Monday, 27 December 2021 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the great feast of one of the Lord’s Twelve Apostles, who happens to be one of the Four great Evangelists as well. St. John the Apostle and Evangelist was one of the two sons of Zebedee together with St. James the Apostle, his elder brother. With St. Peter and St. Andrew, all of them were fishermen in the lake of Galilee. They were all called by the Lord to follow Him, and they left their old profession and their families, committing themselves to the Lord and served Him from then on.

St. John became one of the Lord’s closest disciples, as one of the Twelve Apostles, and also together with St. Peter and St. James, his brother, he was often brought to the most important events in the Lord’s ministry, such as the resurrection of the synagogue official’s dead daughter, the Transfiguration of the Lord at Mount Tabor, and also the moments of Our Lord’s Agony at the Gardens of Gethsemane just before the time of His Passion. He therefore witnessed many of the important events surrounding the Lord’s ministry and works, and was a witness of His miracles and His truth.

St. John the Apostle was one of those who remained by the Lord’s side and kept following Him even up to the moments of His Passion, suffering and death on the Cross. He accompanied Mary, the Lord’s own mother as she came to the foot of the Cross, seeing her own Son being crucified and died before her. It was to St. John that the Lord entrusted His mother, and similarly, He entrusted St. John to Mary as well. St. John therefore was really important in his role in the early Church, as one of the Apostles and close collaborators of the Lord.

And not only that, he also spent many decades in spreading the truth of God all over the known world, travelling from places to places with the other Apostles and disciples, assisting in the foundation of the Church in various places. St. John also wrote several Epistles and letters in addition to his well-known work on one of the four canonical or officially endorsed Gospels. He was also the one who received the vision of the end of times in the Island of Patmos where he was exiled to by the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire. He recorded all that he had seen in what we now know as the Book of Revelations.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we reflect on the life and the ministry of St. John, Holy Apostle and Evangelist, let us all first reflect on what he wrote in his own Epistle, which is in our first reading today. St. John wrote of the Word of Life that has come into this world, and how he and the many other Apostles and disciples had shared and given whatever they had experienced and received from the Lord. He showed us that this same Jesus Christ that we are celebrating this Christmas is the One Who is the Saviour of the world, and the One Who has brought Life upon us.

St. John gave his whole life and did everything he could to glorify the Lord by his life and actions. He encouraged many of the faithful back then who were going through many persecutions, and through his accounts in the Book of Revelations, he encouraged the faithful not to give up on their faith in God as no matter what, in the end, God will come and claim His faithful ones, and those who remain faithful to Him will indeed receive the promise of eternal life, true happiness and everlasting joy with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all realise that just as St. John had been called to follow the Lord and be His disciple, all of us have also received the same calling as Christians to follow the Lord and to devote ourselves to Him. This is what we have to remind ourselves well as we continue to celebrate the joy and hope of Christmas in this ongoing Christmas season. We have to remember that we are the witnesses of His truth and love, of the Love of God incarnate in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Are we able and willing to follow in the footsteps and examples set by St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, brothers and sisters? Are we willing to live our lives wholeheartedly in accordance to our Christian faith, and especially now in our Christmas celebrations by putting Christ at the centre and heart of all of our rejoicing? It is through our genuine faith and sincere commitment to the path that God has shown us that we can inspire so many others to come to believe in the Lord as well.

May the Lord, born in Bethlehem and celebrated by us in this Christmas season, continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith. May St. John, His Holy Apostle and one of the Four great Evangelists continue to inspire us by his examples and intercede for all of us, that God may strengthen our faith and that we will grow ever closer to Him, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 27 December 2021 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 20 : 2-8

At that time, Mary of Magdala ran to Peter, and the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and she said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

Peter then set out with the other disciple to go out to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down and saw the linen cloths lying flat, but he did not enter. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and entered the tomb; he, too, saw the linen cloths lying flat.

The napkin, which had been around His head, was not lying flat like the other linen cloths, but lay rolled up in its place. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in; he saw and believed.

Monday, 27 December 2021 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1-2, 5-6, 11-12

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Clouds and darkness surround Him; justice and right are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in the Lord, you who are blameless, and give praise to His holy Name.

Monday, 27 December 2021 : Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 1 : 1-4

This is what has been from the beginning, and what we have heard and have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, I mean the Word Who is Life…

The Life made Itself known, we have seen Eternal Life and we bear witness, and we are telling you of it. It was with the Father and made Himself known to us. So we tell you what we have seen and heard, that you may be in fellowship with us, and us, with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

And we write this that our joy may be complete.

Thursday, 28 October 2021 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two great saints of God, who are two of the great Apostles, members of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Simon and St. Jude, who refers to St. Simon the Zealot as well as St. Jude Thaddeus, the latter not to be confused with the traitor Judas Iscariot. Both of them followed the Lord throughout His ministry, dedicating themselves to His cause and in the end, shedding their blood and giving their lives to the glory of God.

St. Simon the Apostle was as mentioned, a zealot or a religious fanatic who was converted and called to follow the Lord Jesus. As a zealot, previously he was involved in the revolutionary efforts from the fanatical members of the Jewish community who were fighting against the oppressors of the Jewish state in Judea and Galilee, namely the Romans and their client rulers, the Herodians and their supporters. The zealots were known for carrying out attacks against the government establishments and for their guerrilla efforts.

And it was from the ranks of those zealots that the words of the Lord Jesus came to touch St. Simon, who was convinced to follow Him and to give himself to the cause of the Lord instead of the misguided efforts of the zealots. Initially, perhaps St. Simon also thought, like many other Jewish people and zealots did, that the Lord Jesus was the long awaited Messiah Who was expected to lead the Israelites, the people of God, against their enemies, and lead them to freedom, crushing the Romans and all their oppressors.

St. Simon however, remained firmly faithful and committed to the Lord, even after many of the other disciples left Him, and when the Lord was betrayed and made to suffer, persecuted and forced to bear His Cross, and finally died a most humiliating and painful death on that same Cross, this former zealot turned disciple of the Lord remained, and continued to serve Him, receiving the Holy Spirit together with the other Apostles and disciples, and went on to do His works, evangelising and travelling to many places to proclaim the truth of God.

Meanwhile, St. Jude Thaddeus, also known as St. Judas Thaddeus, sometimes associated with one of the relatives of the Lord, also known as Jude, was also one of the close followers of the Lord, who followed Him throughout His ministry, and then dedicated himself to the works and the missions entrusted to him by the Lord. And while, like St. Simon, little was known about St. Jude in the early days of his role as an Apostle and follower of Christ, what Church traditions and history held was that both of them went to faraway places, evangelising to the people who have not yet heard about the Lord and His salvation.

It was told that St. Simon and St. Jude often travelled together in their works of evangelisation and mission, preaching the word of God to the people of Persia, Armenia, and other areas like North Africa and Asia Minor. They worked hard to speak the truth of God to the people, many of whom were receptive and were willing to believe in God, and yet, there were also many others who refused to believe in the Lord and persecuted them and the other servants of God.

St. Simon was martyred together with St. Jude in the most well-preserved history of the Church, in which both Apostles were persecuted, tortured and finally put to death for their evangelising works among the pagans. In the end, regardless of their origins, they all embraced God’s calling and mission, and dedicated themselves to serve the Lord, following Him to where He led them, and gave themselves, even their own lives for the sake of the glory of God, and for the salvation of mankind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect today on the lives and works of these two great Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude, let us all discern carefully what we should do with our own lives, as those who profess the Christian faith and are therefore disciples and followers of Christ. Let us all consider carefully how we are to live our lives from now on, and reflect upon the examples of the Apostles to guide us and to help set us on the right path in life.

May the Lord protect us and guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He empower all of us to follow in the footsteps of His glorious Apostles, especially St. Simon and St. Jude, whose memory we venerate today, and whose examples we want to emulate. May God be with us always and may He bless us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 28 October 2021 : 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.

Thursday, 28 October 2021 : 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.

Thursday, 28 October 2021 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 2 : 19-22

Now, you are no longer strangers or guests, but fellow citizens of the holy people : you are of the household of God. You are the house, whose foundations are the Apostles and prophets, and whose cornerstone is Christ Jesus. In Him, the whole structure is joined together, and rises, to be a holy Temple, in the Lord.

In Him, you, too, are being built, to become the spiritual Sanctuary of God.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021 : 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 Feast of one of great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve and also one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels, also known as the Evangelists. He was once a tax collector whose task was likely to gather taxes on behalf of the local rulers and the Roman overlords of the then region of Judea, Galilee and the other territories where the Jewish people lived in. He was known as Levi, and heeded the Lord’s call when He came over His place, left everything behind and followed Him, becoming known as Matthew from that moment onwards.

He was one of the several Apostles who have had a change of name upon their calling by the Lord, adopting a new identity upon his conversion, just like St. Peter and St. Paul, who were previously known as Simon and Saul respectively. The Lord called on Levi to follow Him, and he listened, and not only that but he even gathered his fellow tax collectors, who also wanted to know the Lord and speak with Him, and had a dinner in his place, before he was to follow Him fully. While not written or recorded in the Gospel account, it is probable that even there might have been even more among the tax collectors who later on chose to follow the Lord.

Back then, tax collectors were often prejudiced against, hated and reviled by the general society, and especially so by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who saw them in the same light as the prostitutes and those others deemed as great sinners, like those who were possessed by demons and those suffering from debilitating diseases, seen as being cursed and punished by God for their sins. For the tax collectors were often seen as traitors to the country and the people for their collaboration with the Romans who were hated by most of the people.

To that extent, the tax collectors were often ridiculed and dismissed as sinners and unworthy by the Pharisees, who did not even hesitate to mention it bluntly before the Lord’s disciples, when they asked them why their Lord and Master would spend the time in the company and have a meal with sinners. Yet, they all failed to realise one thing, which is that they themselves, were sinners as well. By looking down on the sins of others, they had become blind to their own shortcomings and faults.

And by embracing the Lord and answering His call, Levi who chose the Lord over the glory and wealth, the power and the satisfaction of the world has shown us that, even great sinners can be sanctified and turned into great saints, and that there is no one truly beyond redemption and salvation in God, unless the person himself or herself had rejected the Lord’s most generous offer of mercy and forgiveness. As long as one is willing to listen to the Lord and to repent from their sins, the path to Heaven and everlasting life will be open to them.

St. Matthew for example was credited with his efforts among the Jewish people themselves in Judea and Galilee, and his Gospel in particular was noted for its use of contexts and explanations familiar to the Jews, which served to explain the truth of God to his audience, which were mainly the Jewish people in the region. St. Matthew also went to other places and countries to spread the word of God, before eventually was martyred just like most of the other Apostles in the midst of his missionary works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we heard today from the examples shown by St. Matthew, the story of his conversion and later on his contributions and efforts, his works as an Apostle and Evangelist, served as an important reminder to each and every one of us, God’s beloved children and disciples whom He Himself had called and gathered from the world to be His own. We have to ask ourselves this question, whether we have genuinely loved the Lord and had faith in Him, or whether our faith is still being superficial in nature.

We are also called to turn away from the path of sin, and to embrace God’s ever generous offering of mercy and forgiveness. God has always sought sinners and all those who need His help, as He Himself made it clear in our Gospel passage today. Like Levi, who welcomed the Lord and answered His call, we too should follow in his footsteps, and allow the Lord to transform us from the sinners we are, to be great disciples and even perhaps to be future saints, just as Levi the tax collector has been transformed in his life into St. Matthew, a great Apostle and Evangelist.

Let us all therefore discern carefully how we can be ever more dedicated as Christians, in doing the will of God and in committing ourselves to His cause. Let us all seek the Lord and His love, His compassion and kindness, and strive to do our best to glorify Him by our lives and actions. Let us also never be prejudiced anymore against any of our fellow brothers and sisters, and rather than being jealous against the achievements of others or in being proud over own achievements and efforts, while looking down on others, instead let us reflect on how fortunate we have been that God has chosen to forgive us our many sins, and how He has called on us all to be His followers and disciples.

Let us all realise that in each and every one of us there is that potential for greatness and holiness, as we are all called to holiness and to be like the saints. Even great saints were once also great sinners. What matters is that all of them have experienced a change in their hearts and embraced the Lord’s mercy and compassion, turning over a new leaf in their lives, becoming great role models and sources of inspiration themselves for the others who witnessed their works and lives. St. Matthew is one of these great inspiration and role model which we can also aspire to achieve.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in the Lord, and put our trust in Him, devoting our time, effort and attention to Him, and seeking Him with a contrite heart, with a new spirit of faith and obedience, and doing whatever we can to glorify the Lord by our lives. May all of us be true and dedicated disciples of the Lord from now on, doing whatever we can to lead more and more souls towards salvation and eternal life in God. May God bless us all and our efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.