Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scriptures, beginning with the vision of Ezekiel the prophet, who saw the glory of God and His Throne in heaven. He saw God enthroned in glory and all the Angels worshipping and adoring His majesty. This reading is chosen today, in tandem with the Gospel passage, to show us all that although we cannot see God directly now, but truly, He is the Lord and Master of all things, of the whole entire universe.

He is the One around Whom our lives should be revolving. He is the one true focus of our lives, and He should be at the very centre of our existence. But unfortunately, in our world today, as how it was during the time of the prophet Ezekiel and the time of our Lord’s coming, the Lord has often been forgotten and relegated to a less than important or prominent position in the hearts and minds of men.

At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, God has been so forgotten, after generations of people who refused to obey the Lord’s laws and commandments and who worshipped the pagan idols and heathen gods that they were scattered throughout the nations, carried into exile in the land of Babylon. The Temple of Jerusalem and the city were destroyed, and the kingdom of Israel and Judah were no more.

They were not able to commit themselves to the Covenant which God had made with their ancestors. They chose to find the easy way out, by looking for the idols of the people around them, which offered them worldly pleasures, prestige and all sorts of things they could not gain through the Lord, their God. Many of them wanted to be accepted by their pagan neighbours, and therefore, followed their customs and false beliefs.

At the time of the Lord Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were the ones entrusted to safeguard the Jewish customs and practices, that they zealously guarded against all sorts of perceived opposition or aberrations. To them, it was their interpretation of how the Law should be enacted and lived up to by the people that was right, and not any other versions or ways.

And they took great pride in this privileged position, to the point that they became boastful, arrogant and filled with ambition. This was what the Lord Jesus took issue with, as He rebuked them before the people, telling them not to follow their examples in how lived their faith lives. He rebuked them for their pride and their self-centredness, in wanting to be seen by others in their pious devotions and actions.

What is the problem here, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was the ego and pride that were in the hearts of man that were the problems. We were often so full of ourselves, thinking that we were the best, and we alone knew what was the best for us. Our selfish desires and wants for worldly comfort, happiness, pleasures, joys, all these temptations eventually overcome us, and fill us such that we are unable to realise how central is the Lord’s role in our lives and how insignificant our power and greatness are in the face of God’s own glory and power.

Now, the Lord Jesus Himself in the Gospel passage of this day told us of what we as Christians should do in order to prevent this from happening. First of all, as Christians we must be humble and not be proud. After all, everything that we are, our power, intellect, strength, material wealth and all else are in fact due to God’s grace and blessings. We would have nothing without God, and without Him, everything that we have, are meaningless.

For all the glory, the fame, the prestige, honour and wealth that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had gathered, all of them were merely fleeting and temporary. They were only gathering for themselves worldly treasures that could be easily destroyed at any time. And this came true when the Temple of Jerusalem itself, with the entire caste of the Pharisees and the elites of the Jewish society overthrown during a failed rebellion against the Romans just a few decades after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two holy man of God, saints whose life examples and actions can become inspiration for us to follow in how we live our own lives with faith. St. Louis was a famous King of France, as King Louis IX during the thirteenth century, who was remembered for his great reputation as a just and wise ruler, his commitment to the faith and the betterment of the Church, his participation in the Holy Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom.

Although he was a great king who possessed much power and amassed great prestige and honour from his many years as ruler of the great kingdom of France, with one of the mightiest and best-equipped armies of Christendom, but St. Louis remained humble and dedicated to the mission to which he was called as king, that is to serve his people with true dedication and love. He was remembered for his great acts of justice and chivalry, his care for the poor and the oppressed throughout his kingdom.

Essentially, St. Louis followed the examples set by Christ Himself, Our Lord and King. Even though Jesus was truly King above all kings and has all authority above all authority, but He remained humble in all things, and He showed it by example, serving even His disciples by washing their feet, a job which at that time customarily done by a slave. St. Louis showed the example of Christian leadership as first shown by the Lord Himself.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a Spanish priest and renowned educator, who was also the founder of the religious order known as the Piarists. He and his fellow religious was remembered for their loving care for the poor and the less fortunate, providing for their needs and giving free education for their children. He helped to establish the structures in place to provide care for these less fortunate among the community of the faithful.

The love which St. Joseph Calasanz and his fellow religious and his dedication to the less fortunate and the needy should be inspirations for us to follow, together with the faith and great commitment shown by St. Louis. Let us all therefore follow in their footsteps and turn towards the Lord, with great humility and desire to love Him more than anything else, even more than ourselves.

If we have been proud, arrogant or selfish, then perhaps it is indeed time for us to reorientate ourselves and become true Christians through which we can truly follow the Lord with all of our hearts. May the Lord continue to guide us all, as we grow in faith, in love for Him and for our brethren, and in our humility. Amen.

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