Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we listened to the word of God speaking to us about the importance for us to stay true to our faith in the Lord, no matter what distractions or temptations that may come in our way. We should not be easily swayed by worldly desires and concerns, that we end up being corrupted by our greed and desires, by our ego and pride, and therefore end up falling into sin.

In the first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Thessalonica in Greece stated to them that they must not easily be alarmed or be discouraged by what some people might be hearing, especially if these ran contrary to the Gospel and the truth that the Apostles had brought into their midst. He reminded them to be strong and to remain true to the faith which they have received from the hands of the Apostles.

This would come to be important as in time to come, there were many heresies and false teachings that came among the people of God, which brought down many of the faithful, and including even priests and bishops who came to believe in all those falsehoods and wrong teachings. Heresies and syncretic teachings such as Arianism, Gnosticism, Monophysitism, Manichaeanism, and many others, including more recent examples, have caused many souls to be lost to the Lord.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in His series of condemnations for those who were entrusted with the care and guidance over the people of God. They were supposed to show care and concern for the fate of the Israelites, but they have failed to fulfil their obligation and supposed duty. Instead, they abused their power and influence for their own uses and selfish purposes.

They imposed harsh rules and regulations on the people, expecting them to follow their standard and practices of the Law, but they did all these, in order to be praised more by the people, to be respected and even feared, as the only authority that was available in teaching the people. Even though their interpretation of the Law and God’s commandments were wrong and misguided, but they refused to listen to the Lord Who came to right the wrongs they have committed.

Faced with such great challenges and difficulties, the Church and many of the faithful people of God struggled. Many people fell, and even from within the hierarchy of the Church itself fell into the heresies and became spreaders of the lies and terrible falsehoods instead. And yet, while many have fallen, but equally many have recovered from the fall and returned to the true faith in God.

And today we celebrate the feast of one great and renowned saint, whose life was the perfect example of that experience of falling into sin and to the lies of the devil, and returning back to the faith with a repentance and conversion of heart. St. Augustine of Hippo, also known as St. Augustine the Great is one of the most well-known and respected saints of Christendom, considered as one of the four original Doctors of the Church.

But early in his life, St. Augustine lived a life of debauchery, immorality and sin. He was not a Christian unlike his mother, St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated just yesterday. St. Monica prayed hard for the conversion of her son, who lived in a state of great sin and committing adultery, even to the point of having a son out of wedlock. But St. Monica did not give up on her son, and continued to pray for him, knowing that God would also never abandon His people.

St. Augustine turned to Manichaeanism following the examples of his peers and through the enticing nature of its worldly teachings. But in the end, he did not find true satisfaction and joy in the false ways of the Manichaeans, and through the works of St. Ambrose of Milan, another one of the four great Doctors of the Church and by St. Monica’s intercession, St. Augustine eventually repented his sinful ways and turned to the Lord.

It was through this long journey of repentance and faith, that many of the faithful living throughout the ages, even until this very day, benefitted through the many great works of St. Augustine of Hippo, who after turning away from his past, sinful ways, turned to be a great champion and protector of the true Christian faith or orthodoxy. He wrote extensively and preached in many occasions, inspiring many future generations of Christian leaders and teachers to continue keeping the fullness of truth as preserved in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, all of us are called to follow in their footsteps, in the courage of the saints and all of our predecessors. Let us all remain true to the fullness of truth of God, found in the Church alone, that by its sacred traditions and the preservation of the rightful interpretation of the Holy Scriptures through the Holy Spirit, by the teachings of St. Augustine and the many other holy and committed teachers of the truth, we may remain ever faithful and remain true in our dedication to the Lord, despite all the challenge we may encounter in life.

May the Lord be with us always, that each and every one of us will find the courage like that shown St. Augustine, to acknowledge just how sinful we have been, and how we are in need of God’s healing and mercy. Let us all turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and live a renewed existence in faith. May God bless us all and our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 23-26

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the Law : justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.”

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Thessalonians 2 : 1-3a, 14-17

Brothers and sisters, let us speak about the coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, and our gathering to meet Him. Do not be easily unsettled. Do not be alarmed by what a prophet says, or by any report, or by some letter said to be ours, saying, the day of the Lord is at hand. Do not let yourselves be deceived, in any way.

To this end He called you, through the Gospel we preach, for He willed you, to share the glory of Christ Jesus, Our Lord. Because of that, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions that we taught you, by word or by letter. May Christ Jesus, Our Lord, Who has loved us, may God Our Father, Who, in His mercy, gives us everlasting comfort and true hope, strengthen you.

May He encourage your hearts and make you steadfast in every good work and word.

Monday, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture through which we are reminded that God is truly amazing in all of the plans that He has for each and every one of us. And it is only by listening to Him and obeying His will that we will find true satisfaction, joy and comfort in life. For all that the world can offer us, there is nothing that can truly satisfy us except God alone.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Thessalonica, St. Paul thanked God for all the faith which the people had shown in Him despite all the persecutions, difficulties and challenges they encountered in life. It was indeed a difficult time to live as Christians, as the early Christians were shunned and opposed by the Jews, and were looked with disdain and suspicion by the Greeks and the Romans alike.

But St. Paul encouraged them all that God would work wonders through them and He would strengthen them and make them worthy to be His disciples and followers. And the time would come when He would glorify the faithful for the obedience which they had shown in many occasions. This is a reminder that God never abandoned His people, and that He still loves each and every one of us, and desires that all of us can be reconciled with Him.

This is when the Lord Jesus came in through the action that He highlighted in today’s Gospel passage. He harshly rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their self-serving, selfish and self-centred attitude in dealing with their faith as well as in how they exercised the authority entrusted to them over the people of God. He rebuked them for their lack of true and genuine faith, as their faith expressions were merely, for most, a self-serving attitude.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law essentially have given in to the temptations of the world. They gave in to their pride, when they refused to believe in the truth and the Good News that the Lord Jesus had brought before them and the people. And their desire for power, for recognition, fame and status within the society was likely the reason for their constant and stubborn refusal to believe in God’s truth, despite all that they have seen and witnessed.

The Lord essentially told us all, that to be Christians, we must be prepared to face rejection, suffering, challenges, difficulties and trials along our journey of faith. But God also assured us, that He will never abandon us. If He has not abandoned even sinners and all those who have disobeyed Him, then all the more He will not abandon us all, who kept our faith in Him. God always loves us all, and to those who have fallen into sin, He always gives a second chance.

Today, it happens that appropriately, we also celebrate the feast of St. Monica, known especially because she was the mother of another great saint, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the four original Doctors of the Church. St. Monica was remembered as a loving mother and a devout and prayerful Christian, whose attention in life could not be anything less than the fate of her own son’s soul.

This came about at the time when St. Augustine, St. Monica’s son, was still young. Although St. Monica was a Christian, but her husband and her son were not. And living in a world filled with hedonistic pursuits and worldly pleasures, it was inevitable that St. Augustine fell into those temptations and lived in a state of great sin. But St. Monica did not give up on her son, as well as her husband.

She prayed and prayed, day after day, for their conversion and desire to embrace the Christian faith. Eventually, her unceasing prayers and efforts bore fruits, as first, her husband had a change of heart and confessed the Christian faith, and then her son also had a change of heart and became a Christian as well. That was how St. Augustine eventually became a great saint in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by what St. Monica had shown, in her dedication and never-giving up attitude towards her son, St. Augustine. Let us all also show the same love, care and concern towards our brethren, especially all those who have fallen into the traps of sin along their journey towards God. Let us help each other in our way towards God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 13-22

At that time, Jesus said to the people and to His disciples, “But woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You, yourselves, do not enter it, nor do you allow others to do so.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray long prayers! Therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to make a single convert; yet, once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves!”

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say : To swear by the temple is not binding; but, to swear by the gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of more worth : the gold in the temple, or the temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say : To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value : the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred?”

“Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the temple, is swearing by the temple, and by God, Who dwells in the temple. Whoever swears by heaven, is swearing by the throne of God, and by Him, Who is seated on it.”

Monday, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 4-5

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name.

Proclaim His salvation, day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

How great is YHVH and worthy of praise! Above all gods, He is to be feared. For all other gods are worthless idols, but YHVH is the One Who made the heavens.