Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture, which in essence is calling us to be sincere and true in our faith, that is not by putting a farce or falsehood in our devotion to God in our life. It is telling us that unless we are sincere in our devotion, by genuine actions that came from the heart, we cannot call ourselves as true Christians.
In the Gospel today, Jesus told the people to do their good deeds for the right intentions, that is to really serve the people of God, our fellow brethren, and therefore to glorify God and serve Him, and not our own personal desires and interests. He used the examples of prayers and fasting, which the Jewish people according to the laws of Moses were obliged to do, especially during certain times and periods in the year.
However, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who strictly enforced the application of the rules on prayers and fasting, they themselves did so not because they truly do them for the sake of God, but instead, it was to fulfil their own vanity, their own desire to be praised and adored for their piety and commitment to the laws of Moses. They showed their prayers and fasting in order to be looked favourably upon by other men and women.
That was why Jesus rebuked them and were angry at these people, who made their faith as if they were showpieces for their own personal benefits. He was angry because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were not doing what they preached, and yet, they burdened the people to obey the same rules to the suffering of the people. They misled the people by their actions, and were not showing true discipleship as those whom the Lord had entrusted with the leadership and guidance over His people.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, the same response of the Lord will be ours if we ourselves do not love Him, serve Him and be faithful to Him in a way that is much more than the way the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. That is, if we live our lives in this world, but we do not do what we believe, we do not act in the manner that we have preached and claimed to have faith in.
What are some of the examples, brethren? First of all, many of us Christians go to the Mass in the Church, not because we want to really be with the Lord and spend our time with Him. Rather, some of us wanted to outdo each other in piety, and showing our fellow friends or relatives just how devout we are, by our prayers and devotions. We turn our focus inwards upon ourselves, upon our ego and desires instead of what we need to focus on, that is our love and devotion for the Lord our God.
And then, we grumble and we put up grumpy faces when we fast, because we do not truly understand what it is that we fast for, or that as the Pharisees had done, we wanted to be praised for our piety. This is not what the Lord wants from us, brothers and sisters in Christ. What He wants from us is our sincere and genuine love, devotion and commitment, through our prayers and fasting, as well as through many other ways of how we can love Him, but which must be done with true desire from our hearts.
Let us all look at the examples of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, the holy saint whose feast we are commemorating today. St. Aloysius Gonzaga was born into a noble, rich and powerful family of the Gonzagas in the late Renaissance era Italy, a few hundred years ago. He was born as the firstborn of the noble family, a position of extreme honour, as the rule was that he was to inherit all the titles, prestige, wealth and properties that his father as an influential nobleman had possessed.
But as he grew up, even though he received numerous education and preparation of a typical nobleman of his era, St. Aloysius Gonzaga slowly grew to seek and long for the Lord, by all the experiences and the readings he had done, especially on the missionary activities of the Jesuits in the faraway lands. As his desire to serve the Lord grew, eventually, things came to the point when he openly declared his intention to become a Jesuit and thus, had to renounce all that he stood to inherit.
He encountered stiff opposition from his family, particularly from his father, who tried all he could to dissuade him and stop him from joining the religious order. Nevertheless, St. Aloysius Gonzaga remained firm in his commitment and was adamant in his desire to serve the Lord through what He had called him to be. In the end, he prevailed and he became a Jesuit.
He lived his life with devotion and commitment, serving the people of God through words and action, caring for the poor, the sick and the dying, even in the midst of a deadly plague which eventually took his life. St. Aloysius Gonzaga, his strong devotion and desire to love the Lord and to serve Him by serving His people, as well as his ability to resist the temptation of human glory, desire and all the other obstacles should be our inspiration in how we ourselves ought to live our lives.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all now therefore renew our commitment to live our lives full of faith, genuine faith to the Lord, just in the same manner as St. Aloysius Gonzaga and the many other holy saints and martyrs of God had done. May the Lord help us in our journey, so that we will be able to give our all to serve Him with all of our lives, with all of our might and all of our commitment. May the Lord bless us all. Amen.