Tuesday, 23 August 2022 : 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 distance ourselves from the taints of hypocrisy and all sorts of temptations to sin, especially the temptation of worldly desires and pleasures, worldly glory, fame and renown, all of which can distract us in our journey towards the Lord. Through our Scripture readings today we are all reminded how there had been many people who were entrusted with the faith and the responsibility to guide their fellow faithful ones, and yet they failed to do their duties and responsibilities appropriately.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord rebuking the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their behaviour and way of living their faith lives, and especially in how they misused their authority as well as their hypocrisy and their imposition of very strict and harsh rules and regulations pertaining to the Law on the entire people of Israel. They demanded their portion and for the people to respect and to support them, and yet at the same time, they looked down on all those whom they deemed to be less worthy, the ones like the tax collectors, the prostitutes and all those who were inflicted with various diseases and illnesses, and many others.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law demanded an external application of the Law, and they paraded themselves in doing all the things that people could witness and see them doing, praying aloud in the synagogues and in the streets, and they similarly imposed this bias and preferences in what they taught the people of God through their actions and words. But they had failed to realise that obeying the words of the letter of the Law is empty and meaningless unless one also understands and appreciates the meaning and the Spirit of the same Law. One can easily obey the Law to the letter but without understanding the importance and significance of why one has done so.

That is why the Lord was so critical on them and their actions. Their actions and irresponsible behaviour had made it difficult for many to seek the Lord and not only that, but it likely also turned many people away from God and His salvation, since the conditions and requirements which they imposed on everyone were so difficult, tough and yet unnecessary, that many people simply did not make the effort to come closer to God and instead remained in their state of sin. That way, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law whom God had entrusted with His people, had not done as they were supposed to do, and in their obedience to the Law, they were also selective and focused more on the externals rather than a wholesome application of the Law of God.

The Lord told His people that in order for us to truly love and serve the Lord, we have to have that proper understanding of His truth and love, and obey His Law wholeheartedly instead of just obeying blindly or paying lip service or only seeking for external application or holding up appearances only. Each one of us must live our lives with faith and practice our faith with genuine dedication and commitment, at every available opportunities and at every moments, or else we may end up causing scandal on the Lord and His Church, and we may have to be responsible for making people to be more distant from God just as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done.

That is why today we are all called to reflect on our way of life and see carefully how we can better commit ourselves from now on with faith, in following the Lord in all the path of our lives, and at all times. Each one of us have been called to reflect on the path that we should be taking moving forward in life, so that our actions and words, our deeds and everything may always be aligned with God and His will, with His teachings and with His revelation of truth. We are all presented with the opportunities and the many circumstances through which we will be able to find our way to do things in accordance to our calling and God’s will.

Today, one of such ways and opportunities is for us to follow the good examples and inspiration from St. Rose of Lima, the first saint to be proclaimed from the New World. She was born in what is today Peru in the New World, the Americas, and was acquainted with another saint of the New World, St. Turibius de Mogrovejo, who was then Archbishop of the area and administered to St. Rose of Lima the Sacrament of Confirmation. St. Rose of Lima began to grow closer to God and despite her father’s efforts to force her to marry against her will and desire, St. Rose of Lima resisted and remained faithful to her commitment to God.

St. Rose of Lima had wanted to join the Dominicans as a nun, however her father’s opposition prevented that, and she instead became a third order member of the Dominicans. She took a vow of perpetual virginity and lived a life of great holiness and grace, and was famously remembered of her wearing of a heavy silver crown with spikes and thorns to emulate the Crown of Thorns of Our Lord and Saviour, in keeping up to her commitment to God and in self-mortification, living her life full of prayer, inspiring many others to be more faithful to God themselves, and many were inspired even long after she passed away at the rather young age of thirty-one.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be inspired by the great examples showed by St. Rose of Lima and many other holy saints, holy men and women of God so that we may always do our best to resist the temptations of worldly glory and ambitions, the temptations and desire for human praise and other worldly pleasures. Let us all instead strive to become ever closer to the Lord and to His salvation, and may St. Rose of Lima intercede for us all, helping us sinners to come ever closer to God, now and always, evermore. Amen.

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