Monday, 3 May 2021 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all celebrate the feast of two of the great Apostles of Our Lord, namely St. Philip as well as St. James, son of Alpheus, also known as St. James the Lesser, to distinguish him from the brother of St. John, St. James the Greater. Both Apostles laboured and worked hard to serve the Lord and brought His Good News to the far corners of the world. Today as we celebrate their memory, we remember these faithful men who had given their all and their whole lives in service to God.

St. Philip was one of the close followers of Christ, remembered for being the one who consulted with the Lord regarding the feeding of the five thousand men on how to feed all the people with just five loaves of bread and two fishes. He witnessed everything that the Lord has been doing, all the miracles and wonders He has shown before all the people, His truth and wisdom. Then, after the resurrection, St. Philip was instrumental in revealing the faith and truth to an Ethiopian official on his way back from Jerusalem to his homeland, and managed to persuade the official to ask for baptism.

Afterwards, St. Philip also ministered to the people of God in various places, and according to Apostolic tradition, he evangelised and preached about the Lord in places like Greece, Asia Minor and Syria. It was during one of those ministry, according to tradition, that he was martyred when he worked with another Apostle, St. Bartholomew, when he managed to convince the wife of the local ruler to convert to the Christian faith and the furious ruler ordered St. Philip and St. Bartholomew to be both crucified upside-down. According to the story, St. Philip asked his persecutors to release St. Bartholomew, which they did, but insisted that he himself should remain on the cross, and thus he died a martyr’s death.

Then, St. James the Lesser, known as such because he was likely younger than St. James the Greater, the brother of St. John the Apostle, was also a devoted disciple of the Lord, credited through Apostolic tradition with the evangelisation and conversion of many peoples just as St. Philip and the other Apostles had done. He was martyred in Egypt, at where he worked in spreading the Good News of the Gospel, defending the faith and remaining firmly faithful to the Lord to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through what we have heard in the story of the lives of the two Apostles, and also in our Scripture passages today, we are all reminded that we are the witnesses of the Lord’s truth, the same truth that the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord had seen, and for which many of them, including St. Philip and St. James, were willing to suffer and even die in martyrdom defending that very truth. If they had not seen the truth or known that the Lord and the Christian faith is a lie, as what the Pharisees and the chief priests were trying to convince the people otherwise, then they would not have been willing to give themselves to suffering and die.

The Lord Himself has revealed the whole truth to His disciples, and He has also affirmed, strengthened and guided them through the Holy Spirit, Whom He sent to all the disciples that they might be strengthened in faith, gained wisdom and courage to preach the Good News and the truth to all. And the same truth and the same Holy Spirit have been passed on to us as well, brothers and sisters in Christ, through the Church that we are all member of and which we are part of as the living Body of Christ, composed of all those who believe in Him.

That is why, today as we rejoice and celebrate together the Feast of the great Apostles, St. Philip and St. James, all of us are reminded that we are all also part of the same evangelising mission that the Lord has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and we should be aware that we need to be part of this mission, and walk faithfully in the Lord’s path following the examples of those who have gone before us. They have seen the truth of the Lord, and they have laboured and persevered through sufferings and trials so that they might pass on the truth to others, and so that is also how we have received the same truth, through the Church.

Let us all therefore discern carefully our path in life going forward from now. Let us consider how each and every one of us can be part of this mission that the Lord has entrusted to all of us, so that we may also pass on the same truth and the same light of Christ to more and more people, to all those whom we encounter in life. And we have to be good role models and exemplary in the way of life therefore, or else, we will end up scandalising our faith and causing people to turn away from the Lord instead, and the blame will be on us for causing that to happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in this era and time, when the world is facing so much darkness and so many people are lost in the temptations of sin and evil, in the pressure and coercion to follow the path of selfishness, of worldly desires and of all things that are against the Lord’s truth, let us all be the beacons of light and hope, that each and every one of us, in our own little ways, may do whatever we can to lead others to the right path, inspiring more and more to seek the Lord and to find their way to the true grace and happiness found in God alone.

That is why, we are all challenged to redirect our focus in life and to reorganise our lives that if now we have been living mostly for ourselves, then we should follow the examples of St. Philip and St. James, both of whom have made themselves all things to all mankind, giving their very best to be the source of hope and inspiration to others, and to show the right path to those who are lost, not just through mere words alone, but also through genuine actions and faith. Are we willing and able to commit in this manner, brothers and sisters?

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us with faith, and that we may draw courage and inspiration from those who went before us, that we may not easily give up in the face of trials and challenges, difficulties and persecutions. May God bless us and our every good endeavours and efforts, always. Amen.

Monday, 3 May 2021 : 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.”

Monday, 3 May 2021 : 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.

Monday, 3 May 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020 : Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the great Feast of the Apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, two of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Simon and St. Jude. St. Simon was also known as Simon the Zealot, likely referring to his past as a member of the Zealots, the extremists who fought against the Romans at the time of Jesus. Meanwhile, St. Jude refers to St. Jude Thaddeus, who was sometimes connected with Jude, of the extended family of the Lord.

Both of these Apostles had been with the other Apostles of the Lord, faithfully following the Lord and serving Him throughout His ministry. St. Simon abandoned his previous life as a freedom fighter and member of a extremist group seeking to bring about the freedom of the Israelites through force from their Roman overlords. St. Jude Thaddeus was known in some Church traditions as one of the relatives or brothers of Jesus, probably from St. Joseph’s earlier family, and he was also the probable author of the Epistle of St. Jude.

Both of them would go on to serve the Lord and reach out to the peoples of various nations, answering to the call of the Lord to evangelise to the nations. St. Simon the Apostle went to many places, often together with St. Jude the Apostle, which is why both of them are celebrated together today, for their missionary zeal and commitment to God to the very end. St. Simon visited places like Persia and Armenia, Egypt and Ethiopia, and according to some traditions even went as far as Britain.

Meanwhile, according to tradition, St. Jude the Apostle evangelised throughout Judea and Samaria, and with St. Simon the Apostle, evangelised in Persia, Armenia and other places, and eventually, they were martyred in the region now known as Lebanon, many decades after they began their missions for the Lord. Both of them had committed themselves to the Lord and converted many, establishing firm foundations of the Church in many places, and gave everything to the Lord, even their lives, for His sake.

We can see how as we rejoice in the memory of these two glorious Apostles of the Lord, that the Lord has showed His love so wonderfully towards us by giving us His love and salvation through all those whom He had called and chosen to be the bearers of His Good News. He has established His Church to gather all of those who believe in Him, and called all of us to come to Him, by His servants, the Apostles who have built the foundations of the Church, and their successors, the bishops and priests who passed on this faith to us.

However, we also have to recognise that just as we have been gathered together in the Church, brought into the salvation in God, we have the duty and responsibility to continue the good works of the Apostles and their successors, for just as they had dedicated themselves to God and passed on their faith to all those to whom they had ministered, we too have the same responsibility to be faithful witnesses of our Christian faith and proclaim the Lord’s Good News to all.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is is not by shouting out the word of God or preaching before the masses of people unlike what many of us may think of. That is one form of evangelisation, indeed, but the even more powerful form of evangelisation comes about if we live out our faith with sincerity and do what we truly believe in. If we do not act and do things in the manner that we have professed our faith, then our faith is no better than empty and meaningless.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow the Lord in our lives and actions, to live virtuously as faithful and dedicated Christians, to be faithful in even the little things we do, so that all those who see us and come in touch with us, may see our faith in the Lord and come to believe in Him as well. The Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had also practiced their faith and dedicated themselves with love, caring for one another and showing genuine Christian love, and through their martyrdom, showed their undying love for God.

It was by all these dedications that they had called so many others to the faith, many of those who also became courageous and faithful evangelisers themselves. Many of them suffered for remaining faithful as well, and many died as martyrs in the various places, glorifying God by their faith even to the very end. All of us should be inspired by their actions and their faith, their good examples and dedication to the Lord, that we ourselves take up our crosses and commit ourselves to be good Christians at all times.

The Lord has called us all to follow in His footsteps to do what His Apostles had done, and to look upon St. Simon and St. Jude in particular for their hard work and devotion. Are we able to follow them faithfully and dedicate ourselves in the same way as they have done? Let us do whatever we can and commit ourselves to God with a renewed zeal and commitment from now on. May the Lord be with us and may He bless us all and guide us in our journey of faith, now and always. St. Simon and St. Jude Thaddeus, Holy Apostles of the Lord, pray for us all! Amen.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020 : 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.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020 : 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.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020 : 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.

Monday, 21 September 2020 : 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 the great Apostle, St. Matthew, who was one of the Twelve Apostles and also one of the four Evangelists or the writers of the Four Gospels. St. Matthew was originally known as Levi, one of the tax collectors who responded to the Lord’s call, left behind everything in order to follow Him. And thus, St. Matthew came to be, a faithful disciple of the Lord and a great evangeliser by words and by his writings.

The story of St. Matthew is truly an inspiration and hope for each and every one of us, a kind reminder from the Lord that there is no one beyond the reach of God’s mercy and love, and there is no sin great enough that cannot be forgiven by God. When someone is condemned for his or her sins, that is because that person has consciously rejected God’s love and mercy, and chose to remain in sin rather than to walk in the path of God’s Light.

At the time of Jesus’ life and ministry, the tax collectors were seen very negatively by many segments of the community, particularly by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. First of all, the tax collectors were seen as collaborators to the Romans who then had become the overlords of the lands of Judea, Galilee and other lands where the Jews lived in. They were even considered as traitors to the nation because they were deemed to have ‘sold off’ their fellow countrymen by their line of work.

But all these were mistaken perception and generalisation of all the tax collectors, who the Pharisees particularly despised, as the Pharisees looked highly on themselves as the pious guardians of the people’s faith and the Law, and to them, the tax collectors, prostitutes and also those who were unclean and possessed were the worst of the worst, sinful and unworthy of God’s love, and were to be shunned and rejected.

The Lord Jesus therefore did the unthinkable, and what the Pharisees and teachers of the Law must have been surprised with, as He spent time with those who had been mentioned earlier as the sinful and unclean, and in this case, even called one of those tax collectors to be His disciple and even become one of the Twelve Apostles. Some others like St. Mary Magdalene might have had dubious and less than ideal background as well, as in some traditions, she was once a prostitute who then repented and followed the Lord.

Levi, the tax collector whom the Lord called, chose to leave everything he had, his profession and income, his livelihood and others, and followed the Lord wholeheartedly from the moment when he was called. Levi also invited the Lord to have a dinner with him and his fellow tax collectors, and by doing so, in fact, he had done his first act of evangelisation, calling on all the other tax collectors, and introducing the Lord to them all.

The Pharisees were quick to strike at the Lord for His actions, how He approached and even had a meal at the house of those ‘unclean’ and sinful tax collectors. At that time, even going to the house of sinners could make one ‘unclean’, and for the Lord to go to the house of such sinner, was truly unprecedented. But as the Pharisees were busy criticising Him and His actions, the Lord immediately rebuked them and their elitist attitude, revealing to us all just how God loves every one of His children without discrimination.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters? It means that the Lord never wants to lose any one of us, and to Him, each and every one of us are equally important, from the greatest man to the humblest and lowliest in stature and in standing, all are equal before Him, equally beloved and equally shown mercy and forgiveness. Even the worst of sinners, should they repent sincerely with all their heart and with all of their strength, they will be forgiven all their sins.

This is why the saying by St. Augustine of Hippo is true, that ‘there is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.’ signifying how all of us, first of all are sinners before God, and every one of us have sinned and failed God by disobedience, but God’s generous mercy will rid us of those sins should we respond to His call for repentance, and that we commit ourselves to be forgiven from those sins. This is the future that was mentioned by St. Augustine, himself was a great sinner, who found God and was converted, and became a great servant of God and saint.

Levi experienced the same conversion, as did many other saints, and for Levi, later known as Matthew, he dedicated himself to the service of God, first of all for his efforts in compiling and writing down the accounts of the ministry of the Lord and His revelations of truth, in the Gospel named after himself, the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Through this Gospel, many countless souls throughout the history of the Church had discovered God, known about His love and mercy, and were converted to the faith.

And not just that, as St. Matthew also ministered among the Jewish people in Judea, preaching the Word of God and His Good News to them, as was also evident in how his Gospel were also written primarily being addressed to the Jewish people. This showed that St. Matthew had taken it upon himself to evangelise the truth about Christ among the Jews and to call more of the Lord’s first chosen people to follow Him into the fullness of truth in the Christian faith.

St. Matthew also evangelised in distant lands, preaching the Good News to many people, and it was told that he went to Ethiopia, who had by then began to receive the Christian faith and had growing communities of the faithful. St. Matthew, according to one tradition, was martyred after he rebuked the local king who lusted and desired for her own niece, while the latter had also dedicated herself to a holy virginity dedicated to God. It was told that St. Matthew was martyred while celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see how God’s power of love and forgiveness are so great and wonderful. Sinners He has called and transformed into great saints, those who have impacted the lives of many among the faithful. And this therefore gives us the hope that all of us shall also share in the same joy, as long as we are faithful and embrace God’s mercy, repenting sincerely from our past sins and waywardness.

Let us all therefore follow the examples of St. Matthew, St. Augustine and all the other holy men and women of God, transforming our lives into ones that bring glory to God, through our daily actions and deeds. Let us all turn towards God’s mercy and love, and seek to be forgiven from all of our unfaithfulness, our wickedness and waywardness, our sins and shortcomings that had prevented us from finding our way to the Lord all these while.

May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He guide us into His everlasting kingdom, and help us that we may grow ever stronger in faith, not to be swayed by greed and pride, and also showing the same concern and love that He has showed us, in how we interact with each other, with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. May St. Matthew also intercede for us and inspire us to be courageous witnesses of our faith in our respective communities, that more and more may come to believe in God, by witnessing our own dedication and authentic living of our faith. Amen.

Monday, 21 September 2020 : 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.”