Tuesday, 24 August 2021 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we mark the feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, one of the Twelve great Apostles of the Lord, and therefore we remember the memory of his great dedication and life, the time he has spent in following the Lord and carrying out His will, in the evangelisation of the world and the spreading of the truth and the Good News of the Gospels.

St. Bartholomew was, according to the Apostolic tradition, also known as Nathanael, whose story we heard in our Gospel passage today. We heard how Nathanael was called by the Lord to follow Him and become His disciples, and how he was initially skeptical of the Lord, when he heard that the Lord had come from the land of Galilee. He was one of the most qualified and educated among the disciples, an intellectual and knew the Law of God and the prophets well, and thus he knew that no prophet or Saviour would come from Galilee.

Yet, his doubts and hesitation were immediately dispelled when the Lord miraculously told him about himself and how He knew about him, where he was and the things that He would show him. Nathanael put behind his doubts and hesitation, embracing the Lord Jesus wholeheartedly as his Lord and Master, following Him for His ministry from then henceforth, being chosen as one of the Twelve, and becoming an Apostle later on, at the forefront of the early Church’s ministry and evangelisation.

It was told that St. Bartholomew went to various parts of the world, including India, Parthia and Mesopotamia, and parts of Asia Minor and Armenia, focusing on the eastern parts of the known world at the time, spending much time in spreading the word of God to the many people who have not yet heard or known about Him. He helped the other disciples and Apostles to establish firm foundations of Christian communities in various places, and instilled the truth of God among many others, leading to many embracing the call to God’s grace and salvation.

His mission brought him to Armenia where together with St. Jude Thaddeus, the other one of the Twelve Apostles, he helped to establish the Christian faith in Armenia, which would eventually become the first nation in the world to officially adapt Christianity as their state faith. It was there that St. Bartholomew was martyred, in the city of Albanopolis, due to him having successfully converted the local king into the Christian faith, which was then opposed by the king’s brother and the other nobles, who then arrested, tortured and executed St. Bartholomew by flaying.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the great passion and dedication by which St. Bartholomew had given his life in dedication to the Lord, and as we seek to emulate his examples and be inspired by his deeds, we are all called to discern carefully on our own path in life. Are we capable of devoting ourselves to the Lord in the same manner, brothers and sisters in Christ? And are we willing to commit our time, effort, resources and attention to glorify the Lord daily and at all times, in our own words, actions and every deeds?

Today as we remember the courage and the faith of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, we are reminded that for all the great deeds he had done, it was all possible because the faithful Apostle entrusted himself completely to the Lord and gave himself completely to His cause, and allowed Him to lead him down the path of great virtue and succour for many others. We may be ordinary ourselves, but God called on the ordinary ones to follow Him, and made them worthy, and bestowed on them the strength and courage, the wisdom and intellect, and the power required for them to fulfil their calling.

Now it is really up to us all, brothers and sisters in Christ, whether we are willing to embrace the Lord wholeheartedly as St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had done. The Lord has called us all to follow Him and to walk in the path that He has shown us. It is up to us now to follow Him and to remain true to our faith, not by mere formality alone, but rather also through genuine actions and efforts, through our every contributions, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to be.

Let us all therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, be the bearers of the truth of God, His faithful witnesses in our world today. Let us all be faithful to the Lord and walk in His path always, and be inspiration to one another, helping and supporting each other in our efforts and endeavours. May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless us in our every efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021 : 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.”

Tuesday, 24 August 2021 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Tuesday, 24 August 2021 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 21 : 9b-14

And one of the seven Angels who were with the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues said to me, “Come, I am going to show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

He took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the colour of crystal-clear jasper. Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve Angels.

Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the most wonderful love of God which He has shown us by sharing with us His blessings and graces, His kindness and providence by the sharing of food and sustenance for His people, as highlighted in our Scripture readings today. The Lord also wants to unite His people through the same breaking and sharing of the bread that is in essence, at the centre of our Christian faith.

In our first reading today we heard the account of the activity of the prophet Elisha from the Book of Kings during his ministry in the land of the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Elisha was followed by a large number of people, about a hundred in total, and a man they encountered brought them offering of bread from barley and wheat, about twenty loaves all in all. Those bread were nowhere near enough to sustain the whole multitude of people, and hence, the follower of the prophet asked him how he could get enough food to feed all of them.

The prophet reminded that follower and told him to do what he asked him to do, to give all the offered bread and food to everyone, and that God would provide for His beloved ones and they would not be lacking. True enough, everyone miraculously had enough to eat, and everyone had their fill just as the prophet had said, as God miraculously multiplied the bread for them all, and gave them all the share of bread and food to eat in the midst of their ministry and works.

This is a close parallel to what we know even better in the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of others in the Gospel as we heard earlier today. In that occasion, the Lord fed the whole multitudes of thousands assembled before Him, with even much fewer food, only five loaves of bread and two fishes offered by a young boy. The Apostles, especially St. Philip wondered how they were to go and obtain the food and sustenance to provide for all those people when the Lord asked them to provide the whole multitudes with food.

The Lord prayed and broke the loaves of bread, and also did the same with the fish, distributing them to the disciples who then gave the food to the assembled multitudes, all of whom received enough food and things to eat, had their fill, and still, twelve basket-full of leftovers were gathered. Everyone had enough and were happy, and the Lord showed to all of them, as well as to all of us again how wonderful God’s love and grace is, how He cared for each one of us. He did not send the people away, but fed them from the food which had been offered to Him, and provided for them in their hour of need.

How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is exactly how it is like at every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, at the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the offertory, we bring the bread and the wine as offerings to the Lord, which the priests gathered and took, giving thanks to the Lord just in the same manner as the Lord Jesus having given thanks to His Father, and then gave the bread for all of us to partake and share. But even much more so than what had happened in the past, at the Eucharist, which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted at the Last Supper, He gave Himself, His own Precious Body and Blood to all.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, at the pinnacle of our faith, at its very core, is our belief in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, that in miracle that surpasses any other miracles, not only that God feeds us and gave us all food to eat, but He Himself came down upon us, to be in our midst and to be with us. He has given us all Himself as the sustenance and food, to be partaken and shared among us that we truly become part of that One and united Body of Christ, the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Church of God of which we are part of is united through this Communion, by the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ, as we gather together to celebrate the Holy Mass and the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, God did not just provide for us in our physical needs, but even more importantly, He shared with us the spiritual nourishment, His true and Real Presence that comes to dwell within us, and we become the Temple of His Presence, as He dwells in us with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in our path in life.

And as we therefore reflect on all these words of the Scripture we received this Sunday, then we should spend some time to discern and reflect on our attitude in the Church as one united community in Christ. Unfortunately, in the past few years and decades, especially in recent years, there have been those who wanted to harm the unity of the Church, either by being exclusive and Pharisaical, extremist and hardline in their ideologies and way of thinking, or by disrespecting and disobeying the core tenets and teachings of the Church.

I refer to those fundamentals and extreme groups who sought to either change the Church teachings or to adapt activities and ways that are not in accordance with our faith or sacred tradition, as well as those who have taken in to the extremes ideas such as being against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council that had been legitimate and inspired by the Holy Spirit through the assembly and discussion of all the bishops and the assembled prelates of the Church.

All these things caused divisions within the Church, as it had happened previously in the long history of the Church. It set brothers against fellow brothers, families against others, and segments of the faithful against other segments, groups against groups. And because of this, we ended up losing sight on the true calling we have as Christians, to keep the unity among us and to live together with faith, celebrating and sharing together the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity in the Holy Mass.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and reflect on the love which God has shown to all of us, His faithful and beloved people, let us all therefore strive to put aside our differences, and abandon our illogical and unhealthy ideologies, especially those based not on the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, but on the basis of human prejudices, ambition, and even selfishness and evil. Let us all put aside all the things that divide us, and instead, focus our attention on the Lord, our God.

Through Him we have received this new life, for He Who is the Bread of Life, has given us all new life, that we receive, partake and share not just mere bread alone, but in truth, we have received nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we who partake worthily of Him, become one Body and one Church, and through this unity and the sharing of this holy union with God, we are made whole once again, and receive the assurance of eternal glory and true joy in Him.

Let us all remember what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Ephesians, part of which is our second reading today, that we all have to strive for unity of the Church, through the Holy Spirit, and nurture a spirit of charity and love, of generosity and kindness towards one another, that we share this blessing and grace of God we have received with each other, that we remind ourselves of the need to build a truly united and harmonious community of the faithful and Church, that we do not only love the Lord with all of our might and strength, but also our fellow brethren, as part of the same Body of Christ, the Church of God.

Let us all therefore grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, deepen our relationships with Him, and entrust ourselves to Him with ever greater commitment and devotion, with greater trust and desire to seek Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live together as one united Church, one united community of the faithful. May God bless us all and our every good works and good endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 4 : 1-6

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 15-16, 17-18

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o Lord, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom and speak of Your power.

All creatures look to You to be fed in due season; with open hand, You satisfy the living, according to their needs.

Righteous is YHVH in all His ways, His mercy shows in all His deeds. He is near those who call on Him, who call trustfully upon His Name.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 4 : 42-44

A man came from Baal-shal-ishah bringing bread and wheat to the man of God. These were from the first part of the harvest, twenty loaves of barley and wheat. Elisha told him, “Give the loaves to these men that they may eat.”

His servant said to him, “How am I to divide these loaves among one hundred men?” Elisha insisted, “Give them to the men that they may eat, for YHVH says : ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So the man set it before them; and they ate and had some left, as YHVH had said.

Tuesday, 29 June 2021 : Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the two Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul, the two Apostles of Rome and the pillars of the Universal Church, representing the unity of the Church in St. Peter and his successors, the Popes as the Lord’s very own Vicars on earth, and the evangelical outreach and missionary efforts of the Church as shown by St. Paul and his numerous efforts and journeys to spread the words of God especially to the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish people.

That is why St. Peter was known as the Vicar of Christ and the Prince of the Apostles, to signify his leadership and central role among all the Apostles, as the cornerstone on which the Lord has established His Church, as the firm bedrock of faith, a strong foundation on which He built His Church, the Body of Christ, the union of all the faithful people of God. He is truly Peter, the Rock, the symbolic meaning of the name which the Lord Himself has granted on him.

And St. Paul was known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, as the one who had sown the seeds of faith in so many communities all around the Mediterranean and other parts of the world, marking the beginning of the rapid growth of the Church despite the various persecutions and the many trials and challenges that it encountered. St. Paul through his many missionary journeys and the numerous Epistles or letters that he wrote, had a crucial role in the establishment of the various communities of the faithful.

Today, we celebrate their most wonderful life and memory, united together in martyrdom in the Holy City of Rome, the very heart of all Christendom, as both St. Peter and St. Paul by Apostolic traditions, were martyred in that city, the then capital of the great Roman Empire, during the first round of vicious persecutions of Christians. St. Paul was martyred in the immediate aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome by the Roman Emperor Nero, while St. Peter was martyred not very long afterwards during the same reign of the Emperor Nero.

Today we celebrate this great Solemnity in their honour, as the great celebration of the entire Universal Church in union with the Church of Rome, of which St. Peter and St. Paul are both patrons of, by virtue of their martyrdom there, and especially for St. Peter as the first Bishop of Rome, through which all the Popes are their successors. Therefore, we celebrate together united as one Church, all in union with our Pope Francis, as the successor of the great Apostle, St. Peter, the first Pope and Vicar of Christ, as well as the great missionary, St. Paul the Apostle.

Today as we celebrate this great Solemnity, we are reminded that the Lord called and chose His Apostles not from among those who considered themselves good and worthy, but He had called and chosen instead those whom He had determined to be worthy in their hearts and minds, for He knows all things in everyone. Take for example, St. Peter the Apostle, who was known as Simon, son of John, Simon bar Jonah, who was a mere fisherman of the lake of Galilee, illiterate, brash and at times, cowardly and unreliable.

How so? St. Peter was the one who suggested to the Lord that he would be ready to die for the sake of the Lord, and had the sword ready by himself, which he used to cut the ears of one of the Temple guards, Malchus, when the Lord was arrested at the Gardens of Gethsemane. Yet, very soon afterwards, he would deny knowing the Lord before those who asked him, not just once but three times. One may indeed wonder why the Lord chose such a person to be His Apostle, and less so still, why He made him to be His Vicar and the leader of the entire Universal Church.

That is because God knows the heart, and He knows the faith and love that St. Peter had for Him since the very beginning. He regretted very much his denial of the Lord and wept bitterly after having committed such an action, and did not give in to despair like Judas Iscariot, who killed himself after betraying the Lord. Instead, when the Lord was risen, he was one of the first to go forth and look out for Him, and he was the first to recognise the Lord at Galilee, when He appeared before them on the shore as the disciples were fishing.

When the Lord Jesus asked St. Peter after that occasion, whether he loved Him, St. Peter responded in all the three times that the Lord asked him, that he loved Him and how the Lord also knew that he loved Him from deep within his heart. This symbolised the Lord’s forgiveness of St. Peter for his three times denial at the moment of His arrest and Passion. The Lord reaffirmed His love for St. Peter just as the Apostle also reaffirmed his love for the Lord, and confirmed his dedication and desire to follow Him to the very end.

That was how St. Peter responded to his calling, and he went on leading the Church together with the other Apostles, resolving conflicts between the different factions within the Church and establishing communities of the faithful in various places, becoming the first Bishop of Antioch, where there was the first stable community of believers. He went on to Rome eventually, and as the persecution of Christians occurred, he was arrested, put in chains and eventually was crucified. Not wanting to die in the same way as his Lord and Master, he humbly asked to be crucified upside-down, and died a martyr at the place where the great Papal Basilica of St. Peter now stands.

St. Paul meanwhile was also the most unlikely of Apostles and servant of God. He was once Saul, the greatest enemy of Christians in the very earliest days of the Church. He was a young and zealous Pharisee who wanted nothing less than the destruction of the Church and the punishment for all those who followed Christ and His way. He went around from places to places, arresting and persecuting many Christians, and through him many ended up suffering and in prison, from this brutal first persecution of Christians in Jerusalem and Judea.

But he encountered the Lord on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus, and the Lord called him to follow Him. Saul therefore repented from his previous actions and decided to be baptised a Christian himself, and from then on, he became a most ardent and courageous defender of the Christian faith. In St. Paul therefore we see the example of one who has also embraced God’s call wholeheartedly and followed Him.

St. Paul went from a persecutor and enemy of Christians to be the Lord’s most ardent defender, himself often being in danger for his life, and was persecuted many times, enduring prison and sufferings for the sake of the Lord. From someone who had a bright future among the Pharisees, respected and with prestige, St. Paul chose to follow the Lord instead and abandon worldly comfort for the truth of God, which he proclaimed courageously before all.

He also defended the rights of the Gentiles, especially those who had chosen to turn towards the Lord and became Christians. Against all those who wanted to impose the strict Pharisaical Judaic laws on the Gentile Christians, St. Paul stood his ground and managed to confirm that such imposition was unwarranted and unnecessary, and hence, laid the foundation for an even more rapid acceptance of the faith by many more among the Gentiles.

He was also martyred in Rome, at the end of his many missionary journeys, as he chose to appeal to the Emperor over the false accusations by the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, when he stood there in trial. By that, he went to the capital of the Empire, and began to minister to the people there. He was martyred in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Rome which was likely orchestrated by the Emperor Nero himself but was blamed on Christians, who henceforth were persecuted and killed as martyrs. St. Paul was beheaded at that same time.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate the Solemnity in honour of St. Peter and St. Paul today, let us all therefore remember the great faith and love these two Apostles had for the Lord, as well as the courage and dedication by which they committed themselves to the Lord. Let us all realise that we should also follow in their footsteps and walk in the path that the Lord has called us to follow through, and be faithful and dedicated as the two Apostles, St. Peter and St. Paul had been faithful. This is our Christian calling, brothers and sisters, what we need to do as those whom God has called and chosen.

Today, on this special day for the Church, let us all pray together for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, the successor of St. Peter and the current Vicar of Christ. Let us pray for his intentions and seek the Lord’s guidance that He may always bless and guide His Church, and that He will always be with us all through the many trials and challenges we may encounter in life. May He strengthen us in our faith and give us the courage to remain faithful to Him, and to walk in His path at all times. May all of us be ever closer to the Lord and be united as always in the union we share, under the leadership of our Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Amen.