Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the most wonderful love of God which He has shown us by sharing with us His blessings and graces, His kindness and providence by the sharing of food and sustenance for His people, as highlighted in our Scripture readings today. The Lord also wants to unite His people through the same breaking and sharing of the bread that is in essence, at the centre of our Christian faith.

In our first reading today we heard the account of the activity of the prophet Elisha from the Book of Kings during his ministry in the land of the northern kingdom of Israel. The prophet Elisha was followed by a large number of people, about a hundred in total, and a man they encountered brought them offering of bread from barley and wheat, about twenty loaves all in all. Those bread were nowhere near enough to sustain the whole multitude of people, and hence, the follower of the prophet asked him how he could get enough food to feed all of them.

The prophet reminded that follower and told him to do what he asked him to do, to give all the offered bread and food to everyone, and that God would provide for His beloved ones and they would not be lacking. True enough, everyone miraculously had enough to eat, and everyone had their fill just as the prophet had said, as God miraculously multiplied the bread for them all, and gave them all the share of bread and food to eat in the midst of their ministry and works.

This is a close parallel to what we know even better in the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the five thousand men and thousands of others in the Gospel as we heard earlier today. In that occasion, the Lord fed the whole multitudes of thousands assembled before Him, with even much fewer food, only five loaves of bread and two fishes offered by a young boy. The Apostles, especially St. Philip wondered how they were to go and obtain the food and sustenance to provide for all those people when the Lord asked them to provide the whole multitudes with food.

The Lord prayed and broke the loaves of bread, and also did the same with the fish, distributing them to the disciples who then gave the food to the assembled multitudes, all of whom received enough food and things to eat, had their fill, and still, twelve basket-full of leftovers were gathered. Everyone had enough and were happy, and the Lord showed to all of them, as well as to all of us again how wonderful God’s love and grace is, how He cared for each one of us. He did not send the people away, but fed them from the food which had been offered to Him, and provided for them in their hour of need.

How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is exactly how it is like at every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, at the Liturgy of the Eucharist. At the offertory, we bring the bread and the wine as offerings to the Lord, which the priests gathered and took, giving thanks to the Lord just in the same manner as the Lord Jesus having given thanks to His Father, and then gave the bread for all of us to partake and share. But even much more so than what had happened in the past, at the Eucharist, which the Lord Jesus Himself instituted at the Last Supper, He gave Himself, His own Precious Body and Blood to all.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, at the pinnacle of our faith, at its very core, is our belief in the Real Presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, that in miracle that surpasses any other miracles, not only that God feeds us and gave us all food to eat, but He Himself came down upon us, to be in our midst and to be with us. He has given us all Himself as the sustenance and food, to be partaken and shared among us that we truly become part of that One and united Body of Christ, the Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

The Church of God of which we are part of is united through this Communion, by the sharing of the Body and Blood of Christ, as we gather together to celebrate the Holy Mass and the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, God did not just provide for us in our physical needs, but even more importantly, He shared with us the spiritual nourishment, His true and Real Presence that comes to dwell within us, and we become the Temple of His Presence, as He dwells in us with the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in our path in life.

And as we therefore reflect on all these words of the Scripture we received this Sunday, then we should spend some time to discern and reflect on our attitude in the Church as one united community in Christ. Unfortunately, in the past few years and decades, especially in recent years, there have been those who wanted to harm the unity of the Church, either by being exclusive and Pharisaical, extremist and hardline in their ideologies and way of thinking, or by disrespecting and disobeying the core tenets and teachings of the Church.

I refer to those fundamentals and extreme groups who sought to either change the Church teachings or to adapt activities and ways that are not in accordance with our faith or sacred tradition, as well as those who have taken in to the extremes ideas such as being against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council that had been legitimate and inspired by the Holy Spirit through the assembly and discussion of all the bishops and the assembled prelates of the Church.

All these things caused divisions within the Church, as it had happened previously in the long history of the Church. It set brothers against fellow brothers, families against others, and segments of the faithful against other segments, groups against groups. And because of this, we ended up losing sight on the true calling we have as Christians, to keep the unity among us and to live together with faith, celebrating and sharing together the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Unity in the Holy Mass.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall and reflect on the love which God has shown to all of us, His faithful and beloved people, let us all therefore strive to put aside our differences, and abandon our illogical and unhealthy ideologies, especially those based not on the truth of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church, but on the basis of human prejudices, ambition, and even selfishness and evil. Let us all put aside all the things that divide us, and instead, focus our attention on the Lord, our God.

Through Him we have received this new life, for He Who is the Bread of Life, has given us all new life, that we receive, partake and share not just mere bread alone, but in truth, we have received nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, that we who partake worthily of Him, become one Body and one Church, and through this unity and the sharing of this holy union with God, we are made whole once again, and receive the assurance of eternal glory and true joy in Him.

Let us all remember what St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Ephesians, part of which is our second reading today, that we all have to strive for unity of the Church, through the Holy Spirit, and nurture a spirit of charity and love, of generosity and kindness towards one another, that we share this blessing and grace of God we have received with each other, that we remind ourselves of the need to build a truly united and harmonious community of the faithful and Church, that we do not only love the Lord with all of our might and strength, but also our fellow brethren, as part of the same Body of Christ, the Church of God.

Let us all therefore grow ever more in our faith in the Lord, deepen our relationships with Him, and entrust ourselves to Him with ever greater commitment and devotion, with greater trust and desire to seek Him in each and every moments of our lives. May the Lord be with us all, and may He empower each and every one of us to live together as one united Church, one united community of the faithful. May God bless us all and our every good works and good endeavours. Amen.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

John 6 : 1-15

At that time, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted.

And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, with pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One Who is to come into the world.” Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ephesians 4 : 1-6

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.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 15-16, 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.

All creatures look to You to be fed in due season; with open hand, You satisfy the living, according to their needs.

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.

Sunday, 25 July 2021 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. James, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

2 Kings 4 : 42-44

A man came from Baal-shal-ishah bringing bread and wheat to the man of God. These were from the first part of the harvest, twenty loaves of barley and wheat. Elisha told him, “Give the loaves to these men that they may eat.”

His servant said to him, “How am I to divide these loaves among one hundred men?” Elisha insisted, “Give them to the men that they may eat, for YHVH says : ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” So the man set it before them; and they ate and had some left, as YHVH had said.

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.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : Feast of St. James, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Lord’s holy Apostles, namely St. James the Apostle, also known as St. James the Greater to distinguish him from St. James the Lesser, who was either referring to St. James son of Alpheus or St. James, one of the first leaders of the Church of Jerusalem and brother of the Lord. St. James the Apostle was the elder brother of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, both sons of Zebedee the fisherman.

St. James was called together with his younger brother when they were fishing at the lake of Galilee, likely near Capernaum where the Lord began His ministry after His baptism. Consequently, he was among the first of the Apostles to be called by the Lord, together with St. Peter and St. Andrew, who were also brothers and fishermen. He followed the Lord together with the others who were called and left everything behind, beginning a life of faithful service to God.

St. James was also considered to be among the closest ones to the Lord as showed throughout the Gospels that during many occasions in the ministry of the Lord, he together with St. Peter and St. John, his younger brother, were often by the side of the Lord, during His Transfiguration, during the time when He raised the dead daughter of an official, as well as during the last moments before His arrest during His agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

As such, it was not surprising that as we heard in our Gospel passage today, the mother of both St. James and St. John came up to the Lord and asked Him for special favours and positions of honour for her sons. At that time, as it is still today, to be able to sit at the left and right hand side of an important person is truly a great honour, one that is not easily earned or given, and usually is a sign of immense honour or relationship with the person being mentioned.

The other disciples were angry when they heard of this seemingly unfair power-grabbing effort from the two Apostles and their mother, but the Lord firmly revealed what it truly meant to be His followers and disciples, both to the mother of St. James and St. John, to the two Apostles themselves, and to the other disciples. To be a follower of Christ is not like being followers of the other lords, kings and leaders of this world, as the latter sought for power and influence, for fame and glory, and for other worldly pursuits.

The Lord Himself told St. James and St. John, that if they follow Him, then they must be ready to drink from the cup that He was to drink, and at that time, the two of them did not truly understand what the Lord meant by this expression. In truth, this cup is the cup of suffering that the Lord also spoke of again just before He was to be arrested and suffered the pain of crucifixion, the suffering of the rejection of the world, the persecution from those who refused to believe in Him, and the agony of enduring the burden of the sin of the whole world.

And the Lord said to the two Apostles, that indeed, they would share in the cup that He was to drink, and this was a brief but important revelation that to follow the Lord is not meant for the pursuit of fame, influence, worldly glory, power, wealth, and many other things we usually desire when we follow someone. Instead, to follow the Lord meant suffering, to be prepared to endure the sufferings that may come our way, and following the Lord may also mean difficulties and challenges may come our way as we carry out the will of God.

St. James himself was the one who experienced this firsthand at the earliest opportunity, for according to the Acts of the Apostles and also Church tradition, St. James was the first if not among the earliest ones of the Twelve Apostles to suffer martyrdom for the sake of the Lord. In the Acts of the Apostles, it was mentioned that king Herod Agrippa arrested St. James and put him to death in prison, before arresting St. Peter seeing that this action pleased the Pharisees and many among the Jews.

But before St. James was martyred, approximately a decade after the Lord’s death and resurrection, he had managed to do wonderful works for the Lord, and he was credited with the evangelisation of faraway lands, as far away as the Iberian peninsula, what is now parts of Portugal and Spain. St. James’ most famous shrine, the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, was where this Apostle once preached to the local pagans and sowed the seeds of faith among them.

And we see how this Apostle of the Lord had been transformed from a humble mere fisherman, and from a man of the world probably seeking favour and glory of the world, into a faithful and devoted servant of God, who did all that he could do to bring the Good News of God’s salvation, His truth and love to all the people, even in faraway lands, a work that is without worldly honour and glory, and not just that, but also filled with danger and difficulties, and he himself suffered martyrdom for this cause he truly believed in and devoted himself wholeheartedly in. His brother, St. John the Apostle, although was the only one of the Twelve not to be martyred, but he endured decades of trials and challenges, exiles and prisons, for his equally great dedication to the Lord.

What then, is the significance of this to us all, brothers and sisters in Christ? St. James reminds us that each and every one of us have also been called by the Lord to follow Him, and by what we have discussed earlier, following the Lord means for us to walk in His path and put Him at the centre of our lives, and not to seek worldly glory and power, or fame or influence, or pleasure and convenience for us. Instead, following God is indeed not about ourselves, but about how we can serve Him and obey His will through our every words, actions and deeds in life.

Are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of St. James the Apostle? Are we willing to follow him in his dedication to serve the Lord, to evangelise the people we h in life, not just through words, but more importantly, through our every actions and deeds? We need to devote our time and effort to be genuine Christians, not just in name but also in deed, and inspire many others to follow our example, that by our actions and examples, we may bring more and more people closer to God.

May the Lord be with us and guide us in our journey of faith that each and every one of us, that through the inspiration and intercession of St. James the Apostle, we may be stronger in faith and be more Christ-like and be more faithful in our every day living. Let us all be transformed from creatures of desire and greed, of ego and pride, into faithful and devout children of God, from now on. May the Lord bless us and our endeavours, our efforts and good works, now and forevermore. Amen.