Wednesday, 26 September 2018 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 1-6

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. And He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He instructed them, “Do not take anything for the journey, neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even take a spare tunic.”

“Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet : it will be as a testimony against them.”

So they set out, and went through the villages, proclaiming the Good News and healing people everywhere.

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast day of one of the faithful followers of Christ, one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists, that is St. Matthew, the writer of today’s Gospel passage. He was once a tax collector at the employ of the Roman authorities, tasked to collect the regular taxes from the people of Judea, as Levi, the tax collector.

But the Lord called Levi to a better and higher purpose in life, leaving behind his work as a tax collector, and followed Him for the rest of his life. He was thus called to the life of a disciple and servant of God, leaving behind his past profession. And in the Gospel passage today we can see clearly the kind of prejudice which the society at that time placed on people like tax collectors, especially that which was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

The tax collectors at that time were seen as traitors to the nation and the people of Israel, as they were seen as collaborators to the Romans who ruled over Judea. The imposition and payment of taxes were the concrete symbols of Roman authority and dominance over the people, which was resented by the Jewish people and their authorities, many of whom desiring for the freedom and independence from the Romans.

But the Lord looked beyond these biases and prejudices, and called one of His closest assistants and followers from among the ranks of the tax collectors. In fact, if we scrutinise the event more closely, we should see just how the tax collectors, as well as prostitutes, another group often reviled by the society at that time, were actually willing to listen to the Lord and turn themselves over a new leaf, welcoming the Lord into their midst and listening to Him.

This is what the Lord has given to all those who were willing to listen to Him and to turn themselves to Him and trust in His providence and love. He gave them the gift of faith, the encouragement of hope and the wonders of love. He gave them the strength and courage to become His disciples and witnesses among the nations, which they ought to accept by willingly allowing the Lord to perform His works through them.

And by God’s grace and the wisdom which He imparted to St. Matthew, we now have the Gospel of St. Matthew, as one of the four Holy Gospels through which all of us Christians, many years after the actual events surrounding the life and works of Our Lord during His years walking on earth, can have an accurate and true account of what actually happened all those years ago, revealing to us God’s truth through His own words.

St. Matthew himself was also extensively involved in the field of evangelisation beyond his writing of the Holy Gospels, helping to spread the faith and establish the Church in various places, and it was told that according to the tradition of the Church, he died as a martyr like most of the other Apostles of Christ. His examples and dedication remains tangible to this day, in the flourishing and survival of the faith.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Matthew the Apostle, in his acceptance of what the Lord has called him to do, in his commitment to the calling of Apostleship and service. Are we able to respond positively and with commitment, when the Lord calls us, “Follow Me!”? Or are we going to find excuses and reasons for us not to answer to His call?

To each and every one of us, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle today, has been given various gifts and talents, as given by God. But are we making use of these gifts and talents as the Lord has taught us to do? St. Paul mentioned that we are called to different callings in life, to be Apostles, to be teachers, to be evangelisers, pastors, servants of God, and many more, but ultimately, all of us are called to work for the greater glory of God.

Therefore, in our various vocations in life, in our different capacities and areas of responsibility, be it as priests, ordained persons, or as the laity, as married couples and families, as those who have contributed to the Church in one way or another, let us continue to devote ourselves, our time, effort and attention, that we may do ever greater works, for the greater glory of God, and for the advancements of the good works of the Church, for the salvation of mankind.

May God be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in our way, that as we continue living in this world today, we may embrace the Lord’s call with confidence when He calls on us, just as St. Matthew had done with faith. Let us all turn towards Him with courage and hope, with zeal and determination, every single days of our life. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (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.

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 4 : 1-7, 11-13

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.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Thursday, 6 September 2018 : 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 5 : 1-11

At that time, one day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around Him listening to the word of God, He caught sight of two boats, left at the water’s edge by fishermen, now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There He sat, and continued to teach the crowd.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if You say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did, and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came, and they filled both almost to the point of sinking.

Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made, and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed Him, leaving everything.

Friday, 24 August 2018 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great feast day of one of the Twelve Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, namely that of St. Bartholomew the Apostle. As our Gospel passage mentioned today about Nathanael, one of Christ’s Twelve Apostles, it was often attributed that St. Bartholomew and Nathanael were the same person. He was one of the most intelligent ones among Christ’s disciples.

At first, he was also skeptical and did not believe at first that the Lord Jesus Christ could have been the Messiah that the people of Israel had been waiting for, as the Scriptures in the Old Testament and the prophets did not write about Nazareth being the place where the Messiah would come from. The same attitude was also actually echoed by the Pharisees and the chief priests, who doubted Jesus over the same reason.

But the Lord showed the truth about Himself and revealed the greater extent of His divine wisdom that far surpassed the intellect and wisdom of man. This has so profoundly affected St. Bartholomew that he devoted himself to the Lord from then on, becoming one of His disciples and appointed by Him as one of the Twelve Apostles. He was called to a greater purpose, that is to be part of God’s saving work among His people.

In our first reading today, we listened to the passage from the latter part of the Book of Revelations of St. John, which told us about the coming of the new Holy City of God, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, from God. In the vision of St. John, he saw the magnificent city as the symbol of God’s everlasting presence among His people at the end of time, when sin and death will be dealt a total and final defeat.

And in that vision, St. John saw twelve thrones as the seats prepared for the Apostles of the Lord, as a fulfilment of what the Lord had told them, that they would even judge the people of God. They would be the ones seated at the side of the Lord, as His most trusted confidants and assistants, for their great faith and commitment to the continuation of the good works He had begun among His people.

But the Apostles did not have an easy life at all, when they were still living in this world, brothers and sisters in Christ. As a matter of fact, they suffered greatly from the persecutions against the faithful by the Roman authorities, as the ones who were the leaders and as main pillars of the Church. But they faced all of the challenges and persecutions with faith, and remained true to their calling and mission to the very end.

All of the Twelve Apostles save for St. John, including St. Bartholomew, suffered martyrdom for the faith and the Lord. It was told by Church tradition that St. Bartholomew went to faraway places such as India and Armenia to evangelise the people living in those regions, suffering persecutions from all those who refused to listen to the truth and those who rejected the Lord.

St. Bartholomew was martyred in Armenia, defending his faith to the very end, persecuted while ministering to the faithful. It was told that the king of Armenia himself was converted by the works that St. Bartholomew and St. Jude, another Apostle, had done in Armenia. They helped to establish the Christian faith and the Church in Armenia, which persevered to this very day after many generations of martyrs and the faithful.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great courage and the hard work of the Apostles, are we not stirred in our hearts to be faithful just as the Apostles had been? And we have to realise that each and every one of us are the successors of the Apostles, as we have to continue all the works that the Apostles had begun, in our own world today.

Therefore, let us all renew our commitment, and do our very best to live up to the faith which the holy Apostles, St. Bartholomew and his companions had shown us. Let us all be exemplary in our own actions, that, living by our faith and doing what the Lord has commanded us to do, we may also follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, to call more people to the Lord and save many more souls still living in darkness and ignorance of God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen our faith and resolve, to live faithfully in accordance with His ways, day after day. May He bless us all and continue to watch over us, His followers and disciples, that we too may be like His Apostles, Holy Apostles St. Bartholomew and others. Amen.