Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles, that is St. James the Lesser, the brother of St. John the Evangelist, the beloved disciple of Christ, and one of the sons of Zebedee, whose mother’s pleading to Christ we heard in the Gospel Reading today. St. James the Lesser was also the first of Christ’s Apostles to be martyred and went to heavenly glory, leading the way for his fellow Apostles, in glorifying Christ and God through his death.
St. James and his brother, St. John were courageous and fearless defenders of the Gospel, and brave messengers of the message of salvation, that is brought by Christ unto this world. They became witnesses to the death and resurrection of Christ. He witnessed the Risen Lord who gave them the mission to spread the Good News to all mankind, to the ends of the earth, and to make disciples of all the nations, a mission which is still true even until today.
Just as St. James was captured, imprisoned, and eventually martyred by the actions of King Herod, the King of Judea at the time, he did not give up his faith, and neither did he slacken from the mission the Lord had entrusted him with, despite the relatively short time that he had in his mission, him being the first to be martyred and die among the Apostles of Christ.
But that reminds us all of the reality of following our Lord Jesus Christ, that as St. Paul mentioned in the first reading today taken from the Second Letter to the faithful in Colossus, that following the Lord is not an easy way, and there will be many persecutions awaiting the faithful, many trials and tribulations inflicted by those who hated the Lord and His people. The devil is at work, brothers and sisters in Christ, because he is ever busy undermining the work of Christ in this world, trying to snatch us away from His embrace, and bring us into the eternal darkness of hell.
However, let us not fear the devil and his devices, Satan with all his wicked tools of corruption, temptation, and blasphemy against the Lord. That is because Christ our Saviour had conquered, and He had shown His might to all creation, freeing mankind forever from their bondage to sin, and therefore to death and Satan himself. For Satan, the evil one, had been our jailor and our master, the slave master ever since our ancestors chose to follow and obey his words rather than the commandments of the Lord.
Christ had given up Himself as the sacrificial victim, offered to everyone without exception, so that out of the outpouring of His love and His blood from the cross, everyone will be washed clean from the taints of their sins, like the way how the saints and martyrs in the vision of St. John, the brother of St. James, washed their cloaks and robes clean and pure white in the Blood of the Lamb, in his vision written in the Book of Revelation, as a vision of the end times.
Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, while following Christ will be difficult, with opposition from many, and even persecutions and oppressions may accompany it, but the Lord will be with us, walking alongside us. He carries us whenever we are weak and downtrodden. He gives hope to us whenever our hearts are heavy and filled with despair. For He is our God, a loving God, and a Good Shepherd, who cares for His sheep so much, that He would give His life for their sake, that they may live.
Today, brothers and sisters, we are still called by the Lord, to be like His disciples, and to be like His Apostles, particularly like St. James whom we remember today, in our zeal for Him, in our love and dedication for Him, and most importantly, in our actions and words, that we always reflect Christ at all times in them. Never speak a word without contemplating Christ, and never lift up your hand before listening to the Lord’s will.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is important that we base ourselves on a good, strong, and vibrant prayer life, because prayer is the way for us to communicate with the Lord our God. Prayers are not supposed to be one-way request hotline for us to bombard the Lord with our needs and petitions, but it is rather a channel for us, to be able to listen to the Word of God speaking silently inside our hearts. Once our internal dispositions are good, based on a good faith and prayerful life, then we can embark on our mission of love, that is to make disciples of all the nations, by preaching the Good News of salvation, to the ends of the earth.
In his Epistle, that is the Epistle of James, St. James wrote especially about how faith without good works is the same as a dead faith. There can be no salvation without a living faith, that is faith made alive with good works based on the love of God. Therefore, it is important that we have a good prayer life and a heart dedicated to the Lord, and use this love in our heart, to do good for our neighbours, our brothers and sisters in need, that our faith is made alive, because we practice our faith, in following the Lord’s commands, that is to love one another just as we love ourselves.
The world today has ever greater need for missionaries and labourers of Christ, as more and more people are in need of God’s love and mercy. More and more people are turned away from the Lord because the world and its goodness have deceived them and led them away from the true path towards the Lord. Materialism and consumerism had made so many people paying less attention to the very God who had saved them from damnation, and they turned their backs on the Lamb who had shed His blood for their sake.
Be not afraid, and inspired by the zeal and example of St. James the Apostle, and the other Apostles and disciples of Christ, let us renew our effort to make a difference in our world, by bringing Christ into it, and fearlessly preaching the truths of the Gospel. We do not have to aim high nor go far, brothers and sisters, because we should indeed begin within our own families, within our own circle of friends, and within our own respective societies.
Have we as a family or within our friendships reflect Christ in all our words, deeds, and actions? Have we showed love in all the dealings we have with others. Do we bring life and love to others through what we have done to them? Have we brought peace to people who are in conflict and have we stood up for those who had been unjustly treated and persecuted?
All of us can do our own respective parts to play in our own respective communities, be it at home or outside, between our friends and our families. Let us all then resolve, and renew our commitment to the Lord, to be truly His disciples, not just in name, but also in our actions, and every words that leave our mouth. Let us bring light to all the nations, the Light of Christ, which reveals the way to the salvation of Christ.
Let us pray also for all the participants of the World Youth Day, which is now ongoing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that the youths of God will be new missionaries and new disciples of the Lord, committed to their mission, to bring the Good News to all, to comfort the sorrowful, to bless and heal the sick, and to love those who are unloved and rejected by the society.
St. James the Apostle, pray for us and intercede for our sake, all of us sinners and weak at heart, to the Lord our God, that He will strengthen us and give us His Spirit that we will all be courageous to glorify Him and to show Him to the world, a world that still lies in darkness, and badly in need of the Light of Christ. May God bless us all and give us all courage and faith. Amen.