Friday, 20 August 2021 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of the need for each and every one of us as Christians to follow the Lord and His commandments wholeheartedly, filled with genuine love both for God and for our fellow men. This is the essence of our Scripture passages today, as we heard both the account from the Book of Ruth in our first reading, and the account from the Gospel regarding the Lord speaking about the most important commandment in the Law.

In our first reading today, we heard of the reading from the Book of Ruth in which we heard about this Moabite woman who was the daughter-in-law of Naomi, an Israelite woman who had been bereft of her husband and her two sons, one of whom was Ruth’s first husband. Therefore at that time, both widows decided to come back to the land of Israel from their sojourn in Moab, Israel’s southern neighbour. Naomi told Orpah, her other daughter-in-law and Ruth both to leave her and return to their homeland, which Orpah did, but Ruth insisted that she would follow Naomi wherever she went, and Naomi’s God would be hers too.

We may notice that the Book of Ruth is unique in that it was named after a Moabite woman, hailing from a pagan people that was often in clashes against the Israelites. But what is truly extraordinary as we heard the story of how Ruth followed her mother-in-law to the land of Israel is that, her love for her mother-in-law and her readiness to be part of the people of Israel, and to embrace God was extraordinary, especially when considering that many among the Israelites themselves had not been faithful to God.

And even more significantly is the fact that Ruth was none other than the great-grandmother of the famous and important King David of Israel, as she would later on marry Boaz, one of Naomi’s relatives, and became the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, who then in turn was David’s father. Ruth was therefore that unique woman, a non-Israelite who came voluntarily to be part of God’s people, and who sincerely sought to care for her relatives, particularly that of her mother-in-law, a virtue which led Boaz to marry her.

This was a woman and servant of God who truly loved God and obeyed Him with all her heart, a fulfilment of the commandments that He has given to the people, which ironically many of those people had themselves disobeyed the same Law and commandments. And it was a foreigner, and a woman especially who proved to them that even others could become a disciple and follower of the Lord, if one came to love the Lord and embrace His path fully with faith, as Ruth had done.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Lord told a teacher of the Law who asked Him which one among all the commandments of the Law was the greatest of all, and He responded that first and foremost everyone ought to love God beyond everything else, and to show that love by our actions and by our concrete devotion towards God. And we should also show this same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, to all those whom we encounter in this life that we may indeed be true Christians in all things, following the examples of God’s love itself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should look upon the examples set by our holy predecessors, in helping us to be truly faithful to the Lord, much like as what Ruth had done, a holy, God-fearing and righteous woman, through whom many generations afterwards were brought closer to God. It was probably not a surprise why David and his family were righteous and obedient to God given that they descended from this faithful and dedicated woman, whose story we are being reminded of today.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned Abbot and servant of God, who was remembered for his great faith in the Lord, his holiness and piety, and his devotion to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, as well as everything that he had done for the sake of the Church, especially in its reforms and the modernisation of the religious orders and monasteries, by his establishment of the Cistercians in development from the Benedictine Order. St. Bernard of Clairvaux inspired many people and through his many works, he became very influential in the many aspects of the Church.

St. Bernard devoted many years in his numerous works throughout the Church, travelling from places to places and in being involved in the governance and management of the Church thanks to his close relationships with the Popes and the other leaders of the Church. He gave himself and entrusted everything to the Lord, and courageously as well as patiently enduring many challenges and trials as he did his best to serve the Lord and to be exemplary in his own lives and actions.

Let us all also be inspired by the examples which St. Bernard has shown, and let us commit ourselves to the Lord. May the Lord, our most loving God, have mercy on us and give us the strength to persevere in faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Friday, 20 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (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, 20 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 145 : 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in YHVH their God, Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all they contain.

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Friday, 20 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ruth 1 : 1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22

There was a famine in the land during the time of the Judges, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah departed with his wife and two sons, to sojourn in the country of Moab. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. She was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.

After living in Moab for about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion also died; and Naomi was left bereft of husband and two sons. Having heard that YHVH had come to help His people by giving them food, Naomi prepared to return home.

But Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law returns to her people and her gods. You too, must return. Go after her.” Ruth replied, “Do not ask me to leave you. For I will go where you go and stay where you stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God.”

Thus it was that Naomi returned from Moab with her Moabite daughter-in-law and arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest began.

Thursday, 19 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to listen to the Lord and His words, and to trust in Him, that we may follow Him wholeheartedly, and doubt no longer but believe. We have to welcome the Lord into our hearts and devote ourselves to Him in all things. Without genuine love and commitment to the Lord, we may be easily swayed by worldly temptations and many other obstacles by which the devil has attempted to mislead and misguide us, through lies and false pleasures in life.

In our first reading today, we heard of the account of one of the Judge of Israel, namely Jephthah, who made vow before the Lord that if he could defeat the Ammonites, he would offer sacrifices to the Lord whatever it was that would cross the lintels of his door. Little did he know that his own daughter would be the one crossing the threshold of the door. Jephthah, having made the vow before God could not go back on his words and had to do as he had vowed to do. And it is a lesson for all of us as well, brothers and sisters in Christ.

How is that so? That is because we are all reminded not to doubt in the Lord’s providence. Jephthah, while believing in God, he was also filled with doubt as he made such a vow as he did not fully trust the Lord’s providence. The key phrase is that ‘If You make me victorious, I shall sacrifice to You whoever first comes out of my house to meet me when I return from battle. He shall be for YHVH and I shall offer him up through the fire.’ And all these, shows us that Jephthah have not yet fully given his trust to the Lord, that if God gave him his victory then he would offer Him a sacrifice.

God has no need for sacrifices, and He has no need for anything, as after all, is He not the Almighty Lord and Master of all creation? The Lord has everything and is in no need for anything, and He instead provides everything that we need, just as our Gospel passage today highlighted it even further through the parable of the wedding banquet and the wedding garment. God cared for His people, and the master of the wedding banquet, the king depicted in the parable, represents God.

The king invited all his guests to come freely and enjoy his wedding banquet, showing just how much he loved them all and how precious they were. For one to be invited to a king’s banquet, one must have thought that those who were invited have enjoyed such great favour and honour, and yet, as we heard from the parable, the people who were invited refused to come and to listen to the king’s call. They feigned ignorance and busy schedules to refuse the king despite the rich and great honour for them in receiving his invitation.

The king then invited and sought out all the people from all other places, from the streets and elsewhere, to come to his wedding banquet, and many people were indeed gathered and attended that wedding banquet in joy. But one of those who had been brought in did not wear the required wedding garment, and then refused to answer the king’s question when he was asked regarding his lack of proper wear, which resulted in him being cast out.

What we have just heard from that parable is a reminder to all of us that God has provided wonderfully for us, but what is lamentable is our lack of faith and trust in Him. We have not loved Him as much as He has loved us, and we have ignored Him when He called for us to come to Him. Instead, we preferred to linger in our own desires and walk in our own paths, in disobedience against God. We refused to trust in Him even after He has shown us repeatedly His love and dedication.

That is why today, we should spend some time to reflect on our attitude and actions. Have we been truly faithful to God and loved Him as we should have? These are the questions we should ask ourselves now. And today, we should also spend some time to reflect on the examples of our holy predecessors, that can serve as a source of inspiration and as guide on what we can do as Christians to follow the Lord and to obey Him in our daily living.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John Eudes, a most devout and dedicated servant of God, a holy priest and founder of two great religious orders, the Order of Our Lady of Charity and the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, the latter of which was also known as the Eudists after their founder. He was renowned for his great piety and sanctity, as well as his great love for both God and his fellow men and women, spending a lot of time and effort to reach out to his fellow brethren.

Through his works among the people, and his particular concern for those who had led a wretched lifestyle such as prostitutes, he helped them by establishing the Order of Our Lady of Charity as mentioned to gather those who sought to provide refuge and help to prostitutes who had been caught in unfortunate situations, and helping them at the same time to overcome their issues. And through the Eudists, he also helped to advance proper education and formation of priests and missionaries among other magnificent works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, through the good examples set by St. John Eudes, as well as the many other holy men and women of God, let us all therefore do our very best to follow their examples, to rediscover the love which we all should have for the Lord, and be ever more faithful in our daily lives. Let us all strive to do our best, to be ever more committed to God and to be His ever more dedicated disciples in our respective communities today.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, that we may draw strength from Him and persevere through the challenges of life, and resist the temptations of evil and of our human desires. May God bless us all, now and always, in our every good efforts and endeavours. Amen.