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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 4 : 7-15

However, we carry this treasure in vessels of clay, so that this all-surpassing power may not be seen as ours, but as God’s. Trials of every sort come to us, but we are not discouraged. We are left without answer, but do not despair; persecuted but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed.

At any moment, we carry, in our person, the death of Jesus, so, that, the life of Jesus may also be manifested in us. For we, the living, are given up continually to death, for the sake of Jesus, so, that, the life of Jesus may appear in our mortal existence. And as death is at work in us, life comes to you.

We have received the same Spirit of faith referred to in Scripture, that says : I believed and so I spoke. We also believed, and so we speak. We know that He, Who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us, with Jesus, and bring us, with you, into His presence. Finally, everything is for your good, so that grace will come more abundantly upon you, and great will be the thanksgiving for the glory of God.

Friday, 3 May 2019 : Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of not just one Apostles of Our Lord Jesus, but two of the Twelve Apostles, namely that of St. Philip and St. James the Greater. It is the same St. Philip and St. James mentioned in the Scripture passages today, which reminded us of the calling to which those Apostles have been called to do, that is to become the bearers of God’s truth and salvation to the people.

St. Philip and St. James were among those whom God first called to be His followers and His disciples, to be the witnesses of all the things that He has done before them, and the truth which He has taught and revealed to all the people of God. They were called to be the pillars of His Church, which He founded on the Apostles, as the rock of faith of Peter and his fellow Apostles, who became important pillars of support of the then young and growing Church.

St. Philip was remembered for his missionary activity in Samaria, the lands north of Judea, where he preached to the Samaritans to whom the Lord has also taught, and it was recorded in the Acts of the Apostles that he encountered the official of the queen of the Ethiopians, and he convinced the official so well that the official asked to be baptised and brought the faith with him back to his homeland, thus marking the beginning of the Church in the then distant land of Ethiopia.

St. Philip also went to various other places, spreading the faith, performing miracles and calling on the people to become believers of God. He went to many parts of Syria, Asia Minor and also Greece, before he suffered martyrdom in the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis, where his tomb supposedly was today. St. Philip according to Apostolic tradition preached so well that he converted even the governor’s wife, enraging the governor, who ordered the saint and his fellow companions, including St. Bartholomew, another Apostle, to be tortured and crucified upside down.

Even then, St. Philip did not stop to testify the faith and preach from the cross, converting many of those who have heard him preaching even at the door of death. And although they wanted to release him, St. Philip insisted that he remained on the cross, and thus, he entered into heavenly glory as a martyr, and by whose dedication and commitment, many had been saved, and many more were inspired by his faith and examples.

Meanwhile, St. James went to various places, preaching the faith, and it was told that he went even as far as Hispania, in what is presently Spain and Portugal, preaching the faith and the truth of God, sowing the seeds of Christianity in those faraway lands, and when he returned to Jerusalem, he was among the first of the Apostles to be martyred, as recorded also in the Acts of the Apostles, how king Herod imprisoned St. James and beheaded him in order to please the Sanhedrin and the Jewish opponents of the Lord.

Both St. Philip and St. James had dedicated their whole lives in commitment to God, giving their whole lives in service to the Lord, fulfilling the mission which God has entrusted to them. But their works were not yet completed, and they merely laid the foundation and the beginning from which many Christians throughout the centuries have been called to follow in their footsteps, in serving God and in committing themselves faithfully to God’s commandments.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians today are called to be followers of Christ in the model established by the Apostles, and we remember especially the memory of St. Philip and St. James, whose dedication and faith have become inspiration to many of us, to follow the Lord and to serve Him as they have once done, in their courageous and tireless efforts to bring God’s truth and salvation to His people.

Let us all therefore do the same in our own respective lives, brothers and sisters in Christ that each and every one of us will continue to serve the Lord faithfully, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly from now on, loving God and loving our fellow men, and becoming the beacons of God’s light and truth among the people of this world, so that all of us who are Christians may lead even many more of others to the Lord, to His truth and salvation.

Holy Apostles, St. Philip and St. James, pray for us all, that each and every one of us may be courageous and may be moved by your examples, that we may make good use of the talents and abilities God has given us in being bearers of His truth, that many more will come to believe in God and in His salvation, with the same conviction and courage, love and dedication as both of you had once shown. Amen.

Friday, 3 May 2019 : 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.”

Friday, 3 May 2019 : 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.