Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle, one of the Lord’s Twelve Apostles, and who was also identified as Nathanael, his alternate name as highlighted in our Gospel passage today. St. Bartholomew as known by Nathanael was an intellectual and educated person, who accepted the Lord’s calling and devoted himself henceforth in the service of the Lord. He would go on to proclaim the Lord’s truth and Good News among the people in various distant lands and committed himself to a ministry of service, right up to his martyrdom, which inspired yet many more to follow the Lord.

St. Bartholomew according to Apostolic and Church traditions went on missionary journeys to various regions including but perhaps not limited to Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, Lycaonia in Asia Minor, Armenia and even India. He spent many years and a lot of efforts in proclaiming the Gospel of truth among the people there, some of whom received the Lord and the Good News with enthusiasm, while others rejected the Lord and refused to believe in Him, and refusing also to believe in St. Bartholomew and the other missionaries sent to their midst. Through those works, St. Bartholomew sowed the seeds of faith and built the foundation of the Church in many places, but he had to face a lot of hardships too.

St. Bartholomew was credited with an early mission to India and the regions far east from the land of Judea. He visited several regions in ancient India, establishing probably the first Christian communities there together with the other famous Apostle, St. Thomas the Apostle, who established the foundation of the Christian communities in India, that survived until the present day and could trace their faith lineage all the way since the days of the Apostles, both St. Thomas and St. Bartholomew. Then, St. Bartholomew was also involved in an important mission to Armenia where most stories agreed that he faced persecution and martyrdom there.

In Armenia, St. Bartholomew likely proclaimed the Lord together with another Apostle, namely St. Jude Thaddeus, and it was there that the first seeds of the Christian faith was sown. While Armenia would eventually become the first Christian nation in the world about two and a half centuries later after the time of the Apostles, but back then, it was still a land of pagans, although St. Bartholomew managed to convince some of them to listen to the Good News of God, and some were convinced to become Christians. Not only that, but one of the rulers, traditionally according to historical stories, named Polymius was convinced by St. Bartholomew to become a Christian, and that led to a vicious reaction against the Apostles.

Depending on the version of tradition, St. Bartholomew was either crucified upside down in the similar manner as St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, or the more popular and common one being that he was flayed or skinned alive before he was martyred in Armenia. Regardless of the way and the circumstances of his martyrdom, what each one of us can really be sure of is that St. Bartholomew had dedicated his life to the service of God and he had suffered greatly for that, and yet, he embraced his martyrdom happily and with great faith, knowing that he had suffered for the sake of the Lord and His Church, for the salvation of many more souls.

The courage and faith showed by St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles, saints and martyrs still inspire us even right to this day. St. Bartholomew showed us all what it means to be genuine and true Christians, to become true followers and disciples of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Each and every one of us had been called and chosen, to become the Lord’s disciples and followers, and we have been given the mission to go forth and proclaim the same truth and Good News just as St. Bartholomew and the other Apostles had done in the past. As members of God’s same Church, we are all called to be evangelising disciples and missionaries through our lives.

This does not mean that we have to do what St. Bartholomew and the Apostles had done. Each one of us have been given different talents, abilities, gifts and opportunities by the Lord. What the Lord wants us all to do is that, we should make good use of all those in whatever opportunities and goods we have, whatever blessings and talents we have gained, so that we may glorify the Lord and His Name, and proclaim His truth by our worthy lives, our worthy actions, words and deeds. This is what we should be doing, brothers and sisters in Christ, namely to live our lives worthily for the Lord and to do our best to obey His Law, His commandments and His will.

Let us all strive to be missionary and evangelising disciples and followers of the Lord, in everything we say and do, in our every vocations in life, be it as married couples, as family members, youth or elderly, be it as laypeople or members of the presbyterate, or be it as members of religious orders and other institutions. Each and every one of us have our own unique roles to play as part of the Lord’s Church to fulfil what He has called us to do, to obey Him wholeheartedly and to be exemplary and sources of inspiration for one another, for our fellow brothers and sisters at all times. May God be with us always, and bless our every good works and endeavours, and may St. Bartholomew continue to intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : 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.”

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : 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.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022 : 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.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the glorious Feast of not just one but two of the Lord’s glorious Apostles, two of the Twelve Apostles, namely that of St. Philip and St. James, the two faithful servants of God who had dedicated their lives in the service of God, and who had persevered despite the challenges and trials they had to endure as part of their ministry. Both of them laboured hard to spread the words of the Gospels and the Good News to the far corners of the world, enduring many sufferings and joy during their ministries, and eventually martyrdom for the sake of the Lord and His Church. They are celebrated together because historically, their relics were translated to Rome on the same day.

St. Philip was one of the Lord’s closest disciples who was mentioned in several occasions in the Gospels, especially in the Gospel of St. John, one of which accounts was part of our Gospel passage today. St. Philip was mentioned in today’s Gospel when he asked the Lord Jesus to show him and the other disciples the Father, God the heavenly Father Whom Jesus had been speaking about. This was met with the incredulous words from the Lord as He told St. Philip and the other disciples that they had seen the Father just as they had seen Him, all because He and the Father are One, and seeing Him means that one has seen the Father manifested in the flesh, as the Lord Jesus was indeed the Divine Word of God Incarnate.

St. Philip was also mentioned when the Lord miraculously fed five thousand men and many others with just five loaves of bread and two fishes, which was our Gospel passage just a few days ago. He was the one to present the food offered by a child to the Lord, and was also the one who introduced Nathanael, also known as St. Bartholomew the Apostle, to the Lord. He was also the one who proclaimed the Lord to the Ethiopian official as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles early in the Church history. And later on, he was also involved in many works of evangelisation, preaching the Gospels and the Good News to the people in far off places, in Greece, parts of Syria and Asia Minor in Phrygia.

Meanwhile, St. James, also known as St. James the Less, to distinguish him from St. James the Greater, the brother of St. John the Apostle, was identified as either St. James, son of Alphaeus or as St. James, one of the brothers or more accurately, relatives of the Lord Jesus. He was called ‘Less’ because of his relatively shorter stature as compared to St. James the Greater, and he was a relative of one other follower of Jesus, identified as Mary, wife of Cleopas. He was often widely credited with the authorship of the Epistle of St. James, and he was also involved in many evangelising missions in various places, although the details were less than that was available for St. Philip and the other more renowned Apostles.

Regardless of the details of their exact activities and involvements in the Church and its missions, what we all ought to know is the fact that each and every one of them and the other Apostles had dedicated their whole lives in the service of God, and having been encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, they had proclaimed the Lord with joy and fervour, seeking to glorify Him by their lives, by their every words and actions. And those Apostles did not fear even persecutions, trials, sufferings and challenges in life, and they bore their crosses with true dedication and love for God and His people.

As we come together today to celebrate and mark the great memories of these two wonderful saints, the Holy Apostles of Our Lord, St. Philip and St. James, we are all called to reflect on ourselves and on our own calling in life. Each one of us as Christians are disciples and followers of the Lord, and we are all called to the same mission that the Lord has entrusted to His Apostles. The Lord has given to us the mission to reach out to more people among the nations, that we may be the genuine witnesses of His truth, love and resurrection among all the people of God. We are the ones to be the beacons of God’s light in our respective communities today.

The question is, are we all ready and willing to embark on this journey of faith, together with God and following in the footsteps of the Apostles like St. Philip and St. James? Are we also willing to make sacrifices of time and effort, offering our best to serve the Lord and to be the examples and inspirations for one another, that we may ever be more courageous in living our lives with faith? Each and every one of us have been given and entrusted with the mission to call more and more people to the light and truth of God. We have to make that conscious effort to live our lives worthily and devote ourselves thoroughly to His cause from now on.

Let us all therefore do our best to serve the Lord by our every contributions, even to the smallest and seemingly least significant actions we do. For it is by our combined works and efforts that God will extend His reach and works ever more gloriously among His people. Let us all spend more time in building up our relationship with God and in deepening our understanding of our faith, so that we may be truly inspirational to all those who witness our lives and works. Let us walk in the path of the Apostles and do whatever we can to proclaim the Lord in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless us always in our every efforts and good works, now and forevermore. St. Philip and St. James, Holy Apostles of the Lord, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 14 : 6-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you know Me, you will know the Father also; indeed you know Him, and you have seen Him.”

Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough.” Jesus said to him, “What! I have been with you so long and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever sees Me sees the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?”

“All that I say to you, I do not say of Myself. The Father Who dwells in Me is doing His own work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; at least believe it on the evidence of these works that I do. Truly, I say to you, the one who believes in Me will do the same works that I do; and he will even do greater than these, for I am going to the Father.”

“Everything you ask in My Name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Indeed, anything you ask, calling upon My Name, I will do.”

Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, 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.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-8

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates together the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, a great celebration marking the unity of the Church through the leadership of the great Prince and leader of all the Apostles and his many successors throughout history up to this day. Today we remind ourselves of this unity we share as God’s one united people, in one flock of all the faithful, gathered together in His Presence and embrace.

We may find it strange that we are celebrating this Feast over a chair. What is so special about this chair that we are celebrating it in the first place? What is the significance of this Feast? As mentioned just earlier on, this Feast is a reminder of the unity that we as God’s people, from all the whole world share in the one Church, one leadership, with Christ as the Head of the Church, and with St. Peter and his successors as the Vicar of the one true Head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, our Popes.

The celebration of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter is not just a celebration over any random chairs or seats. Instead, we have to understand that in the context of the Church, the Chair here is the real and physical representation of the authority of the bishops as the seat of their authority. This seat is known as the Cathedra, from which the Cathedrals got their name from. It refers to the church where the Cathedra of the bishop is located at, as the physical and real symbol of his authority as the shepherd of the faithful in his diocese.

And for St. Peter the Apostle, who is the first Bishop of Rome and Pope, it is all the more special to all of us, for all of Christendom because he is not just like any other bishops, but he has been entrusted with the special role as the Vicar of Christ, as the one to lead the entire Universal Church. He and all of his successors have this special obligation and responsibility as the Vicar of the true Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, that the Chair of St. Peter is therefore that very powerful symbol of the universal authority and primacy that St. Peter and his successors, the Popes have on the entire Church.

Thus, while there is indeed an actual, physical chair used by St. Peter as a treasured relic that is placed at the Altar of the Chair of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, but this is not just what we are celebrating today. Rather, through this great Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, we remember and celebrate the continued unity of the Church, all the flock of the Lord’s faithful under the guidance and the leadership of the Successor of St. Peter, our Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, remembering how he and his predecessors from St. Peter have dedicated themselves to lead the people of God in this often turbulent world.

Today we remember the words of the Lord Himself, establishing and entrusting the Church to St. Peter, whose name means the ‘Rock’ so that the Church He has established may be built upon the firm foundation of the Rock of faith that is St. Peter, and assisted with the strength of the pillars of the faith of the Apostles. Because of this, the Church is united to the Lord, the Chief Shepherd of all, the Good Shepherd, through the many shepherds whom He had called and appointed to lead and guide His people, His flock, that is the Apostles and their successors.

Now, therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as God’s people and His Church, let us do our best in whatever we can do to remain strongly united as one people and one Church, obeying God’s truth, Law and commandments which He had revealed and passed to us through His Church, through our shepherds, the Apostles and their successors, our Pope and the many bishops and priests that had faithfully served Him through all the ages. Let us entrust ourselves in the Lord ever more and strive to work more for the unity of the Church and pray for our Pope in particular and for the other bishops as well.

Like what St. Peter exhorted to the faithful and the elders of the Church in our first reading today, in one of his Epistles, we hope that our bishops will continue to serve the Lord faithfully, for the greater glory of God, giving themselves humbly to bear witness to their faith and to show good examples to all the faithful on how they ought to be faithful to the Lord. Today, we all ought to help them in their governance of the Church by our continued support, prayer and companionship, to remind them that we are one community of God’s faithful people, and they are our shepherds.

Let us give them our fullest support and do whatever we can in our own capacity, making use of whatever opportunities that God has given to us, so that we may continue to grow ever closer to the Lord under the leadership of Francis, our Pope, the Successor of St. Peter the Apostle. May the Lord continue to bless him and all the other bishops, our shepherds, that they may continue to faithfully serve the Lord and be faithful and committed in their courageous efforts to proclaim the Gospel and the salvation in God, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022 : Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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-Jona, 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.”