Wednesday, 23 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 1-6

At that time, Jesus called His Twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to drive out all evil spirits and to heal diseases. And He sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He instructed them, “Do not take anything for the journey, neither staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even take a spare tunic.”

“Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. And wherever they do not welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet : it will be as a testimony against them.”

So they set out, and went through the villages, proclaiming the Good News and healing people everywhere.

Monday, 21 September 2020 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the great Apostle, St. Matthew, who was one of the Twelve Apostles and also one of the four Evangelists or the writers of the Four Gospels. St. Matthew was originally known as Levi, one of the tax collectors who responded to the Lord’s call, left behind everything in order to follow Him. And thus, St. Matthew came to be, a faithful disciple of the Lord and a great evangeliser by words and by his writings.

The story of St. Matthew is truly an inspiration and hope for each and every one of us, a kind reminder from the Lord that there is no one beyond the reach of God’s mercy and love, and there is no sin great enough that cannot be forgiven by God. When someone is condemned for his or her sins, that is because that person has consciously rejected God’s love and mercy, and chose to remain in sin rather than to walk in the path of God’s Light.

At the time of Jesus’ life and ministry, the tax collectors were seen very negatively by many segments of the community, particularly by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. First of all, the tax collectors were seen as collaborators to the Romans who then had become the overlords of the lands of Judea, Galilee and other lands where the Jews lived in. They were even considered as traitors to the nation because they were deemed to have ‘sold off’ their fellow countrymen by their line of work.

But all these were mistaken perception and generalisation of all the tax collectors, who the Pharisees particularly despised, as the Pharisees looked highly on themselves as the pious guardians of the people’s faith and the Law, and to them, the tax collectors, prostitutes and also those who were unclean and possessed were the worst of the worst, sinful and unworthy of God’s love, and were to be shunned and rejected.

The Lord Jesus therefore did the unthinkable, and what the Pharisees and teachers of the Law must have been surprised with, as He spent time with those who had been mentioned earlier as the sinful and unclean, and in this case, even called one of those tax collectors to be His disciple and even become one of the Twelve Apostles. Some others like St. Mary Magdalene might have had dubious and less than ideal background as well, as in some traditions, she was once a prostitute who then repented and followed the Lord.

Levi, the tax collector whom the Lord called, chose to leave everything he had, his profession and income, his livelihood and others, and followed the Lord wholeheartedly from the moment when he was called. Levi also invited the Lord to have a dinner with him and his fellow tax collectors, and by doing so, in fact, he had done his first act of evangelisation, calling on all the other tax collectors, and introducing the Lord to them all.

The Pharisees were quick to strike at the Lord for His actions, how He approached and even had a meal at the house of those ‘unclean’ and sinful tax collectors. At that time, even going to the house of sinners could make one ‘unclean’, and for the Lord to go to the house of such sinner, was truly unprecedented. But as the Pharisees were busy criticising Him and His actions, the Lord immediately rebuked them and their elitist attitude, revealing to us all just how God loves every one of His children without discrimination.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters? It means that the Lord never wants to lose any one of us, and to Him, each and every one of us are equally important, from the greatest man to the humblest and lowliest in stature and in standing, all are equal before Him, equally beloved and equally shown mercy and forgiveness. Even the worst of sinners, should they repent sincerely with all their heart and with all of their strength, they will be forgiven all their sins.

This is why the saying by St. Augustine of Hippo is true, that ‘there is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.’ signifying how all of us, first of all are sinners before God, and every one of us have sinned and failed God by disobedience, but God’s generous mercy will rid us of those sins should we respond to His call for repentance, and that we commit ourselves to be forgiven from those sins. This is the future that was mentioned by St. Augustine, himself was a great sinner, who found God and was converted, and became a great servant of God and saint.

Levi experienced the same conversion, as did many other saints, and for Levi, later known as Matthew, he dedicated himself to the service of God, first of all for his efforts in compiling and writing down the accounts of the ministry of the Lord and His revelations of truth, in the Gospel named after himself, the Gospel according to St. Matthew. Through this Gospel, many countless souls throughout the history of the Church had discovered God, known about His love and mercy, and were converted to the faith.

And not just that, as St. Matthew also ministered among the Jewish people in Judea, preaching the Word of God and His Good News to them, as was also evident in how his Gospel were also written primarily being addressed to the Jewish people. This showed that St. Matthew had taken it upon himself to evangelise the truth about Christ among the Jews and to call more of the Lord’s first chosen people to follow Him into the fullness of truth in the Christian faith.

St. Matthew also evangelised in distant lands, preaching the Good News to many people, and it was told that he went to Ethiopia, who had by then began to receive the Christian faith and had growing communities of the faithful. St. Matthew, according to one tradition, was martyred after he rebuked the local king who lusted and desired for her own niece, while the latter had also dedicated herself to a holy virginity dedicated to God. It was told that St. Matthew was martyred while celebrating the Holy Mass on the Altar.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see how God’s power of love and forgiveness are so great and wonderful. Sinners He has called and transformed into great saints, those who have impacted the lives of many among the faithful. And this therefore gives us the hope that all of us shall also share in the same joy, as long as we are faithful and embrace God’s mercy, repenting sincerely from our past sins and waywardness.

Let us all therefore follow the examples of St. Matthew, St. Augustine and all the other holy men and women of God, transforming our lives into ones that bring glory to God, through our daily actions and deeds. Let us all turn towards God’s mercy and love, and seek to be forgiven from all of our unfaithfulness, our wickedness and waywardness, our sins and shortcomings that had prevented us from finding our way to the Lord all these while.

May the Lord help us and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He guide us into His everlasting kingdom, and help us that we may grow ever stronger in faith, not to be swayed by greed and pride, and also showing the same concern and love that He has showed us, in how we interact with each other, with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. May St. Matthew also intercede for us and inspire us to be courageous witnesses of our faith in our respective communities, that more and more may come to believe in God, by witnessing our own dedication and authentic living of our faith. Amen.

Monday, 21 September 2020 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Monday, 21 September 2020 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (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, 21 September 2020 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 4 : 1-7, 11-13

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.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Friday, 18 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 8 : 1-3

At that time, Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna; and others, who provided for them out of their own funds.

Monday, 24 August 2020 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, namely St. Bartholomew the Apostle, also associated and known as Nathanael in the Gospels, just as we heard in our Gospel today on the encounter and interaction between the Lord Jesus and Nathanael and how God called him and made him one of His disciples after persuading him to believe in the truth.

As ‘bar’ is the word used in the Aramaic language, the language spoken at the time of Jesus’ ministry, to denote the person being the ‘son of’, just as in Simon bar Jonah, or Simon son of John, thus, St. Bartholomew’s name might have been historically Nathanael bar Talmai or the ‘son of Ptolemy’, Ptolemy being the royal name for Greeks living in Egypt then, and which therefore could have pointed out Nathanael, or St. Bartholomew as the son of a Hellenised Jew, who might have taken many Greek influences including name from the Egyptian Greeks. Later on then, Nathanael would be better remembered by his surname, and therefore, as St. Bartholomew.

And as we heard how God called him into His service, following which, Nathanael, as St. Bartholomew, dedicated his life to God, we can see how unlike many of the other Apostles, St. Bartholomew as a possible member of the Hellenised Jew tend to be better educated and likely more literate than many of the Apostles as many of the people at that time were illiterate, unable to write or read.

St. Bartholomew showed great knowledge of the Scripture, as he even knew about the fact that the Scriptures did not say that the Messiah would come from the region of Galilee, but from the city of David, Bethlehem as prophesied through the prophets. This showed that St. Bartholomew likely had a significant knowledge of the Scriptures and likely had high intelligence as well. This is something that Judas Iscariot, the traitor, also shared with him.

However, unlike Judas Iscariot, St. Bartholomew trusted in God and followed Him wholeheartedly. Ever since the Lord revealed to him that He knew all about him, and knew where he was before he met Him, St. Bartholomew knew that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the One he had been looking for. He followed the Lord and although very little was mentioned of St. Bartholomew in the Scriptural records, he definitely took part in the important events of the early Church.

According to the Church history and tradition passed down from the Apostles, St. Bartholomew was attributed with the mission to India, preaching the faith along the coasts of what is today India, either together or separate from St. Thomas, who also preached in the same region and established the first Christian communities in that area. St. Bartholomew then would travel afterwards to the region of Armenia and continued to preach the faith there.

St. Bartholomew preached the Gospel and the truth of God in Armenia, together with St. Jude Thaddeus, and it was in Armenia that St. Bartholomew was martyred, after accounts that he managed to convert either a king or high noble of Armenia to the Christian faith, and after opposition from the pagans, St. Bartholomew was arrested, tortured, flayed alive and beheaded, enduring martyrdom for his faith in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen such courage and commitment that St. Bartholomew, as well as the other Apostles had shown in the face of persecution and trials, and they all courageously stood up for their faith even the midst of harm and threat to their own lives and safety. They showed us what true Christian faith, dedication and commitment are all about, and we should be inspired by their great examples, particularly that of St. Bartholomew the Apostle.

And in our first reading today, we heard the interesting passage from the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle, in which at the end of the Revelations that St. John received and recorded, he spoke of the vision of the great new city of God, coming down from Heaven, the New Jerusalem, full of God’s glory. St. John saw the New Jerusalem that will come at the end of time and after the Last Judgment, where all the faithful will live together with God, reigning gloriously in His kingdom.

And the Apostles were featured prominently in that vision, occupying thrones or seats of Judgment, as the Twelve principal servants of the Lord, as the sharers of God’s glory. For all the sufferings that the Apostles suffered, as everyone except for St. John died in martyrdom, suffering all sorts of most terrible tortures before their deaths, and for St. John’s case, he suffered a lifetime of persecution, arrest and imprisonment, exile and hard labour in his long life.

What we all can take from this passage is the hope that the Lord has given us, of the eternal life and glory to come, in His eternal kingdom. And although our lives may be difficult and we may encounter bitter repression and persecution as the Apostles like St. Bartholomew had suffered, but we must remain faithful, for in the end, God knows every single little actions we do for His sake and for His glory, and also for the good of our fellow brethren. When the time of reckoning comes, we will definitely not regret have given what we could to serve the Lord.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, and especially today we remember the glorious memory of St. Bartholomew, faithful and dedicated servant of God. Let us all reach out in faith to our fellow brethren, and let us show God’s love and truth via our actions in life. May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and strengthen us in our faith and resolve to live righteously in His presence. Amen.

Monday, 24 August 2020 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 1 : 45-51

At that time, Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets : He is Jesus, Son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked Him, “How do You know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.”

Nathanael answered, “Master, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Monday, 24 August 2020 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 10-11, 12-13ab, 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.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures from generation to generation.

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.

Monday, 24 August 2020 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 21 : 9b-14

And one of the seven Angels who were with the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues said to me, “Come, I am going to show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

He took me up, in a spiritual vision, to a very high mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven, from God. It shines with the glory of God, like a precious jewel, with the colour of crystal-clear jasper. Its wall, large and high, has twelve gates; stationed at them are twelve Angels.

Over the gates are written the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. Three gates face the east; three gates face the north; three gates face the south and three face the west. The city wall stands on twelve foundation stones, on which are written the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb.