and he took his own life as a result. He did not trust in the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, and allowed Satan to make him in the first place, the instrument of betrayal by which the Son of Man would be betrayed and handed over to the chief priests and the Pharisees. He had the free will to choose his course of actions, but he chose to follow his desires and temptations, and to side with his fears and despair, rather than to trust in the Lord.

Hence, as the Apostles decided in the first reading today, chaired by St. Peter, the place once occupied by Judas Iscariot had to be replaced, as their number of twelve was not just a mere number. For twelve is a truly significant number, representing the number of the sons of Israel and henceforth later on, the twelve tribes of Israel. And as seen in the vision of St. John in the Book of Revelations, the Twelve Apostles will sit on the twelve seats of judgment representing these twelve tribes, as a symbol of the unity of God’s people, with the Apostles as its pillars, for the Church is indeed the new Israel, the new chosen people of God, formed from all peoples from all the nations.

St. Matthias was chosen from among those who had followed the Lord from the beginning, to fill the seat vacated by Judas Iscariot, and hence he became the twelfth Apostle, who then was instrumental in the efforts of the early Church in expanding and establishing the firm foundations of the faith in various places, as all the Apostles went on journeys and trips to the many countries and places to proclaim the faith to more and more people who had not yet known the Lord and His truth. St. Matthias went to the region of Asia Minor, to Cappadocia and areas around the Caspian Sea, and then as far as Ethiopia.

According to some Apostolic traditions, St. Matthias was martyred in either Ethiopia, where he was stoned to death for his works and efforts by the pagans, or in Jerusalem itself by the local populace, who stoned him and then beheaded him for his commitment to the Lord and for his fearless preaching of the truth of God. Nonetheless, regardless of the details of his martyrdom, what is certain about St. Matthias is that he is truly a devoted servant of God, a great Apostle who had laid the firm foundation of the Church and the Christian faith in many places, and became the source of inspiration for many people.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate today this great feast in honour of one of Our Lord’s great Apostles, we are called to remember St. Matthias’ great commitment and love for the Lord, his passion in spreading the truth of the Gospel and all that he had done for the sake of all the faithful. And all of us should be inspired by his courageous example and faith, and doing the very best in our own lives to glorify the Lord by our lives and by our faith.

As Christians, all of us are the ones who have been entrusted to continue the great works and efforts which have been begun by the Apostles, to reach out to more and more people, and to lead more and more to the salvation in God. This is the same mission which our Lord has entrusted to His Apostles, including St. Matthias, and this mission is still far from being done, and on the contrary, it is still ever ongoing, with more and more people are in need of the Lord’s truth and light, and how many still do not yet truly know the Lord.

It is up to us then to be the bearers of this truth, and we can do this by being good role models of our faith in our own respective communities, in our own families and among our own relatives, within our own circles of friends and among those who are acquainted to us, lastly even to the strangers whom we meet and encounter in each and every moments of our lives. Even in the small and little actions, words and things we do in our lives, in what may seem to be insignificant, in truth, we all are being witnesses to the Lord among all those whose lives we have touched and even influenced, often without us realising it.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what are we then going to do in order to fulfil the mission and the commandments that the Lord has entrusted to us? Are we going to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him and to His cause? Or are we going to pretend that we have no responsibility or anything to do with our faith? As Christians, we are all called to be active in living up our faith, and we should therefore discern very carefully how we are going to live our lives from now on in accordance to God’s will. This is what we should do, brethren, and what we are all called to be as part of our baptism.

Let us all therefore be inspired by the faith and examples of the Holy Apostles, especially that of St. Matthias, in entrusting ourselves to God and in following His will and commandments, wholeheartedly devoting ourselves to serve Him each and every moments of our lives. Let us all be inspired by the zeal and courage of all of our holy predecessors, the innumerable saints and martyrs through which we may also follow in their footsteps in glorifying the Lord and in revealing His truth and light more and more in our darkened world today.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, giving us the courage and will to persevere in our own vocations and calling in life, to be faithful in our lives that through us many more people may find their way to the Lord and His salvation. May God bless us all in our many good works and endeavours, in our efforts for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 14 May 2021 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 15 : 9-17

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Remain in My love! You will remain in My love if you keep My commandments, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.”

“I have told you all this, that My own joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment : Love one another as I have loved you! There is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends; and you are My friends, if you do what I command you.”

“I shall not call you servants any more, because servants do not know what their master is about. Instead, I have called you friends, since I have made known to you everything I learnt from My Father. You did not choose Me; it was I Who chose you and sent you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And everything you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you.”

“This is My command, that you love one another.”

Friday, 14 May 2021 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 112 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8

Alleluia! Praise, o servants of YHVH, praise the Name of YHVH! Blessed be the Name of YHVH now and forever!

From eastern lands to the western islands, may the Name of YHVH be praised! YHVH is exalted over the nations; His glory above the heavens.

Who is like YHVH our God, Who sits enthroned on high, but also bends down to see on earth as in heaven?

He lifts up the poor from the dust and the needy from the ash heap. He makes them sit with princes, with rulers of His people.

Friday, 14 May 2021 : Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 1 : 15-17, 20-26

It was during this time that Peter stood up in the midst of the community – about one hundred and twenty in all – and he said, “Brothers, it was necessary that the Scriptures referring to Judas be fulfilled. The Holy Spirit had spoken through David about the one who would lead the crowd coming to arrest Jesus. He was one of our number and had been called to share our common ministry.”

“In the Book of Psalms it is written : ‘Let his house become deserted and may no one live in it.’ But it is also written : ‘May another take his office.’ Therefore, we must choose someone from among those who were with us during all the time that the Lord Jesus moved about with us, beginning with John’s baptism until the day when Jesus was taken away from us. One of these has to become, with us, a witness to His resurrection.”

Then they proposed two : Joseph, called Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias. They prayed : “You know, Lord, what is in the hearts of all. Show us, therefore, which of the two You have chosen to replace Judas in this Apostolic ministry which he deserted to go to the place he deserved.”

Then they drew lots between the two and the choice fell on Matthias who was added to the eleven Apostles.

Monday, 30 November 2020 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and also the brother of St. Peter the Apostle, the Vicar of Christ. St. Andrew is also often known as St. Andrew the First-Called, due to his background as the likely disciple of St. John the Baptist before becoming a follower of Christ, and according to tradition, one of the two disciples to whom St. John the Baptist proclaimed, ‘Look, there is the Lamb of God!’ referring to the Lord at His baptism.

St. Andrew therefore was indeed the first-called of the Lord’s disciples, and he was the one who introduced the Lord to his brother, St. Peter, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. Those three would be among the closest of the Lord’s disciples, and would often accompany the Lord on important events of His ministry like the Transfiguration and the moment of His Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

St. Andrew himself was also mentioned at the feeding of the five thousand, when he was the one who brought the boy with loaves of bread and fish to Him, that He might give them to the people all waiting in hunger. At that time, St. Andrew did not yet understand what the Lord would do, but the Lord overcame his doubts that those meagre amount of food could feed the whole multitudes of people through the great miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men and thousands more of women and children.

In time, St. Andrew would continue to faithfully serve the Lord through His ministry, and was there throughout His Passion, suffering, death and Resurrection from the dead. From the beginning when he was first called by the Lord to be His follower, St. Andrew had dedicated himself just as his brother and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had done, ministering to the people and proclaiming the Lord’s coming. And even after the Lord had ascended into Heaven, he continued to preach the faith in a renewed ministry and calling.

St. Andrew brought the faith to many lands, including those areas now known as Ukraine and Russia, the Balkans and Greece among other places. He laboured hard like the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, spreading the Good News to many people, to those who had not yet witnessed and heard about the Lord and His salvation. Many were converted by his works and efforts, and many more were inspired by his ministry.

St. Andrew established the Church in many places and built the foundation for the Christian communities in those places, and most importantly, in the place where a great city now stands, the city of Constantinople, St. Andrew was the first Bishop of the Christian community there. At that time, the place was just a small historic city of Byzantium, at the juncture and crossroads between Asia and Europe. It was there that St. Andrew would henceforth be well remembered as the founder of the See of Constantinople, once Byzantium was rebuilt as Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman Empire.

And just like most of the other Apostles and many other disciples of the Lord, St. Andrew faced persecution and sufferings, and during his ministry in the land of Greece, he was arrested, put to great suffering, and was eventually martyred by crucifixion, being crucified on an X-shaped cross, which would therefore be known as the Cross of St. Andrew, in memory of his faith and dedication to the Lord to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in St. Andrew we have seen a great disciple and follower of the Lord. St. Andrew the Apostle is our inspiration and role model in how he followed the Lord and responded to His call. Are we able to follow his good examples, and respond to the Lord’s call to all of us as well? The Lord has called us all to follow Him and serve Him, and to devote and our attention to bring greater glory to His Name.

Yet, many of us have not realise and appreciate this calling, and many of us remain lukewarm in our faith and passive in how we lived our lives. To be a Christian means we must be ready to face challenges, trials and persecutions as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had faced, and as the many martyrs of the Church could attest before us all. There are still so much indeed that we can do as Christians, and as members of God’s Church and as His disciples.

Let us all respond well to the Lord’s calling in our respective lives and in whatever contributions we can make in our communities, families, among our circle of friends and more. We do not need to do great and marvellous things, and it is through our little dedications and commitments everyday, through our simple actions, through our words and ways of interacting with each other, that communicates our genuine faith and love for God, which will be the best preaching of the Good News, and we will become like St. Andrew, inspirational example of faith for all of our fellow brethren to follow.

Let us all pray for the good of the Church, and ask St. Andrew to intercede for all of us. In particular, we pray for the full unity of the Church, as the Church of Constantinople and the Eastern Orthodox Communion centred on the See of his successor in Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, that they together will continue their journey towards full reunion and reconciliation with the Universal Church, with St. Peter and his successors, the Vicar of Christ, all fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Amen.

Monday, 30 November 2020 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.

Monday, 30 November 2020 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (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.

Monday, 30 November 2020 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and, in your heart, you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips, you are saved.

For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him, without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him, if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him, if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of Good News. Although, not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ.

I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But, of course, they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth, and their voice was heard, to the ends of the world.

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.”