Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and not just having an empty and meaningless faith, or merely being superficial in our love and dedication to God. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations for power, glory, fame and wealth, for influence and prestige, among many other things. We must not allow all these to cloud our judgment, and we have to keep ourselves well attuned to the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Matthew on the matter of the Pharisees and their religious practices, which the Lord spoke before those assembled and gathered to listen to Him. The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and also the teachers of the Law because many among them, the religious and intellectual elites of the Jewish community, did things that were unbecoming of their trusted position as the guardians of the Law of God as well as the leaders of the people.

They made it difficult for the people of God to come towards their Lord and Master, imposing very strict practices and rules, customs and obligations to follow, which were mainly due to their mistaken interpretation and understanding of the Law of God. As such, they did not bring the people closer to God as they had been entrusted to do, but instead, they were driving more and more people away from God in their misguided zeal and lack of proper understanding of the Law and its true intentions.

That was why the Lord rebuked them, and spoke out against them, to remind all of them and the people included, of what it truly means to be the believers and followers of the Lord. It means that we cannot be merely superficial in our faith, focusing on our own appearances and vanity, by appearing outwardly religious and good, and yet rotten and wicked in our hearts and minds. We should not be like those who made loud and widely publicised prayers and acts of faith, and yet, at the same time, being prejudiced against the poor and sinners, hating and disliking them.

Instead, all of us are called to reflect more deeply on the true intention and meaning of the Law of God, so that all of us may understand and appreciate it better, and that we may be better and more genuine Christians in all things, and not just in name only. We cannot be those who only profess the faith in the Lord in our lips only, and then act in a manner contrary to our faith. Those who did so have not only been lacking in faith, but in fact, may also scandalise their faith and the Lord’s Name, by making others to misunderstand God and His truth.

That is why all of us are challenged to live our lives in the way that is aligned with the Lord, and to do whatever we can in order to proclaim Him in our own communities, by our own words, actions and deeds. We cannot be idle in our faith, and neither can we act in ways that brought scandal to the Lord and to our Christian faith and Church. And that is why, we should strive to do what we can, to obey the Lord more wholeheartedly from now on, and to give of ourselves to Him with ever greater sincerity.

Today we can also follow the good examples and inspiration from St. Rose of Lima, one of the famous saints of the Church, who is the first saint canonised from the New World, the Americas. She is remembered for her great love and true piety for the Lord, in all of her actions and deeds, dedicating her whole life to the Lord. She was born into a noble family, and later on would dedicate herself to a life of holy virginity and total dedication to God, as a lay member of the Dominican Order.

St. Rose of Lima had led a most virtuous and pious lifestyle since very early age, that since her youth, it was told that she had observed fasting and abstinence regularly, leading a prayerful life and a holy life. She was renowned for her great beauty, and many suitors tried to get her attention, and even her own family tried to force her to marry. In the face of all these efforts and oppositions, St. Rose of Lima cut her hair and made herself look ugly to deter the suitors and steadfastly refused any attempts to force her to marry.

Throughout the rest of her life, St. Rose of Lima dedicated herself to the Lord and poured out her love to others, especially those who were poor and needy, those who were sick and troubled. She spent a lot of time ministering to them and taking care of them, while spending other times in prayers and devotions, doing whatever she could to commit herself wholly to God. Her exemplary faith and life had inspired so many others to follow in her footsteps.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we also able to do the same with our own lives? Are we able to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way as St. Rose of Lima had done with hers? Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord and do whatever we can to glorify God by our lives, and be faithful witnesses of His truth in all things. May the Lord be with us all and may He bless us in everything we say and do, now and always. Amen.

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