Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast day of one of the great Apostles, among the Twelve chosen by the Lord Jesus Christ, and this Apostle was also known to be the first among all of them to be called, as the first disciple of Jesus, right after He was baptised at the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist. St. Andrew the Apostle and the First Called was once a disciple of St. John the Baptist, but having heard from St. John himself that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Messiah Who comes, he went on to become the disciple of Jesus.

And St. Andrew was the younger brother of St. Peter the Apostle, another very prominent Apostle, who is the first Vicar of Christ, the predecessor of our current Pope and Bishop of Rome. The Lord Jesus has established His Church in this world, founded upon the strong foundation of faith of the Apostles, and indeed the Apostles are the pillars of the Church, its support and strength. If not for all the good works and commitment of the Apostles, the Church as we know it today would not have existed.

The first Apostles were called by Jesus as He walked along the lake, and those were fishermen, as St. Peter and St. Andrew were, as well as St. James and St. John the Evangelist. They were plying their trade at the lakeside, catching fishes to be sold to the market as their livelihood, but the Lord called them to a greater purpose in life, that is to follow Him, to become His disciple, and therefore to commit and dedicate their whole lives to Him, to be His messengers of the Good News.

He called them to become the fishers of men, meaning that they would be the instruments through which God would call His people to Himself, to gather them in and to embrace them with reconciliation, love and compassion. They were the ones who would go on to preach the Good News of the Gospel in various areas and places, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit, that they bore courageous witness to the Lord’s life, death and resurrection.

And thus St. Andrew also went on to preach the Gospel in various areas after the Lord ascended to heaven and the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. It was told that St. Andrew went through the area of what is now the Black Sea coasts, from the present day Turkey to Russia and the northern regions, and also to what was then Roman Greece, preaching the Gospel of Christ, and many were converted through his works.

In the end, the Roman authorities persecuted Christians throughout its realm, and St. Andrew was among those who were arrested and persecuted, and was put to death by crucifixion. Just like his brother, St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, who refused to die in the same way as the Lord had died on the cross, and thus was crucified upside down instead, St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is now famously known as the cross of St. Andrew.

The life and work of St. Andrew the Apostle should become an inspiration to all of us as Christians, because we cannot think that the works of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord are done or completed. There are still many things to be done, and the works of the Church are always ever present in our world, past, present and future to come. There are still many people out there who have not heard the Good News of the Lord, and even more importantly, there are many within the Church itself who have lapsed away from our faith.

All of us are the continuation of the Apostles, who have been called to the same mission that the Lord gave the Apostles and the other disciples just before He was about to be lifted up from us, ascending in His glory to heaven. He commanded all of the Church to go forth, and spread the Good News of God’s salvation to all parts of the world, that every people from every nations may come to God and receive holy baptism, and marked therefore as the Lord’s own people.

There are still many things which each and every one of us as Christians can do, to be part of the Church’s effort of evangelisation and missionary works. We do not have to follow the way of the Apostles strictly in a sense that we should go forth to many places and preach in the streets, or even encounter persecution and martyrdom. There are indeed those among us whom God has called for such a purpose, and then for others, we should begin with ourselves, in our own families and communities, and among those whom we know.

What does this mean? That means each and every one of us as Christians must preach the Gospel of Christ, not by mere words alone, but also through real and concrete actions based on our faith, listening to what the Lord had commanded us all to do, to love one another tenderly just as He has loved us, by showing love, mercy, care and compassion for the poor and for those who are less fortunate. Let us all do all these, that through us, many more will come to believe in the Lord and be saved.

May the Lord help us all Christians, that we too may also become the fishers of men as the Apostles had been, by living the faith we have with genuine commitment and sincerity, so that all those who see our faith will come to believe in God as well, and therefore together as one people we may receive eternal glory from Our Lord and rejoice with the Apostles forevermore. St. Andrew the Apostle, pray for us. Amen.

Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the 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.

Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the 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.

Thursday, 30 November 2017 : Feast of St. Andrew the 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, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of not just one but two of the Lord’s own Twelve Apostles, the principal and most important ones among His disciples, whom He had called and chosen from among the people and the other disciples, to be the pillars of His Church, established on earth, as mentioned in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and to the faithful in the city of Ephesus.

Jesus our Lord is the Head and the Foundation of the Church, as He founded it Himself, establishing the Church as the Body of the faithful, composed of all the faithful people of God united to Him as the Head of the Universal Church. And the Apostles are the support structures that are crucial in maintaining the integrity of the entire Church, as without them, their works and commitments, the Church would not have been what it is today.

We may think of the Apostles as those whom God had chosen among His people and were great ones among men. However, the reality is that, while God indeed gave them the authority over the Church and the faithful, the power to forgive sins and the authority over evil spirits and to continue the good works of the Lord, but the challenges and responsibilities that they faced were enormous. There were great tribulations and difficulties that they had to endure on their journey to establish and build God’s Church.

If we read throughout the entirety of the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles written by St. Paul the Apostle, as well as through the traditions and stories of the tales of the saints of the early Church and the martyrs, especially the martyrdom of the Apostles themselves, we will realise just what a calling that God had called those Twelve Apostles into, to the point that all of them, except for St. John the Apostle, died of martyrdom defending their faith in God.

And neither were these Apostles chosen because they were mighty in their deeds or power, but instead, God chose them from among the people, from among the poor and the ordinary, from those who were once fishermen, illiterate and uneducated, or tax collectors and sinners, or like St. Simon the Apostle, who was a member of the Zealots, a group of Jewish fanatical fighters, and many more. God called them from various sources and made them to be worthy.

And God called them to a mission, that is to bring all the people of God to Him, to reconcile them with Him and to bring them to a loving reunion through forgiveness and grace. They have worked tirelessly, continuing the good works of the Lord after His Resurrection from the dead and Ascension into heaven. They went from place to place, from towns to towns, and from villages to villages as the witnesses of the Lord, proclaiming to many people the truth of God.

By their faith in God, they have become indispensable key players in the earliest days of the Church, especially amidst the challenges and difficulties that many of the earliest Christian communities had. And therefore, many of the Apostles led the way in martyrdom, because they courageously went on to preach the Gospels among the various communities and when they were arrested and persecuted, they did not give up their faith.

In particular, St. Simon, also known as the Zealot, is often depicted together with St. Jude, also known as St. Jude Thaddeus, because both of them according to the sacred tradition of the Church, went on together on a mission of evangelisation in many places, from Persia, which is in present day Iran, to Armenia and then to Lebanon and the Jordan. It was also documented that they might have travelled to other parts of the Roman Empire, preaching the faith, until they died in holy martyrdom.

Through glorious martyrdom God glorified His holy Apostles, His greatest servants, that the Church declared them to be saints, those who are worthy of praise, honour and veneration, as they are now in heaven, and they now stand in the presence of God, becoming our great intercessors, praying for our sake at all times. We know how St. Jude Thaddeus in particular is well-known as the saint to whom a great devotion is present, as the patron saint for hopeless causes.

The examples of these Apostles of our Lord, their courage and commitment to serve the Lord in doing the will of God, and obeying all of His commandments, should be inspiration for each and every one of us. We should devote ourselves, our time and effort to do what they have done, continuing their good works in the Church. If I would like to compare us all, as Christians all of us are the bricks of the Church, just as the Apostles are the foundations and the pillars supporting the Church.

Just as without the pillars a building will collapse, without good bricks and good arrangement and strong bonds between the bricks, the building will not be able to withstand the pressure and forces from the outside, and the whole edifice will also eventually collapse too. This is why, all of us as Christians, are called to do the same mission that the Lord had first entrusted to His Apostles.

We should not think that there is nothing much to do in our lives as Christians in this world. We should not think that there is no more works of evangelisation and conversion that need to be done. There are in fact still numerous opportunities and areas where we can contribute our efforts, to help the multitudes of people who are still living in the dark and in the ignorance of God’s love.

There are many out there who have also lapsed in their faith, and walking down the path towards damnation, because they have lost their way, either through temptations or coercions, and it is in our hands now, that we are able to devote ourselves, our time and effort to help these brethren of ours, by our contributions, actions and deeds, imitating the examples set by the Apostles themselves.

Let us remember that God had chosen His Apostles to be His instruments to bring His salvation to more and more souls. The same calling and mission has been given to us all as well. Let us embrace this willingly, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to God, no longer hesitating, but we should encourage each other to walk righteously in the presence of God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 6 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus went out into the hills to pray, spending the whole night in prayer with God. When day came, He called His disciples to Him, and chose Twelve of them, whom He called ‘Apostles’ : Simon, whom He named Peter, and his brother Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James son of Alpheus and Simon called the Zealot; Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who would be the traitor.

Coming down the hill with them, Jesus stood in an open plain. Many of His disciples were there, and a large crowd of people, who had come from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem, and from the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon. They gathered to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. And people troubled by unclean spirits were cured.

The entire crowd tried to touch Him, because of the power that went out from Him and healed them all.

Saturday, 28 October 2017 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (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.