Saturday, 24 August 2019 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the principal disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord, namely that of St. Bartholomew, who was also known as Nathanael as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. In that passage we heard about the moment when the Lord called Nathanael to become one of His followers, revealing Himself on Who He truly is, the Saviour promised to the world.

The Lord called Nathanael and reassured him that He truly is the Messiah, although initially Nathanael doubted Him for having come from the humble village of Nazareth in Galilee, where no one great has been prophesied to be born, but the Lord showed him that He truly is God Who knows everything and all things, Who has brought into this world the truth with which He would save this world and all the people He loves.

And Nathanael came to believe in the Lord and followed Him wholeheartedly to the very end, becoming one of His Apostles and went through the many moments throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry and beyond, and later on throughout the evangelical and missionary ministry he embarked on in proclaiming the truth of God to the people in many faraway places, known as St. Bartholomew the Apostle.

St. Bartholomew was accredited with many missions to places as far as India, Armenia among other places, spreading the Good News of the Lord to the people in those places who have not yet heard the truth of the Lord. He persevered even through the many challenges and persecutions he had to face throughout his ministry, and even through the rejections and oppositions he endured all those years.

Eventually, it was told that he was martyred in a city in Armenia where he was hung and flayed alive after according to some Apostolic traditions, he managed to convert the king of Armenia to the Christian faith. The opponents of the faith struck out against him and persecuted him, and St. Bartholomew died as a martyr, bravely and faithfully defending his dedication to the Lord to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have now heard about the life and dedication of the Apostle St. Bartholomew, in his commitment to the Lord all the years of his life. But do we all also realise that each and every one of us are also called to walk in the path set before us by the Apostles? Just as St. Bartholomew had dedicated himself completely and trusted the Lord completely, in performing the missions which He had entrusted to him and the other Apostles, all of us are also called to do the same mission and work.

For the works of the Church and the mission God had entrusted the Church and His Apostles are truly still far from done. We are all called to walk in their footsteps and continue their work of evangelisation and ministering to the people of God. We are all called to be witnesses of our faith in everything we say and do, and we are expected to live our lives with faith, to be exemplary in our actions and our deeds, with all of our dealings and interactions with one another.

And as what we perhaps have experienced in our own lives and what the Apostles and the story of saints and martyrs have shown us, we are likely to endure challenges and oppositions, persecutions and rejections in our lives as we live our lives with faith, and often we will have to be torn because of those whom we love who cause us hurt and pain just because they disagree with our way of life filled with faith.

Are we able to endure such sufferings and challenges, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to go through those difficult times and moments and yet still remaining true to our faith in God? The Apostles have shown us, the martyrs and the many other saints of God have proved to us that it is possible for us to live a truly Christian life and persevere on despite the difficulties we may face in our respective lives.

In our first reading today, the reading from the Book of Revelations should become a great source of inspiration to us, as St. John saw in his vision the coming of the great New Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, on which was written the names of the Apostles of the Lord, on each of the twelve gates of the great city. This is a reassurance and promise from God, that all of those who have been faithful to Him and devoted themselves to Him, from the Apostles to all of us, will not be forgotten, but instead will receive the fullness of joy and true happiness, glory and satisfaction in God in due time.

Let us all be encouraged and be strengthened in faith, that from now on we will no longer be lukewarm in living our faith, but instead grow to be better in faith and in our good works and deeds, all done for the greater glory of God. May the Lord through the intercession of His Apostle, St. Bartholomew and the other Holy Apostles, saints and martyrs continue to guide us in our own respective journeys of faith in life. Amen.

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : 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.”

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : 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.

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : 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.

Thursday, 25 July 2019 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles of Our Lord, namely St. James the Apostle, also known as St. James the Greater, to distinguish him from another St. James, that is St. James the Lesser or St. James the Just, who was considered as one of the relatives of the Lord and the first Bishop of Jerusalem. St. James the Apostle was the brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, both of whom were the sons of Zebedee.

It was the same St. James and St. John who were mentioned in today’s Gospel passage, as they came together with their mother, asking the Lord Jesus for special favours and position among the disciples, seeking the place of honour by His side when His glory days were coming. The other disciples, especially the other members of the Twelve were very angry at what the two brothers had done, and only after the Lord rebuked all of them that they simmered down.

We have to understand the context of what happened at that time in order to appreciate better the significance of what we have heard in the Scriptures today. At that time, the understanding and perception among the Jewish people about the coming of the Messiah or the Saviour promised by God were that the Messiah would be a mighty and conquering King, in the mould of David, His ancestor.

The people thought of the Messiah, which they thought the Lord Jesus was, as someone Who would restore the kingdom of Israel of old, reliving and recreating once again the glorious days of the kingdom of David and Solomon, when the people of God were at the pinnacle of their glory, power and majesty among the people of the world. That was why, in several occasions, the Lord in fact had to hide from the people who had wanted to make and even force Him to become their King.

It is this same understanding and perception which caused the two Apostles, St. James and St. John, to seek the Lord together with their mother, to seek glory, honour and power from the Lord, by asking Him to give them special favours over that of the rest. After all, if a King was about to rise to great power, it would have been good for whoever who stood by closest to Him, was it not?

That was where the Lord corrected their way of thinking and dispelled the false ideas that they might have in their minds when they decided to follow Him. He essentially reminded them that His kingdom and His rule were totally unlike any other in this world. Following the Lord would not be anything like following any other leaders and rulers in this world, as if they sought power, glory, honour and other forms of worldly satisfaction, they would be disappointed.

Instead, the Lord made it clear and plain that in following Him, His disciples have chosen a life of struggle and perhaps even plenty of sufferings and challenges in this world. It was what He meant when He mentioned the cup that He was about to drink, the cup of suffering that He had to endure, the suffering and pain, the burden and the heavy responsibility of the Cross. And just as He had to suffer and be rejected by the world, He revealed that His disciples likely would have to suffer in the same way too.

That was what St. James endured as he became a faithful follower of the Lord from then on, carrying out faithfully the mission which God has entrusted to him. It was told by Apostolic tradition that he went to spread the faith in lands as far as the present day Spain, where the great shrine to this saint now exists in the famous Santiago de Compostela in northern parts of Spain. St. James had to endure many challenges along his journey, and in the end, he was also among the first to be martyred.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, St. James was the first of the Apostles to be martyred, when king Herod wanted to please the Jewish people, arrested St. James and beheaded him as a show to gain favour with the Jewish religious and community elites, the chief priests and the Pharisees. The other Apostles and disciples of the Lord too, eventually, would come to suffer in the way that St. James had suffered.

But all of them have moved on from what we have seen in our Gospel passage today, the preoccupation with worldly concerns and desires for things like power, fame, influence, wealth and other forms of worldly satisfaction and joy. They have accepted the Lord’s cup of suffering courageously and faithfully, living up to their faith and devoting themselves to be witnesses for His sake, and working to the best of their abilities to spread the Good News.

As mentioned in the first reading today by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians, all of us have received a great treasure from Christ Himself, the true treasure of our lives that can never be lost from us, unless we ourselves reject the treasure that Christ has given to us. This most precious treasure is none other than the promise of eternal life and glory, true happiness and joy of sharing in God’s inheritance through the salvation which He has brought unto us.

It is hope in that promise, the promise of the great and true treasures of the Lord that helped the Apostles, St. James and his fellow witnesses of faith, to persevere even through the most difficult persecutions and challenges, knowing that while all the treasures of this world, the treasures of power, of human glory, of fame and of wealth can be destroyed and perish, the true treasure that is assured for us in God will never be destroyed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. James and the other holy Apostles of the Lord in their dedication to the Lord? Are we able to dedicate our time, effort and focus into the service for the greater glory of God? We have all been called to be the successors of the Apostles, following in the path that they have started, through their courageous deeds and efforts.

May the Lord continue to guide our path, and may He continue to encourage us so that we may seek to live like the Apostles, shunning the tempting desires of the pleasures and the glories of this world, and instead seek the true treasure that lies in God alone, by serving Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strengths from now on. May God bless us all and our good endeavours. Amen.

Thursday, 25 July 2019 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 20 : 20-28

At that time, the mother of James and John came to Jesus with her sons, and she knelt down, to ask a favour. Jesus said to her, “What do you want?” And she answered, “Here, You have my two sons. Grant, that they may sit, one at Your right hand and one at Your left, in Your kingdom.”

Jesus said to the brothers, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They answered, “We can.” Jesus replied, “You will indeed drink My cup; but to sit at My right or at My left is not for Me to grant. That will be for those, for whom My Father has prepared it.”

The other then heard all this, and were angry with the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Him and said, “You know, that the rulers of nations behave like tyrants, and the powerful oppress them. It shall not be so among you : whoever wants to be great in your community, let him minister to the community. And if you want to be the first of all, make yourself the servant of all. Be like the Son of Man, Who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life to redeem many.”

Thursday, 25 July 2019 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.