Thursday, 18 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 22 : 1-14

At that time, Jesus continued speaking to the people in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again, He sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see the wedding guests, and he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding clothes?'”

“But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Thursday, 18 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Thursday, 18 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 36 : 23-28

I will make known the holiness of My great Name, profaned among the nations because of you; and they will know that I am YHVH, when I show them My holiness among you. For I will gather you from all the nations and bring you back to your own land. Then I shall pour pure water over you and you shall be made clean – cleansed from the defilement of all your idols.

I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put My Spirit within you and move you to follow My decrees and keep My laws. You will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you shall be My people and I will be your God.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us regarding the matter of our responsibility as Christians, to do the will of God and to follow Him, and to respond to the call which He had made to each one of us, in our various vocations and calling in life. To all of us God has given the gifts and opportunities, the responsibilities and the abilities to do His will, whenever and wherever He requires of us. However, just as we heard in our readings today, we have not always been obedient or committed to our calling.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard the Lord rebuking the leaders and elders of His people, the so-called shepherds of Israel, who have not followed their duties and obligations as they should have. The Lord rebuked those people because they had neglected their duties, as they sought to gain advantage for themselves, fattening and enriching themselves from their manipulation of others, from their extortions, the abuse and misuse of their authority and power. As such the Lord harshly rebuked those people who had not obeyed His will and misled the people down the wrong path.

Thus were the actions of the leaders, the kings and the nobles and all those false prophets and priests of Baal, the priests serving the pagan idols, all those who brought the people down the wrong path, as they sought worldly power and glory, and they gained what they wanted at the expense of their souls. They faced their consequences and judgment, and as the Lord said, they were removed from their positions and they would not corrupt the people of God again. The old kingdoms of Israel and Judah were no more and the Lord had wrested back control over His people from those irresponsible leaders.

He called on all the people to follow Him once again, and embrace His love and mercy. God has always looked kindly upon them and wanted to forgive them and bring them back into His presence. However, time and again, it was often the people themselves who were stubborn and resistant to the Lord’s efforts in reaching out to them. They hardened their hearts and minds against the Lord and as a result, they kept on distancing themselves away from God and they kept on delaying and dragging their feet in the journey towards the Lord. As long as their hearts and minds were not set on the Lord, they would remain far away from Him and they would likely remain lost from Him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord speaking to His disciples regarding the parable of the workers, in which a vineyard owner went out to seek for workers, calling and gathering all whom he could find along the way, and making them to work in his vineyard. Some responded to his calls early while others only responded right up to the last hour. In the end, all of them received the same pay and remuneration, as part of what they had agreed with the vineyard owner as part of their work. It was then that those who were called early then were unhappy because they had responded early to the call and therefore expected better pay than those who joined the work last.

This parable in fact highlighted the nature of the Lord’s calling upon each one of us. As God has patiently reached out to us and calling us throughout, we have been given many opportunities to return to Him. However, unfortunately, many of us delayed in answering Him and waited and waited before finally responding to Him. Nonetheless, as we heard the vineyard master doing, the Lord has always been patient in reaching out to us and seeking us to return to Him, and once we have embraced Him, His salvation and accepted Him wholeheartedly as our Lord and Saviour, the reward mentioned in the parable refers to the gift of eternal life and true joy with God.

Then, we also must heed the way that those who had started work earlier and endeavour not to behave the way they did. This refers to some of our attitudes as Christians in being elitist and self-righteous, thinking that we are better and more deserving of God’s grace than others simply because we have answered His call earlier, or that we have mostly kept His Law and commandments throughout our lives, and therefore we tend to look down on those whom we deem to be less worthy than we are, or think that they are more sinful, wicked and less deserving of God’s grace and love than us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is the same prideful and arrogant attitudes which those shepherds rebuked by the Lord, the leaders and elders of the Israelites who had misled the people of God, had in the past. It was their pride, ego and arrogance that had led them to be selfish and wicked, often perhaps without them even realising that. Unfortunately, that led to people being misguided or being turned away further from the Lord. Now, each one of us as Christians have the same calling and obligation to be shepherds and guides for one another, to be inspiration and role model in faith and life for our fellow brothers and sisters.

That means, each and every one of us should be warm and welcoming in our attitudes, in our interactions and approach to one another. All of us should nurture a loving and vibrant Christian community in our homes, in our society and elsewhere, and do our very best to live our lives in accordance to the path that the Lord had shown us. Otherwise, if our lives do not reflect our faith and our actions scandalises that faith and the Lord’s Holy Name, then in the end, the same rebuke and judgment of the Lord, the same consequences that the false shepherds of Israel had suffered, will be directed to us as well.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us all, and may He empower us to live ever more worthily in His presence, so that we may be good role models and examples for one another, at all times. Amen.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 20 : 1-16a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A landowner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard.”

“He went out again, at about nine in the morning, and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, ‘You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went. The owner went out at midday, and, again, at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer.”

“Again he went out, at the last working hour – the eleventh – and he saw others standing around. So he said to them, ‘Why do you stand idle the whole day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ The master said, ‘Go, and work in my vineyard.'”

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came up, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner.”

“They said, ‘These last, hardly worked an hour; yet, you have treated them the same as us, who have endured the heavy work of the day and the heat.’ The owner said to one of them, ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Do I not have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind?'”

“So will it be : the last will be first.”

Wednesday, 17 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Wednesday, 17 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Ezekiel 34 : 1-11

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, speak on My behalf against the shepherds of Israel! Say to the shepherds on My behalf : Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? But you feed on milk and are clothed in wool, and you slaughter the fattest sheep. You have not taken care of the flock; you have not strengthened the weak, cared for the sick or bandaged the injured.”

“You have not gone after the sheep that strayed or searched for the one that was lost. Instead, you ruled them harshly and were their oppressors. They have scattered, for want of a shepherd, and became prey of wild animals. My sheep wander over the mountains and high hills; and when they are scattered throughout the land, no one bothers about them or looks for them.”

“Hear then, shepherds, what YHVH says : As I live – word of YHVH, – because My sheep have been the prey of wild animals and become their food for want of shepherds, because the shepherds have not cared for My sheep, because, you, shepherds have not bothered about them, but fed yourselves, and not the flocks, because of that, hear the word of YHVH.”

“This is what YHVH says : I will ask an account of the shepherds and reclaim My sheep from them. No longer shall they tend My flock; nor shall there be shepherds who feed themselves. I shall save the flock from their mouths; and no longer shall it be food for them.”

“Indeed YHVH says this : I, Myself, will care for My sheep and watch over them.”

Tuesday, 16 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we heard about the sin of pride and all the things that had often prevented man from finding their way back towards God. The Lord is actually warning and reminding us not to give in to the temptations of pride that can lead us down the path of ruin. We have to resist the things that may often come between us and God’s love and grace, our many weaknesses and vulnerabilities, particularly that which involved our ego and pride, which is the same mistake that had misled Satan down the path to destruction.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel telling us of God’s proclamation regarding the Prince of Tyre. Contextually, we must understand that Tyre back then was a great city, founded and belonging to the Phoenicians, a race of people who specialised in trade and commerce in the times past, establishing numerous colonies throughout the Mediterranean in ancient times. The city of Tyre therefore became fabulously wealthy and despite the presence of much more powerful neighbours, the city and people of Tyre were often able to have their way and maintain their relative freedom due to their immense economic capacity.

That was why the kings and rulers of Tyre could act with relative impunity, doing whatever they wanted, proudly boasting their influence and power, even when they were militarily inferior compared to the superpowers like the Assyrians and the Babylonians back then. The Lord warned them and all of His people of the danger of pride, ego and hubris, all of which can become our undoing if we leave them unchecked or if we even indulge in them. And the Lord’s proclamations and predictions eventually came true when the city of Tyre eventually, a few centuries later, was razed and destroyed by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, as attested by historical evidences.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the parable that the Lord Jesus spoke, the well-known story of the camel that passes through the eye of the needle, which the Lord said would be easier to happen rather than for one who is rich and proud, mighty and haughty to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This was a comparison and a point that the Lord made in order to let His disciples and followers know that, just as it would be impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then it would have been even less likely for a man filled with pride and ego to enter into the kingdom of God and into the Holy Presence of God.

That was exactly how Satan fell too, swayed by the pride that made him to rebel against God, and that same temptations were made and presented by Satan to our ancestors as well, and many people, from generation to generation, had fallen into these same temptations. That is why many people found it difficult to come to the presence of God because they have allowed pride, ego and arrogance to keep themselves from realising that they were sinners and were in need of God’s healing and forgiveness, and instead, they kept on living their lives in delusion thinking that they were doing the right things, and spent most of their lives and efforts in pursuing their own selfish desires and wants.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first King of Hungary. He accepted the Lord as his Saviour and was crucial in establishing Christianity as the sole faith of his kingdom and dominion, advancing the cause of the Lord and His Church. But at the same time, St. Stephen of Hungary was also remembered as a great and dedicated king who spent a lot of time and effort to care for the good and the well-being of his subjects. He devoted much to unite his kingdom and to provide for them, with many efforts and projects to improve their livelihood.

St. Stephen was well-remembered and respected because he was truly a great king who did not allow hubris, ambition and pride to come in between him and his dedication to God. He was humble and committed to the calling which the Lord had given him, and the Lord blessed Him and His people, and he and his kingdom were made secure. He did not crave for power or worldly glory, or boast of his power and greatness, but instead did his best for the genuine improvement and well-being of all those whom the Lord had entrusted to be under his care.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore do whatever we can to resist the temptations of worldly glory, pleasures and other material goods that can mislead us down the wrong path, and let us also make the effort to resist those temptations, and distance ourselves from pride and ego, learning instead to be humble and to be willing to listen to the Lord. Let us all be open to welcome Him into our midst and do whatever we can to follow Him to the best of our abilities, following in the examples of the holy saints, especially that of St. Stephen of Hungary whom we have just discussed earlier on.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us with the courage and the desire to follow Him and to serve Him at all times. May He help us to resist the temptations and pressures of pride and ego, so that we may always grow ever more faithful to Him, and be ever closer to Him, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 19 : 23-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you : it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe Me : it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On hearing this, the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see, we have given up everything to follow You. What, then, will there be for us?”

Jesus answered, “You, who have followed Me, listen to My words : on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on His throne in glory, you, also, will sit, on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for My Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first, will be last, and many who are now last, will be first.”

Tuesday, 16 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Deuteronomy 32 : 26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-36ab

I said I would scatter them afar and blot out their memory among humankind, but I feared the enemy’s boasting, lest the adversary misunderstand.

And say : ‘We have triumphed, the Lord has not brought this about.’ They are a senseless and undiscerning nation. Had they wisdom, they would have known.

For how could one or two men put to flight a thousand or ten thousand, unless their Rock had abandoned them, unless their Lord had given them up?

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.