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.

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.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : 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.”

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : 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.

Saturday, 25 July 2020 : 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.

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.