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.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018 : 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.”

Tuesday, 3 July 2018 : 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.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018 : 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.

Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this blessed and momentous day, we celebrate the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, the Patron saints of the Church of Rome, as both of those great servants of God were martyred in the city of Rome, at that time the capital and centre of the Roman Empire, which ruled most of the Mediterranean and Europe then.

Those two Apostles were considered to be the greatest among the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, for St. Peter was the leader of the Apostles and the one to whom the Lord Jesus entrusted His whole Church, the flock of sheep of the whole faithful. And then, St. Paul was the great Apostle whose role in the evangelisation and conversion of the Gentiles was crucial, through his many missionary journeys and numerous Epistles and letters.

Hence, the two Apostles were essentially important pillars of the Church, together with the other Apostles of the Lord who spread the Christian faith far beyond their origin in Judea and Jerusalem. However, we may think that those Apostles were great and mighty people, who were endowed with great intellect and powerful in the sight of men. But those are the qualities and the perceptions of the world, and not what God’s truth prescribes.

Just as the Scriptures said, ‘It is not man who chooses to be worthy of God, but rather, God who made His people to be worthy.’ Essentially, we do not claim to be worthy of God, for if we judge ourselves by God’s standards, none among us are worthy of Him. But God empowered ordinary, mortal men like us to be His disciples, and make us to be worthy through the works He performed through each and every one of us who did His works.

Likewise, many of the Apostles came from humble and ordinary background, and even most likely of origins, those whom the world would never have thought to be possible as even consideration for those who would be called to the position and responsibility as the disciples and followers of the Lord God Most High, King of all kings and Master of the whole universe.

Many of the Apostles were illiterate and uneducated, as poor fishermen, and some others were rebels and thieves, and simple people making their living in various professions and works. One was a tax collector reviled and hated by his own countrymen, and deemed as a sinner for his work and role. And yet some were once enemies of the Lord and the faithful, like St. Paul had been, in his younger days.

St. Peter himself was a simple fishermen at the Lake of Galilee, doing his work and making a living, doing what many considered as a menial and unappreciated profession. But when the Lord Jesus came and called him, St. Peter together with his fellow fishermen left behind their fishing nets and boats, and followed Him from then on, to be fishers of men, just as He had told them.

He would go on to be the leader and the chief among all the disciples and followers of the Lord, because of his great faith and love for the Lord. But of course this did not mean that he had a perfect faith and pathway during his journey of faith. In fact, as we all should have known, St. Peter during the time when the Lord was arrested and tortured during His Passion, denied that he knew the Lord not just once, but three times.

He was utterly devastated after having realised the truth, and he was disappointed on his lack of faith, especially after he professed his faith and dedication to the Lord earlier on during the Last Supper. But unlike Judas Iscariot, the traitor, who also showed regret but chose to take the easy and cowardly way out through suicide, St. Peter chose the path of repentance and recommitment to God.

St. Peter reaffirmed his faith and dedication to the Lord, when the Lord Jesus spoke to him privately, asking him three times, “Peter, do you love Me?’ And Peter reaffirmed his love for Him with true sincerity and genuine intention. The Lord entrusted His Church and His entire flock to his care as leader of the Church and Vicar of Christ, through the words, ‘Feed My lambs’.

St. Peter would face many difficulties, challenges and persecutions, including what we have heard from the Scripture passage from the Acts of the Apostles, telling us how St. Peter was arrested during the episode of persecution by king Herod Antipas. He was imprisoned and was slated to face martyrdom just as what happened to St. James, the brother of St. John, by the same king Herod Antipas.

But God had greater plans for St. Peter, and He sent His Angel to free St. Peter from prison as we heard in our first reading passage today. He would continue from then on, to lead and guide the Church of God, and eventually established more Christian communities, becoming the first Bishop of Antioch and the Bishop of Rome. It was told that at the end of his missionary journey, he went to Rome, the capital of the Empire.

Meanwhile St. Paul was once known as Saul, who came from the region and city known as Tarsus, in southern part of what is now Turkey. He was born as a Pharisee, who were influential group of the Israelite elites at that time, particularly devoted to the preservation and conservation of the traditions and laws of the Jewish people. And St. Paul himself mentioned how he was very fanatical and dedicated to the cause of the Pharisees, even more than many others.

Hence, he was a great enemy of the faith at the very beginning of the Church. As Saul, according to the Acts of the Apostles, he took part in the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Church, who died defending the faith, stoned by the enemies of the faith, including Saul himself. And Saul took part in the intensive persecution of the Church, causing great fear and grief among the early Christian communities.

Surely, he would have been the least likely among those who would turn towards the Lord and be a Christian, at least in our worldly view of things. How could such a great enemy of the faith become one of the members of the Church? But as mentioned in the Scriptures, what is impossible or seemingly impossible for men, is possible for God. And God had a different plan for Saul.

He called Saul on the way to Damascus, when he was bent on destroying the Church and the faithful living in that city. He converted to the faith and turned himself completely from his past mistaken ways, and entrusted himself to the Lord and hearkened to the mission that was entrusted to him. Thus, he became the renowned St. Paul, a great enemy of the faith and the Church turned into one of its greatest champion and defender.

St. Paul travelled extensively throughout the eastern part of the Mediterranean region, visiting cities and towns, establishing Christian communities in those places and evangelised the faith to the pagan and non-Jewish peoples. His particular approach and passion in bringing about the faith and opening the door of salvation and the Church to the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people made him to be remembered as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

We knew of his many letters or Epistles to the various Church communities, in Ephesus, Corinth, Thessalonica, Galatia, and many more, and he was renowned for his great missionary zeal and commitment to the Lord, that just as St. Peter had suffered many persecutions and difficulties, St. Paul, as well as the other Apostles, also had to endure similar tribulations and trials.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, both St. Peter and St. Paul dedicated themselves completely, to serve the greater purpose of the Lord, the conversion and the salvation of souls, and the establishment and empowerment of the early Church. They were truly exemplary in their actions, as the important foundation of the Church of God, because of which, the Church, as the Lord had said, remained firm even in the midst of the most intense persecutions and trials, to this very day.

St. Peter himself, in the end, met his martyrdom in Rome, punished to die on the cross. To the very end, he showed his great faith and love for God, by humbly requesting that he should not die in the same way as his Lord and Master. He was crucified upside down at the site where now the great Basilica of St. Peter stands. Meanwhile, St. Paul was beheaded as part of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero. Yet, the contributions and the importance of these two Apostles remain strongly felt even to this very day.

Now, each and every one of us as Christians must follow in the footsteps of those courageous and holy servants of God, by realising that all of us are the successors of the Apostles, who ought to continue the good works that they have begun among the people of God. There is a need for witnesses of the faith, to continue spreading the message of God’s Good News and truth among the people of various nations.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord as the Holy Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul had done? Are we able to live our lives as faithfully as they have done, in the giving of their whole lives and their whole effort to serve the greater glory of God? We are called to follow in their footsteps, and if we think and feel that we are not worthy, as we probably do, then we must realise that no one will ever be worthy of God, as we are all sinners by nature.

Rather, we must realise that God makes those whom He calls, to be worthy, and He called us in various ways, to follow the path that He has shown us. He called us from our various origins, backgrounds, and from our past, wicked and sinful lives, all to become His disciples, with a renewed life, with a new purpose, to devote ourselves to a new Christian existence, showing our faith by examples of our life.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in our lives. May St. Peter and St. Paul, holy Apostles and patrons of our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, intercede for us, and pray for all of us in the Church of God, that all of us will remain true and faithful in our dedication and life to the Lord. May God bless all of us and bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 29 June 2018 : 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.”

Friday, 29 June 2018 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18

As for me, I am already poured out as a libation, and the moment of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the just Judge, will reward me, on that day, and not only me, but all those who have longed for His glorious coming.

But the Lord was at my side, giving me strength, to proclaim the Word fully, and let all the pagans hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will save me from all evil, bringing me to His heavenly kingdom. Glory to Him forever and ever. Amen!