Friday, 21 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us continue with the Scriptural discourse on the renewal of our lives by God, and the call which God has given to each and every one of us to be His followers. He has shown us that to be His disciples, we must all follow Him and obey His Law, and if we are faithful in doing so, then in the end, a new and glorious life with God will await us in the end.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard about the great vision of Ezekiel in which the prophet saw a great valley filled with immense amount of dry bones, symbol of death and destruction. And then God showed Ezekiel a great miracle, as those dry bones came together and were made whole again with muscles and sinews, with skin and came back to the human forms recognisable by man. And last of all, God gave those bodies the breath of His Spirit and the entire valley which was just earlier on filled with multitudes of dry bones, were then full of innumerable multitudes of the living.

Through this wonderful vision God wants to reveal to the prophet Ezekiel that through Him, all of us mankind are to receive new life and glory, free from death, which is the consequence of sin, and which in turn is the consequence of disobedience and unfaithfulness. The Lord therefore led His people into new life, new existence and new hope in Him, as He will forgive them all their sins, cleanse them from their faults and corruptions, returning them to the state of grace they were meant to be before the coming of sin.

However, if we are looking forward to this, then we must also be aware that we must follow God’s path, entrust ourselves to Him, obey His will and His commandments. And this means that we must listen to Him and fulfil His Law, as we heard in our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus answered a Pharisee who asked Him, “Which of the commandments of God is the greatest among them?”, and the Lord succinctly summarised the whole Law into two main and most important Law for us.

And that is first and foremost for us to love the Lord, our God with all of our might, with all of our capacities and capabilities, and with every possible opportunities. And then, we should also show the same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, that we love one another generously, show genuine concern and care for our fellow brethren, and we should reach out to those who need our love so that we help one another to grow ever stronger in love and devotion to God.

It is when we know of God’s love that we may also love Him, and this is why it is important that we practice genuine love in our own lives, in loving one another and showing God’s love in every moments of our lives. Today, we also have a great role model and example, whose faith may inspire us all to be more faithful and to love God with ever greater devotion. As we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pius X, also known as the Pope of the Holy Eucharist, let us remember his life and the many good and inspiring examples that he has set.

Pope St. Pius X was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto in Riese in northern Italy, in a large family of many children. His family was poor, but his parents valued education for their children, and thus, the young Giuseppe went to school each day, walking a long distance every day to reach his school. While his family were poor, but they were happy and faithful to God. The young Giuseppe studied Latin and eventually advanced further in his studies, and was ordained a priest and became the chaplain and parish priest of several parishes.

It was told how the future Pope St. Pius X helped to restore the dilapidated and poorly managed parish, causing many parishioners who had lapsed from the faith to return, thanks to his efforts and dedication in reaching out to those who were in need of guidance and those who who have been lost to the temptations of sin. He did his best to bring education to the poor and the marginalised, likely remembering his own hardships in attaining education in his early years.

He also spent a lot of time ministering and preaching the faith to the people with carefully crafted homilies and sermons, and spent a lot of time in catechising the young, which was told to be so popular that he had to begin evening classes in addition to his daytime classes as they were all fully filled up. For his energy and enthusiasm, his dedication and hard work, his Bishop appointed him as Chancellor and entrusted him with many important work in the diocese.

Eventually he was appointed and ordained as the Bishop of Mantua in northern Italy, in which capacity, he continued to minister passionately to the flock of the Lord placed under his care. He also remained a filial son to his parents, and after his father died, helped to take care of his aged mother, who managed to see her own son honoured and entrusted with the position of the Patriarch of Venice and also elevated to the Cardinalate by the Pope. When his elderly mother passed away, it was her son, Cardinal Sarto who presided over her Requiem.

Even as Cardinal, and later on as the Supreme Pontiff and Pope, Pope St. Pius X remained humble and ever dedicated to his work, in reaching out to the poor and the less fortunate, to the education of young children and to the spiritual growth of the Church and the faithful of all ages and backgrounds. And as Pope he was deeply loved and remembered for his many reforms, in his institution of liturgical reforms especially in the encouragement and expanded use of the Gregorian Chant as the primary sacred music of the Church.

Pope St. Pius X also lowered the age for the reception of Holy Communion that children can be taught to love God and brought closer to Him from the youngest possible age, with proper preparation and catechesis, which is why he is also widely known as the Pope of the Holy Eucharist. He also opposes the heresy of modernism, in attempting to change Church teachings to suit the changing world, and championed the return to the true faith and to restore all things in Christ as how his motto, ‘Instaurare Omnia in Christo’ shows us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope St. Pius X has shown us all how we should live our lives with faith, loving God first and foremost, and also loving our fellow brothers and sisters, our parents, our brethren, our family and relatives, our friends and even strangers, all those whom we encounter and interact with. Are we able and willing to live as genuine Christians from now on if we have yet to do so, following in the footsteps of Pope St. Pius X, holy man and servant of God?

Let us all trust our lives to the Lord, and allow God to bless our lives that each and every one of us may grow ever closer to Him and that we will grow ever more righteous and committed in faith, from now and always. Amen.

Friday, 21 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 22 : 34-40

At that time, when the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned Him to test Him, “Teacher, which commandment of the Law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole Law and prophets are founded on these two commandments.”

Friday, 21 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 106 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

Let the redeemed of YHVH say this, those He redeemed from the hand of the foe, those He gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south.

Some strayed in the wilderness and were lost, far away from the city. They wandered about hungry and thirsty, their lives ebbing away.

Then they cried to YHVH in anguish, and He rescued them from their distress. He led them by a straight way, to a city where they could dwell.

Let them thank YHVH for His love and wondrous deeds for humans. He quenches the thirst of the soul and satisfies the hunger of the heart.

Friday, 21 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 37 : 1-14

The hand of YHVH was upon me. He brought me out and led me in spirit to the middle of the valley which was full of bones. He made me walk to and fro among them and I could see there was a great number of them on the ground all along the valley and that they were very dry.

YHVH said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live again?” I said, “Lord YHVH, only You know that.” He then said, “Speak on My behalf concerning these bones; say to them : Dry bones, hear the word of YHVH! YHVH says : I am going to put spirit in you and make you live. I shall put sinews on you and make flesh grow on you; I shall cover you with skin and give you My Spirit, that you may live. And you will know that I am YHVH.”

“I prophesied as I had been commanded and then there was a noise and commotion; the bones joined together. I looked and saw that they had sinews, that flesh was growing on them and that He was covering them with skin. But there was no spirit in them.”

So YHVH said to me, “Speak on My behalf and call on the Spirit, son of man! Say to the Spirit : This is the word of YHVH : Spirit, come from the four winds. Breathe into these dead bones and let them live!” I prophesied as He had commanded me and breath entered them; they came alive, standing on their feet – a great, immense army!

He then said to me, “Son of man, these bones are all Israel. They keep saying : ‘Our bones are dry, hope has gone, it is the end of us.’ So prophesy! Say to them : This is what YHVH says : I am going to open your tombs, I shall bring you out of your tombs, My people, and lead you back to the land of Israel.”

“You will know that I am YHVH, o My people! When I open your graves and bring you out of your graves, when I put My Spirit in you and you live. I shall settle you in your land and you will know that I, YHVH, have done what I said I would do.”

Thursday, 20 August 2020 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Scripture passages today, we heard of the encouraging story of renewal and salvation that each and every one of us are to receive from God. We are reminded how God desires to make us whole again, cleanse and purify us from our sins, to renew us and to put a new heart and Spirit inside each and every one of us. This is a very clear sign of God’s enduring love for us, and all the more reason why we need to heed His call.

In our Gospel today, we heard a similar theme as we heard of the Lord Jesus speaking of the parable of the king and his son’s wedding banquet which alluded to the call that God has given to all of us His people. In that parable, a king held a grand and magnificent banquet for his son’s wedding, and invited everyone who had been known to the king and therefore, worthy of the joy that the king wanted to share as he celebrated his son’s wedding.

However, those who were invited to the banquet of the king refused to come for the wedding, although everything had been well prepared for them, and they truly ought to have been honoured to be invited as such. But they ignored the king’s invitation, pretended that they were busy and unavailable, found excuses of why they could not attend the wedding banquet to which they had been generously and kindly invited to, and there were even those who persecuted and killed the servants sent to them.

This is a reference and also a sad reminder of how many of us mankind, who are the sharers and invitees to God’s great and wonderful heavenly banquet, and yet, we did not appreciate just how fortunate and blessed we are to be part of this great banquet of the Lord, to be part of His great Covenant and to enjoy the fullness of His grace and love. Instead, we busied ourselves with the many worldly matters and desires, concerns and other things that distracted us.

That is why we rejected His love and mercy, preferring to chart our own path rather than trusting in Him and following Him. We shut ourselves from His generous love and kindness because we thought that we know better how to live our lives. And this is where we need to realise that unless we follow the path that the Lord has shown us, we are likely to fall into sin, and from sin, into eternal darkness and death, for there is no salvation outside God and His Church.

And then, we heard in the same parable, how the king then told his servants to gather everyone they could find, that they filled in the seats that those unworthy guests had refused to fill up earlier on. All the people were gathered into the banquet, from all sorts of places, and whether good or bad. All of these are symbolic of how God’s kingdom and His salvation are truly open to everyone and all have equal chance to receive His inheritance and to be part of His glorious kingdom.

However, we must then take note of how when one of the guests did not turn up in the right garment in attending the wedding, as is customarily expected at the time, and which is surely also expected in our communities today, an the king ordered the guest to be taken out and thrown into the outer darkness. While the turn of events might confuse and surprise some of us, but in fact, this reminds us also that while everyone is welcome and has been called by God to enter into His kingdom, but we must also wear the right ‘garment’ in order to do so.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Just as the Lord said in our first reading today through the prophet Ezekiel that He would renew us and put a new heart and Spirit in us, therefore, this ‘garment’ refers to the new self that we put on, replacing our old selves of sin and darkness. Through baptism, we have been cleansed from the taint and corruption of our original sins, and we have received a new life, sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ.

But we must also remain faithful to that Covenant and path we have chosen in God, as baptism is only just the beginning of a new journey of life, and not a happy ending. Baptism sets us on the right path and direction, but we must maintain our direction by remaining focused on God, and keeping our lives virtuous and filled with faith and love for God, as well as the love for our fellow brothers and sisters. We must not succumb again to the temptations that led us to ignore God’s love and mercy as I mentioned just earlier.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all discern carefully our path in life going forward from now on as we reflect on these Scripture passages today. Have we lived our lives as God has called and taught us to? If we have not, then perhaps it is time indeed for us to take on the ‘garment’ of faith and discard the old sinful self of ours. Today, let us all also be inspired by the good examples set by St. Bernard, a famous and dedicated holy saint of God, a holy man and Abbot.

St. Bernard, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux was a renowned Abbot who was instrumental in the major reform in the monastic practices in the early Medieval era, especially among the Benedictine monks that St. Bernard was an Abbot of, and he was also renowned for his deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, St. Bernard was instrumental in his efforts opposing heretical teachings and also in improving the then increasingly lax spirituality, discipline and morality among not just the monks, but also the general Christian population.

He encountered many difficulties throughout his life and ministry, but all these did not hinder or discourage St. Bernard in his dedication to the Lord and His Church. In time, his efforts began to bear fruit as more and more people came to be attracted by his reforms, and many began to commit themselves to monastic life following the rigorous reforms enacted by St. Bernard for stricter discipline and deeper spiritual life.

St. Bernard even attracted his own family members to join religious life, and through his other efforts, his many writings and contributions, he inspired many others through his faith and dedication, and was even instrumental in making peace among states and kingdoms that were then feuding and in conflict with each other. And through all these and many other deeds, St. Bernard of Clairvaux has shown us, what it means for us to live with faith, and to wear our ‘garment’ of faith with joy and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all proceed forth in life, with a new heart and Spirit filled with love and devotion to God. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith, and be ever more committed, each and every moments of our lives, to be good Christians, to be faithful children of God, and to be worthy to enter into the eternal kingdom of God. May God be with us always and guide us all into eternal life that He has prepared for us. Amen.