Saturday, 20 August 2022 : 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 we heard of the words of the Scriptures speaking to us regarding the matter of how we should be following God with faith, committing ourselves humbly in His service, dedicating our time, effort and attention to do His will at all times. Each and every one of us should remember that we are merely the servants of God and therefore in all the things we say and do, we should not be concerned or be focused on our own desires and ambitions, our selfish aims and wants. Otherwise, if we allow those things to distract and tempt us, then we may end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of sin.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel regarding the vision of the Great Temple in Heaven, the Sanctuary of God and His Holy Presence. Through Ezekiel, God was showing His people Who it is that they were truly following, and He showed them of His might and everything that He would do for His people, as He would live forever among them. Not only that, but when the Lord mentioned that, He really meant it, as it was truly a prelude of what He would do for them, in sending them the greatest gift of all, the gift of His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Lord and Saviour.

In doing so, He willingly embraced our humanity, and His Divine Word being incarnate in the flesh, taking up our humble human existence, becoming manifest and tangible that now God is no longer distant from us, but approachable and reachable. He made Himself close to us, because He desires to be reunited with us and be reconciled with us. And that action is what God wants each one of us remember, how His love and commitment for us was so great that He willingly lowered and humbled Himself so that through it, each and every one of us may have hope and receive from Him the assurance of eternal life and salvation.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself spoke to His disciples and the people criticising the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their attitude, behaviour and way of living their faith, as they had preached loudly and boastfully of the Law of God and how they had piously followed the Lord, and yet, in truth, in their way of doing things, they actually had not truly obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly, and they were really hypocrites and those who levied and imposed very heavy expectations on the people with regards to how they ought to follow the vast extent of the rules and regulations they modified and preferred, but they themselves could not obey or follow.

Those same people prided themselves and boasted of their glory and greatness, their piety and faith before all, parading their achievement and greatness, thinking highly of themselves and not only that, but they also looked down on those whom they disapproved and disagreed with. This attitude is what the Lord disapproved of and criticised those leaders for, in their hypocrisy and in how they made it difficult for the people to come closer to God and find salvation in Him. Their pride, ego, arrogance and ambition became serious stumbling blocks in the path of their journey towards God, and in their discharge of their obligations and responsibilities as leaders of the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to those words from the Scriptures, we are therefore reminded that we should humble ourselves before God and one another, as first of all, we are truly nothing without the grace and love of God, and it is thanks to God’s providence and mercy, His forgiveness and compassion that we even have hope for the future. His willingness to embrace us and to dwell among us, forgiving us our sins and in reassuring us of His guidance and help, showed us all that we are truly beloved and precious to Him, and because of that, we have gained much in this world.

But we often grew proud and haughty, ambitious and greedy, and we ended up abusing and misusing the opportunities, the gifts, abilities and other things that God had given to us. Instead of using them for the good of everyone, we ended up seeking our own personal glory and ambition, desiring to fulfil our own selfish wants and greed. This is why through today’s readings all of us are reminded to resist those temptations of greed and pride. We ought to restrain those and do our very best to return our focus once again towards the Lord, being truly faithful to Him and distancing ourselves from the path of sin.

Today, all of us can gain some inspiration from our holy predecessor, whose feast we are celebrating this day, namely that of St. Bernard the Abbot, also one of the great Doctors of the Church. St. Bernard was also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and he was a Cistercian Abbot remembered for his role in the revitalisation of the Cistercian order and tradition, and the foundation of the famous Clairvaux Abbey. His dedication to the Lord and holy way of life inspired many others, which led to the rapid growth of the Clairvaux Abbey. More and more people, even St. Bernard’s own family came to join the abbey as well.

While St. Bernard had gained much success and gave a lot of inspiration to his contemporaries, at the same time he also suffered trials and challenges, not least from his own fellow monastic monks in the abbey, who resisted his leadership and criticised his way of promoting the Cistercian charism and way of life. Nonetheless, St. Bernard remained resolute in his efforts, and he was also deeply involved with other important Church matters at the time, being involved in the resolution of conflicts and reconciliation of various Church and even secular parties, through his efforts at negotiation and skilful diplomacy. Through his many writings and works, which made him later to be declared as one of the Doctors of the Church, St. Bernard continued to exert great influence and became inspiration for many throughout the many centuries after his passing and till this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, holy Abbot and Doctor of the Church, let us all realise that each one of us are called to follow the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him humbly in the way that St. Bernard had done. One of his motto and saying is that of ‘the three most important virtues are humility, humility and humility’ highlighting just how important it is for us to be humble and to be willing to listen to God and to allow Him to guide our path instead of us stubbornly trying to forge our own path in life. Let us reflect on this and see in what ways we can be ever better disciples and more devout followers of God.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to empower and strengthen each one of us so that we may live ever more closely attuned to God and follow Him in all things, and be dedicated to Him all the days of our lives. May God bless each one of us in our every good works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 20 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Saturday, 20 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Saturday, 20 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 43 : 1-7a

He took me to the gate, facing east. Then I saw the glory of the God of Israel approaching from the east, with a sound like the sound of the ocean; and the earth shone with His glory. This vision was like the one I had seen when He came for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen on the bank of the River Chebar. Then I threw myself to the ground.

The glory of YHVH arrived at the Temple by the east gate. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court : the glory of YHVH was filling the house. And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the Man stood beside me. The voice said, “Son of man, you have seen the place of My throne, where I will place the soles of My feet, and live among the Israelites forever.”

Friday, 19 August 2022 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded that as Christians each and every one of us are called to a new life and existence in God, one that is filled with love and commitment to God, love for our fellow brothers and sisters, through our obedience to the Law and commandments that God had revealed and passed onto us. We are also reminded that it is through God that we may receive the gift of new life, as He has shown through the vision that He gave to the prophet Ezekiel, a new life through which He reinvigorates each one of us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the great vision of Ezekiel who saw a great valley filled with innumerable bones, spreading throughout the entire valley, representing the bones of man, of God’s people, all those who had died and perished through sin and death. Yet, God showed Ezekiel His great might and power as He pronounced the coming of His salvation, as a premonition and prediction of what was to come, with the resurrection of the dead and the coming of His salvation in Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole entire world. This vision of Ezekiel on the valley of bones served to reveal to man that the Lord is the Source and Master of all life.

Through the Lord, our whole beings receive life and meaning, filled with His love and grace. For without love and grace from God, then our bodies and existence would have been empty and meaningless. Without love from God, then no matter how great we are, we cannot truly live our lives as people of God, for it is through God that we have received this blessing and the opportunities we have, all the lives we have gained from God. Without God, we are just indeed like the dry bones without lives, and we are just literally dust from dust, for it is God’s Spirit that He breathed into us, that gave us life and sustenance.

When God showed Ezekiel that great vision of how all the bones were swept by the Spirit of God, and how Ezekiel saw the restoration and rejuvenation of the bones, seeing all of them gradually returning to life, reconstituting themselves part by part, we are all reminded of how God blessed us all with the new life and existence through Him, as He revealed to us His love and truth via Christ His Son, the truth He had delivered to us and the Holy Spirit Whom He imparted upon us all through the Church. A new life has dawned upon us, and all of us who received the gift of baptism have entered into this new life in Christ.

And each one of us are called to enter into this new life with commitment and faith, as we are called to listen to the Lord calling on us to follow His Law and commandments, just as we heard in our Gospel passage today. We are called to abandon our past lives filled with sin and immorality, selfishness and pride, ego and pride, arrogance and wickedness, and we are called to return to God with a heart full of love for Him, remembering how He Himself has loved us all so much from the very beginning, patiently caring for us and calling on us to return to Him, even when we have often ignored Him, rejected Him and refused His love.

The Lord Himself highlighted to us in our Gospel passage today that the Law of God revealed to us is truly a Law of Love, calling on all of us to love Him first and foremost above all else, and then to show that same love to one another as well. We are all made to be children of God through baptism, and all of us as God’s children rightfully therefore should follow the Lord’s examples in love, as He loves us all so dearly. If we do not love the same way that the Lord has done for us, then how can we call ourselves children and people of God then? The Lord has shown us the way for us to love each other, and we should really heed His examples and reflect on what we can do better in being His faithful disciples and loving children in our world today.

As we reflect on our lives and see in what way we can better reflect the love of God in our lives and actions, let us all see the examples shown by one of our holy predecessors, whose feast we are celebrating today, namely that of St. John Eudes. St. John Eudes was a French priest remembered for his role in the foundation of the Order of Our Lady of Charity, who spent a lot of time and effort in reaching out to the poor, the sick and the marginalised within his community. He saw the condition of the prostitutes who were quite common back then, who were shunned by the rest of the community, ostracised against and rejected, and he made the effort and outreach to care for them.

St John Eudes also had a particular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which he spread and popularised among the people. He brought the knowledge of God’s love, mercy and compassion to the midst of the people, reminding all of them of God’s infinite and enduring love. Through his efforts many people came to find their way to the Lord and repented from their sinful ways. His patience, perseverance and genuine care and love for those whom he ministered to also inspired many people who came to follow his examples and were touched by God’s love and were driven to do the same in their own lives as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, can we do the same in our lives as well? Can we also devote our time, energy and attention, our efforts and actions to do the will of God in each and every opportunities in our lives, allowing God to transform us with His love, as how He rejuvenated the field of bones in the vision of Ezekiel? Let us be exemplary and be inspiration for one another in how we live our lives so that more and more people may come to know the Lord through us and may come to believe in Him as well. May God be with us always and may He bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, in all things. Amen.

Friday, 19 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

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, 19 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

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, 19 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Eudes, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

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, 18 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for each one of us to be transformed in our lives through Christ and through our faith in Him so that our lives may be exemplary as Christians, and be good inspirations and we may also be role models for one another in how each and every one of us ought to live up our lives each day. God has shown us the way to Him, and what we need to do is to embrace Him and to prepare ourselves to be good Christians, obedient and observant of God’s Law and commandments.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel we heard the words of the Lord calling on all of His people to abandon their wickedness, their evil ways and all the sins they had committed, and to turn to Him with a new heart. He told them all that He would give them all a new heart, replacing their old wicked heart of stone and giving them a new heart full of love and life, through which they will come closer to God, purified from their sins and evils, returning back to Him, and reunited with Him, to be His people and be blessed and filled with grace once again.

Back then, the Israelites had went though a lot of tribulations and hardships, with their kingdoms and homeland destroyed, them uprooted from their lands and humiliated by losing the lands of their ancestors. They and their ancestors had disobeyed the Lord, abandoned His Law and commandments, refusing to listen to and obey the Law of the Lord, and hardening their hearts and minds against Him. They worshipped pagan idols and gods, and even persecuting and killing the prophets and messengers whom God had sent to them to help and remind them of their obligation and calling as His people.

As such, because of the hardening of their hearts, many of the people of God had been sundered from Him, and many were lost to Him, falling into the path of sin and probably to eternal damnation. This is a fate which the Lord’s parable in our Gospel passage today also echoed. In that parable, the Lord spoke of a king who hosted a wedding banquet for his son, and when he invited his guests, those guests refused to listen to him or to attend the banquet despite the reminders and the invitations that they had sent to them, making excuses and even insulting and killing those servants whom the king had sent to them, a tacit comparison with the state of how the people of God persecuted the prophets and messengers of God in the past.

Thus, the king sent a new invitation to the new batch of guests, after he had punished and crushed all those unworthy and deviant guests who refused to attend the wedding banquet. The king called forth everyone to come to his banquet, calling them from all sorts of places, which is a reference to how the Lord has called everyone, all the children of mankind, and not just the Israelites anymore, to be His disciples and followers, and to enter into His kingdom and way of truth. The Lord called on all of us to enter into His banquet, to rejoice together in His presence forevermore.

However, as we all know, in order to attend a banquet, or any important event, there are certain expectations for us to fulfil, and one of them is that we have to be properly dressed and attired. Even at the time of the Lord Jesus, when many of the people were poor, during the time of any religious festivals and celebrations, the people would still come dressed in the best clothes they could afford or which they possessed, that they might worthily be present in the celebration. That is referring to our attitudes and our way of living our lives with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are to come to the presence of the Lord, then should we not do our very best to live our lives according to His ways?

That is why we heard what happened to the guest who came without the wedding garment, or a garment suitable to be worn into that event. The king asked the guest and then sent that unworthy guest out, cast out to suffer in the darkness, much as those who had rejected his invitation in the first place. This is an important reminder that unless we come to the Lord with a heart and mind filled with love for Him, with genuine and true faith, then we can have no place with Him and in Him in His kingdom. And if we remain stubborn with this attitude, then unfortunately our lot will be to endure forever the suffering and the damnation that comes with our own conscious rejection of God’s love, grace and truth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep all these in mind as we continue to progress ever more in our lives, and remind ourselves to keep faithful to God in all things and at all times. We should remove from ourselves all taints of wickedness and evils, all stubbornness and allow the Lord to change us and our hearts and minds just as He had said that He would do. Let us allow the Lord to place in each one of us a new, beating heart, living and vibrant with love for Him and for our fellow brethren, and remove from ourselves our past hearts of stone, full of stubbornness, pride and ego.

May the Lord continue to guide us all and help us in our journey of life, that we may continue to walk faithfully in His presence at all times. May God bless us and all of our good efforts and endeavours for His greater glory. Amen.

Thursday, 18 August 2022 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 22 : 1-14

At that time, Jesus continued speaking to the people in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again, He sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see the wedding guests, and he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding clothes?'”

“But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”