Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 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 words of the Scripture which continues to remind us of the dangers of having this faith in God and not understanding what our faith is truly about. In the Gospel passage, we heard therefore the continuation of yesterday’s rebuke made by the Lord Jesus against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had persistently opposed His good works among the people and misled the people with the way they observed and enforced the Law of God.

For the context, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often focused on the external appearances and external applications of rules, laws, customs and rituals pertaining to the customs of the people of Israel as handed down from Moses and through many generations, being modified and adjusted, and changed to the point that the laws and customs as how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law practiced them were no longer reflecting the true intention and purpose of the original and true Law of God.

They practiced the Law and observed the precepts and customs with the intention of being honoured and praised for their piety and devotion, and the Lord rebuked them for being superficial and shallow, because they focused on appearances and external applications of the Law, which means that they took on the literal meaning and understanding of the Law rather than the true spirit and meaning of the Law of God.

They focused on the wrong things and instead of leading the people to become ever closer to God and to turn away from their sinful ways and love God more, they ended up turning inwards into their own worst enemies, their own pride and ego, their ambitions and worldly desires, wanting to be glorified and honoured for their obedience to the Law and for their exemplary faith, and their faith became one for show rather than genuine faith.

This is what the Lord rebuked them for, to remind them and also all of us not to follow that same path towards sin, and deeper into sin still. Rather, He has called us to break away from these wrong paths and to resist the temptations of worldly glory, from the pull and allure of our ego and pride, from our greed and the desires of our body and the flesh, for worldly pleasure, for acclaim, fame and adulation, for honour and glory.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of one renowned servant of God, whose story and life together with that of her son can encourage us all to be more courageous in living our lives with faith. St. Monica is a Roman Christian woman who was married to a pagan, and together they had a son, named Augustine, later to be known as St. Augustine of Hippo. Tomorrow we shall celebrate the feast of this saint, the son of St. Monica.

The two saints were celebrated side by side during two days because through the dedication which St. Monica had for her son, it was what made her son turn away from the path of sin and into the glory of heaven as a saint. For St. Augustine once led a debauched and sinful life, following pagan gods of Manichaeism and even had an adulterous relationship with a woman, before eventually, through the ceaseless prayers made by St. Monica, his mother, not only that St. Augustine was converted, but even her husband also turned to the faith before he passed on.

St. Monica lived her whole life virtuously and she dedicated herself just to two, first and foremost to God, of course, and then to her son, St. Augustine of Hippo. She showed us all what it truly means to be faithful to God, to show love first and foremost to God and then to her fellow men. She was known as a charitable and generous person in life, and her examples should inspire us to do the same in our own lives.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives in the same manner as St. Monica has lived hers? Are we able to live our lives with genuine faith and not just for appearances or for formality as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done? We are challenged to rethink the way we have lived our lives thus far, and realign them with God’s way. He is showing us the way forward and we should trust Him to lead us on this journey of faith.

May the Lord through the intercession of His faithful servant, St. Monica help us all to turn away from our many temptations in life, and be more faithful to Him from now on. May He strengthen us all to live in faith more courageously, and be genuine in our love that in our every words, deeds and actions, we will glorify God and do everything out of love for Him and not for our own selfish gains and personal desires. May God bless us all and our every good works in His Name. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (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, 27 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 4-6

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is formed in my mouth, You know what it is all about, o YHVH. From front to back You hedge me round, shielding me with Your protecting hand. Your knowledge leaves me astounded, it is too high for me to reach.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 2 : 1-8

You well know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not in vain. We had been ill-treated and insulted in Philippi but, trusting in our God, we dared announce to you the message of God, and face fresh opposition. Our warnings did not conceal any error or impure motive, nor did we deceive anyone.

But, as God had entrusted His Gospel to us, as to faithful ministers, we were anxious to please God, Who sees the heart, rather than human beings. We know, nor did we try to earn money, as God knows. We did not try to make a name for ourselves among people, either with you, or anybody else, although we were messengers of Christ, and could have made our weight felt.

On the contrary, we were gentle with you, as a nursing mother, who feeds and cuddles her baby. And so great is our concern, that we are ready to give you, as well as the Gospel, even our very lives, for you have become very dear to us.

Monday, 26 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s Scripture readings, all of us are reminded of the need for us to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and not be like hypocrites in our faith and in how we live out our lives. When we are faithful to God, let our every actions, every words that come out from our mouth and our every deeds proclaim the greater glory of God, and are done with the pure intention of loving and serving God alone.

We are reminded in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord Jesus released His scathing rebuke of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom have often opposed Him and His many good works by their actions and their selfish attitudes, their pride and their stubbornness in refusing to believe in God despite the truth which He Himself had brought into this world and willingly revealed before all of His beloved people.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were highly respected and also feared within the community of the people of Judea and Galilee at that time, because they were the ones who were knowledgeable about the laws and customs of Moses and Israel, and they were also the intelligent ones, the privileged ones who were highly educated and influential within the society. Their actions and words carry a great deal of weight and influence, power and sway.

But the Lord pointed out how their actions and deeds were often not like their words. They spoke of being faithful to God on one hand, and yet, their actions, their public show of piety and devotion, in their very strict interpretation and observation of the laws and customs of the people of Israel were devoid of the love and true faith that one has to have for God. Instead, their actions and deeds were often self-serving and self-glorifying.

From what we have heard in the Lord’s words against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law we can see how those people did not truly have God at heart, but trying to make use of the opportunity and the situation to bring more benefit, advantage, power, fame and whatever it is that satisfy them to their own selves. They want great returns and in a sense, profit from what they have done, and they did not place God first and foremost in their minds and in their hearts.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what many of us as Christians have been doing all these while as well. If we spend some time to reflect carefully on our own lives, how many of us can confidently say that in our every actions, words and deeds in life, we have been truly faithful to God and did everything for His greater purpose and for His greater glory? Or have we rather followed our own desires and our own ambitions instead?

Let us all really spend some time to think about our every actions and all that we have done thus far. And let us all discern how we can move on and be more faithful to God in all the things we say and do. Let us all no longer be subservient to our desires and to the whims of our ego and pride. We need to take the concrete effort to put God first and foremost in our lives, and resist the temptations of worldly glory and the temptations of the flesh.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have been reminded in today’s Scripture passages not to follow the path of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, let us all pray to God our loving Father, that He will always continue to guide us through this journey of life, that each and every one of us will be ever more faithful and be more dedicated to Him, so that in our every words, actions and deeds we will always glorify God.

May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to be our Light, the One Who guides us all through to the right paths, despite the darkness and the many temptations present in this world. Amen.