Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scripture passages, beginning with the promise of salvation which God would show His people, Israel, as He prophesied through His servant Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and then, what we heard from St. Paul in his Epistle to the Jewish Christians, about the coming of Christ, Who is the High Priest of all the faithful, in Whom is found the salvation of the world.

In the Scripture readings today therefore, we heard about the the love and mercy which God has shown to us all, to His beloved people, a reminder of the constant gift which the Lord has given us despite all of our disobedience, rebelliousness and the refusals we have made against Him. The prophecy made through the prophet Jeremiah had to be understood in the context of what happened at the time, when the people at the kingdom of Judah was suffering and was in the brink of annihilation, having been subjugated by their enemies, principally the Babylonians.

It was a time when everything seemed to be hopeless, and the enemies of Israel were mounting and plotting against them. Yet, the people of God still rebelled against Him and did what was wicked in the sight of men and God alike. They worshipped pagan idols, committing adulterous and wicked actions in life, and refused to listen to the words of the prophets sent to them to remind them of God’s love and mercy, including that of prophet Jeremiah.

The prophet had to suffer persecution from all those who resisted God’s will and those who turned a deaf ear to the word of God. The king and his nobles, the people and many of the members of the community continued to sin against God, and even considered Jeremiah as the bearer of bad and wicked news, when he continued to prophecy about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, as well as its Temple because of the sins of Israel. But Jeremiah through today’s passage, showed us that God, despite of His anger against the sins committed by His people, He still loved them and wanted them to be reconciled with Him.

The second reading today, as mentioned, is taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews. Again in that occasion, the Lord spoke to His people through St. Paul, His Apostle, reminding them of the great love and mercy which He showed them, by the perfect gift of Jesus Christ, His Son, Who was appointed the One and True High Priest of all, above all other High Priests of the people of God since the time of Aaron. Christ is the ultimate sign and symbol of God’s love.

How is that so? First of all, as mentioned by St. Paul, the High Priest appointed by God ever since the day of Moses and Aaron is supposed to be the one through whom God exercised His mercy and forgiveness of the sins of the people, by the means of offerings of sin offering and love offering on the Altar of God. The animal offering was meant to be atonement for the sins of the people, and since the High Priest himself was also a sinner, then he was also offering the sin offering for himself.

But the Lord Jesus, the One True High Priest is blameless and without sin, as He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man, having in Himself the perfection of divinity and the perfection of humanity, having two natures of divine and human united in His person. He also offered not the imperfect offering of lambs and goats, their blood and fats, which although according to the Law, only physically blameless and good quality animals should be chosen, but they paled in comparison to the offering that the Lord Jesus made.

For in the Lord Jesus, the Lord our God showed the perfection and the perfect manifestation of His love and compassion for us, His beloved people, whom He loved despite our sins and rebelliousness, as the example from the Old Testament had shown us earlier. God was patient and filled with love for us, His people, that despite the sins which Israel had done in the past, He forgave them and still brought them to the Land which He promised them and their ancestors.

And He forgave them many times, when He brought them back from exile in Babylon, and continued to take care of them, sending them prophets and messengers, one after another, to remind them of the promise of the salvation He has given to them, and calling on them to remain faithful and true to the Law and the teachings which He has revealed to them. And in Jesus, the Lord’s faithfulness and promises were fulfilled completely.

How is that so? The Lord Jesus came and showed the Lord’s mercy, when He healed the sick and the people who were dying, those who were ostracised and shunned by the society, and calling them back to the right path towards God, healing them both from their physical afflictions and spiritual sickness, caused by sin and disobedience. One example was what we have just heard in the Gospel today, as the Lord healed the blind man who called on Him for help and for healing.

But even more so, the Lord Jesus did not come just to heal and to perform all those miracles as He had done before the people, but He showed His love for us, so great and so amazing, in a way that He Himself had said to His disciples, that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down his life for his friend. He laid down His own life, by suffering on the Cross, that through that act, offering His own Flesh and Blood, to be the perfect offering for our sins.

Through that act of ultimate sacrifice and selfless love on the Cross, the Lord showed us all, that He is truly a loving and merciful God, Who was willing to endure such pain, such suffering, such tribulation and difficulty, just so that, by His death, we may be spared our fate of eternal death, because of our sins. Instead, by sharing in His death and united through His resurrection from the dead, we are freed from that terrible fate, and receive a new hope of a new life in God.

Today, all of us ought to spend some time to reflect on this reality, the love of God which He has shown so generously towards each and every one of us, that He willingly took up upon Himself our sins, and to bear them patiently, that as our True and Eternal High Priest, His prayers for our supplication and for the atonement of our sins are heard by God, His heavenly Father. Through the obedience of Christ, our High Priest and the New Adam, all of us who believe in Him are saved.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we also celebrate the feast of two of Christ’s Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude, both of whom dedicated their lives after they accepted the calling to be an Apostle of the Lord, and they worked hard in evangelising and preaching in faraway lands, speaking the truth about God and His love, His sacrificial gift to all mankind, and the call to repentance, that all the children of God may be reconciled to their loving and merciful God.

St. Simon and St. Jude went to various places, spreading the word of God, suffering persecutions and troubles from those who refused to believe in the truth they brought with them. But they placed their trust in the Lord, and they were encouraged and empowered by the knowledge of the love which God had generously given to them and to all mankind. Truly, if God Himself had suffered for the sake of all men, then what was their suffering compared to God’s suffering?

Although St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord died in martyrdom against those who refused to believe in the Lord, but this inspired only even more people who wanted to follow the Lord through their courageous examples. Now, we are therefore also called to emulate their examples, and to live faithfully in accordance with the will of God. Are we able to devote ourselves in the same way as they have done?

Let us remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that as Christians, we know how much God loves each and every one of us, and as a result, we should also love Him in the same manner. We can do so, by living a virtuous and courageous Christian life and distancing ourselves from sin. Let us all turn to God with a renewed faith and with a new love that comes from within us. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us in this journey of life. St. Simon and St. Jude, Holy Apostles of Our Lord, pray for us. Amen.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 46-52

At that time, Jesus and His disciples came to Jericho. As Jesus was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar, Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth passing by, he began to call out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!”

Many people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying, “Take heart! Get up, He is calling you!” He immediately threw aside his cloak, jumped up and went to Jesus.

Then Jesus asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said, “Master, let me see again!” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way, your faith has made you well.” And, immediately, he could see, and he followed Jesus along the road.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 5 : 1-6

Every High Priest is taken from among mortals and appointed to be their representative before God to offer gifts and sacrifices for sin. He is able to understand the ignorant and erring for he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he is bound to offer sacrifices for his sins as well as for the sins of the people.

Besides, one does not presume to take this dignity, but takes it only when called by God, as Aaron was. Nor did Christ become High Priest in taking upon Himself this dignity, but it was given to Him by the One Who says : You are My Son, I have begotten You today. And in another place : You are a Priest forever in the priestly order of Melchizedek.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

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.

Sunday, 28 October 2018 : Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude, Apostles (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 31 : 7-9

For YHVH says this, “Shout with joy for Jacob; rejoice for the greatest of nations. Proclaim your praise and say : ‘YHVH has saved His people, the remnant of Israel!’”

“Look, I will bring them back from the land of the north, gather them from the ends of the earth, the lame and the blind, mothers and women in labour – a great throng will return. They went away weeping, they will return in joy. I will lead them by the streams of water, on a level path so that no one will stumble, for I am Israel’s Father and Ephraim is My firstborn.”

Friday, 28 October 2016 : 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 with great joy the feast of not just one, but two of the Lord’s very own Twelve Apostles, St. Simon and St. Jude. St. Simon the Apostle was once known as Simon the Zealot, likely from his former work and contributions to the Zealots, a community of people who led an active and passive resistance against the Romans. Meanwhile, St. Jude Thaddeus was a disciple often confused with Judas Iscariot, the traitor, and yet, he had done many wonderful deeds for the Lord and for His people.

In the Scripture readings today, we heard how God called His Apostles from among the people, chose them and charged them to assist Him in His works and missions to help the people of God, to whom Christ had laboured for in His earthly ministry in order to bring them towards salvation. He sent them to help Him in spreading the good works He has intended for His people, and to call them to repentance and to change their ways that they may be saved.

But it was not an easy task, and Jesus our Lord Himself reminded His disciples and Apostles in particular, that challenges facing them would be plenty. They would be tempted to abandon their efforts, just as what the Passion of our Lord showed us. When Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, who was none other than one among His Twelve Apostles, tempted by money, all the other Apostles and disciples abandoned Him and went into hiding, fearing repercussions from the enemies of their Lord.

And when the Pharisees, the elders and the chief priests commenced persecution of all the faithful, spearheaded by Saul, the future St. Paul the Apostle, some among the faithful faltered in their faith and devotion to the Lord, and faced with the choice between suffering and staying faithful to their God, or to enjoy reprieve and safety in the world and abandoning their God, there were those who chose to do the latter.

These are the challenges facing us Christians, not only just during that time, when the Church was still growing and blooming in its early days, but also throughout the history of Christendom right up to now, to this very day, and also in the foreseeable future that we have and which we will experience. It is the challenge for us to remain faithful to the Lord despite the persecutions and challenges, ridicule and rejection that the world has inflicted upon us.

Are we up to the task? And do we indeed realise that as our Lord’s disciples and followers in this modern era and times, there are still a lot of things left to be done in this world? We are the successors of the works of the Apostles and the Church fathers, who had established the Church on the firm foundation of their faith and courageous devotion. We have to follow in their footsteps and be faithful in all of our ways.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it was told that St. Simon and St. Jude Thaddeus went to many different places, serving the people in various locations and relating to them the revelation of truth which came from God. Through their works and assistance, many had come to believe in God, and many more have repented from their sins and received the salvation from God.

They were not always welcomed, and there were those who were opposed to their works, both among their own people and among the pagan nations. But they never gave up, and through their persistence, the foundations of the Church in many places had been made strong and firm. They have led by example in their faith, encouraging many to remain strong in the faith.

And eventually, even though they met their ends in the faraway lands, St. Simon in Armenia or Persia, where he might have been crucified or sawn in half, and St. Jude Thaddeus in Syria, where it was told that he was beheaded with an axe, and some accounts had his martyrdom together with St. Simon, which was why their feast days are celebrated together.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we then follow the examples of these holy and venerable saints? Shall we follow in their footsteps as well? There are many things that we can learn from them, and perhaps we really should do so. We are called to continue the good works of the Apostles, and be courageous in spreading the message of the Good News of the Gospel, not worrying and fearing challenges that will come our way.

May the Lord help us in our endeavours and good works in serving Him, and may He ever bless us all always with abundant blessings, and bring us all ever closer to His everlasting love and mercy. Amen.

Friday, 28 October 2016 : 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.