Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded to be truly faithful to the Lord our God, in all of our actions and deeds. Each and every one of us as Christians ought to strive to live our lives and deepen our spirituality, our relationship with God, so that all of us may grow ever better in our Christian living and in our obedience to God. All of us are called and challenged to live our lives full of Christian truth and discipleship, obedience to the Law and commandments of God, in following the Lord wholeheartedly, doing everything as God had told us to. We are all called to be genuine Christians and true disciples of the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the words of the Lord to the people through Isaiah, the warning for all those who have committed sins against God. God warned all of them that their sins were known to Him, and those sins would be their undoing unless they turned away from them and repent from them. The Lord was referring to Sodom, which in fact by that time had been a wasteland for a long time since it was destroyed in the rain of brimstone from Heaven, together with Gomorrah. This reference to Sodom was in fact a reference to the sins of the people, which are just like the sins of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah in the past.

Then the Lord also made references to the people’s offerings and sacrifices. This was actually referring to their hypocrisy and lack of faith. They might still be doing their rituals and worship, which they offered at the Temple in Jerusalem, but it had become superficial and lacking in genuine faith and love for God. The people of God had not done what they should have, in loving God wholeheartedly as they had not obeyed His Law and commandments, and merely paid lip service to Him. Their offerings and sacrifices were made with equal sincerity and fervour to God as they did with the pagan idols and gods. They did not truly believe in God with all their heart and might, and were more concerned by worldly matters and desires than to serve God.

Hence, the prophet Isaiah was sent to the people with the message to remind them all to turn back towards God wholeheartedly, and abandon their sinful and lukewarm attitude in following God. This is something that the Lord had always done to His people, giving them reminders and help, encouragement and strength, although He always encountered stiff and stubborn resistance from many of them who were unwilling to walk in the path that the Lord had shown them, and many of His prophets had to suffer rejection and hardships throughout their ministries and lives in the world.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel of St. Matthew in which the Lord told His disciples presenting to them the reality of His coming into the world and how the disciples might have to face sufferings, hardships and persecutions much as how the prophets had faced in the past. This was because contextually at that time, the people generally expected that the coming of the Messiah or the Saviour and Holy One that God had promised to them ought to be accompanied with a lot of rejoicing, happiness and deliverance from the wickedness and evils of the world.

The people often expected that the Messiah, the Son of David would be the One to lead them all in a great campaign and rebellion to free them from the tyranny and dominion of their Roman oppressors and overlords. They expected the Messiah to be a new King over them, ruling over the restored Kingdom of Israel. But the reality is such that, the Lord’s coming would in fact create divisions and tribulations for His followers, all because of the stubbornness and the same resistance that the world had often shown Him and His messengers. The truth that Christ brought with Him to this world would tear even families and friends apart, and that would have caused divisions and struggles, even amongst the most ardent of the faithful.

Hence, through all these each and every one of us are reminded that being Christians is not something that is trivial or easily done. There may often be a lot of sacrifices and efforts needed for us to be truly faithful to God. That is why we are all called to be truly faithful to God and not just merely paying lip service or formality as what the Israelites in Judah had done by the time of the prophet Isaiah. All of us should commit ourselves to a new life dedicated to God, and in our every actions and deeds, we should be genuinely filled with the desire to love God and with the desire to embrace His methods and ways. All of us ought to be exemplary in our lives and actions at all times.

Today, we also can look up upon the examples set by the famous St. Benedict of Nursia, whose feast day we are celebrating this day. St. Benedict of Nursia was the renowned founder of the Benedictine religious order and one of the most prominent proponent of monasticism in Western Christendom. He was renowned for his Rule of St. Benedict and the propagation of monastic life in various parts of Christendom, in which many people were called to a new life and existence, inspiring many people with the search for holiness in life, for prayerful contemplation as one of the many ways to live one’s life faithfully in serving God.

St. Benedict inspired many others through his sincere desire to seek and love the Lord, embracing a life of contemplative prayer and holiness, in a monastic community formed from those who shared the same desire and insight, and hence answered God’s call for them to live their Christian lives most meaningfully and purposefully. St. Benedict and his life examples should therefore also inspire each one of us to seek to live our lives worthily as Christians from now on. We are all called to be faithful witnesses of the Lord and exemplary disciples of His, so that through us many more people may come to believe in God and be saved as well.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us so that each and every one of us may persevere in faith and grow ever closer to Him, through each moments and opportunities we have in life, in serving and glorifying His Name. Amen.

Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 10 : 34 – Matthew 11 : 1

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Each one will have as enemies, those of one’s own family.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever loves son or daughter more than Me, is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take up his cross and follow Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life, for My sake, will find it.”

“Whoever welcomes you, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes Him Who sent Me. The one who welcomes a prophet, as a prophet, will receive the reward of a prophet; the one who welcomes a just man, because he is a just man, will receive the reward of a just man.”

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones, because he is My disciple, I assure you, he will not go unrewarded.”

When Jesus had finished giving His twelve disciples these instructions, He went on from there to teach and proclaim His message in their towns.

Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 49 : 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23

Not for your sacrifices do I reprove you, for your burnt offerings are ever before Me. I need no bull from your stalls, nor he-goat from your pens.

What right have you to mouth My laws, or to talk about My covenant? You hate My commands and cast My words behind you.

Because I was silent while you did these things, you thought I was like you. But now I rebuke you and make this charge against you. Those who give with thanks offerings honour Me, but the one who walks blamelessly, I will show him the salvation of God.

Monday, 11 July 2022 : 15th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 1 : 10-17

Hear the warning of YHVH, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the word of God, people of Gomorrah. “What do I care,” says YHVH, “for your endless sacrifices? I am fed up with your burnt offerings, and the fat of your bulls. The blood of fatlings, and lambs and he-goats I abhor, when you come before Me and trample on My courts. Who asked you to visit Me? I am fed up with your oblations. I grow sick with your incense.

Your New Moons, Sabbaths and meetings, evil with holy assemblies, I can no longer bear. I hate your New Moons and appointed feasts. They burden Me. When you stretch out your hands I will close My eyes; the more you pray, the more I refuse to listen, for your hands are bloody.

Wash and make yourselves clean. Remove from My sight the evil of your deeds. Put an end to your wickedness and learn to do good. Seek justice and keep in line the abusers; give the fatherless their rights and defend the widow.