Saturday, 28 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop 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 Scriptures, we are all called to remember our calling and mission in life as Christians, as those whom God has called to be His followers, that is to be active in our participation of the living of our faith that we do not just live our lives without meaning and faith, and we have to make good use of the gifts and talents that God has given to each and every one of us.

That is what was elaborated and symbolised by the Lord in the famous parable of the talents in our Gospel passage today, as we heard the Lord Jesus and His teaching to His disciples, making use of that parable of the talents to remind them to commit themselves to the cause of the Lord and to do whatever they can in their capabilities and opportunities to be the bearers of our faith in God. We should be active in our lives and in showing our devotion to God, and not merely just paying lip service to Him.

This parable of the talents highlighted the action of three servants who had been entrusted with different amount of silver talents by their master, talent being the unit used to measure weights at that time, which is why this parable is often known as the parable of the talents. One servant was given one talent of silver, while another was given two silver talents, and the other one five silver talents. Those talents represent the gifts and abilities, the opportunities the Lord has given to us, just as the master represents the Lord Himself.

And as we have heard from the passage and the parable within, the servants treated the entrusted talents differently, as those two who were entrusted with two and five talents respectively invested and made good use of what had been given to them, and when the master came back, those servants were able to present the master not only with the silver back, but even with double returns. Meanwhile, the servant who was entrusted with the one silver talent hid his talent and did not do anything with it, as he said that he was afraid of his master and his exacting nature, and thus, hid the talent.

This showed that he did not trust his master at all, and had no desire to do as he was supposed to do, or to obey his master’s will, and more concerned with his own self-preservation and selfish desires. This is why he refused to do anything with the talent, and we already heard what happened next then, as those who did good with their entrusted silver talents received even more from their master, while the lazy and untrustworthy servant was punished for his actions and also lack of action in making use of the talents entrusted to him.

What is its significance to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is a reminder to us all that each and every one of us are expected to make good use of the talents, gifts, abilities and opportunities that God has given to all of us. We may think that we have nothing special or have little ability to contribute anything, but this is often where we are wrong. Even in the smallest things we do, we can make a great difference. And just like the case of that servant given just one silver talent, it does not mean that if one is given less, then one cannot make good use of what he or she has been given.

On the contrary, all of us are always encouraged to contribute whatever we can, even in the smallest things, that in doing our best for the Lord, we may grow and bear many fruits of our faith in the Lord. The Lord has given us what we need, and now it is up to us to pick ourselves up and begin to do what we can do to follow the Lord and to commit ourselves to His cause, and in doing His will, in our communities and in wherever we have been called to serve and do our part as respective members of the Church.

Today, all of us should also be inspired by the great examples set by St. Augustine of Hippo, the great saint and Doctor of the Church, one of the four original Doctors and revered as one of the most important fathers of Western Christianity, for his many contributions to the Church, and his various writings, of which especially well known being the City of God and the De Trinitatis, the writing on the nature of the Most Holy Trinity, among many others that he had done, as well as in his many contributions to the local and Universal Church.

However, St. Augustine did not always begin with such a wonderful and faithful life. Instead, as we may recall from yesterday’s celebration of the feast of St. Monica, who was St. Augustine’s own mother, we may remember how St. Augustine used to lead a debauched lifestyle and sought worldly pleasures and ambitions, following heresies especially Manichaeanism, and in his many philosophical and worldly pursuits in his youth, before finally, through the unceasing prayers of his mother, and through God’s grace, he turned back towards the Lord and gave himself completely to Him, to His cause and for His greater glory.

St. Augustine dedicated himself henceforth as a most faithful servant of God, making best use of his energy and all of his talents, his abilities in inspiring numerous others to be faithful to the Lord. And he dedicated himself to the very end, doing whatever he could to serve the Lord and His people, both in Hippo, his diocese and especially throughout Western part of Christendom at the time. His many writings and contributions to the Church remained very influential, and many theologians and philosophers of the Church drew inspiration from St. Augustine, his life and his works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how St. Augustine dedicated himself to the Lord and turned away from a life of idleness and sin, and into righteousness and fruitfulness in the Lord. Through his efforts, many great things had happened, many people had been touched and called to follow the Lord, and this is just yet another example of what it means for us to invest in our ‘talents’, that it may grow and provide us with great returns, not in material things but rather in our spiritual growth and closeness to God.

May the Lord continue to guide us and inspire us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen each and everyone of us that we may always persevere in faith from now on. May God bless us always, in all things, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 28 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each, according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the talents, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you in charge of many things. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!’ But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered. You should have deposited my money in the bank, and given it back to me with interest on my return.'”

“Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, thrown him out into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Saturday, 28 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 7-8, 9

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

Let the sea resound and everything in it, the world and all its people. Let rivers clap their hands, hills and mountains sing with joy.

Before YHVH, for He comes to rule the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Saturday, 28 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 4 : 9-11

Regarding mutual love, you do not need anyone to write to you, because God, Himself, taught you how to love one another. You already practice it with all the brothers and sisters of Macedonia, but I invite you to do more.

Consider how important it is, to live quietly, without bothering others, to mind your own business, and work with your hands, as we have charged you.

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture all of us are reminded of the need for all of us to always be faithful and ready for the Lord at all times, and not to be easily swayed by worldly temptations and the desires for worldly glory, fame and other things that can lead us astray and down into the path towards damnation. Instead, we should always be vigilant at all times and do whatever we are expected to do as Christians, as we have heard from our Scripture passages today.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the parable that our Lord told to His disciples, the well-known story of the five wise and five foolish maidens who were at a wedding that occurred at night, as the handmaidens to welcome the bridegroom to the celebration. If you are wondering why the wedding banquet was done at night, it is because in the Holy Land, where the story’s setting would have likely taken place, during certain months the temperature and conditions during the day is usually not favourable to conduct a celebration, being often hot and sunny. Hence, the celebrations often happened at night as it would be cooler.

However, at a time when electrical lighting were non-existent, it would have been very dark at night, save for the lights from natural sources such as the moon and the stars. That is why, the handmaidens as the bearers of the oil lamps were important not only to make things more festive, but also to help illuminate the dark surroundings, welcoming the bridegroom to his wedding celebration. This is why, they could definitely not afford to run out of oil at a time when their presence were needed the most.

Those five wise maidens brought with them extra oil and were well-prepared while the five foolish maidens did not. As a result, when the bridegroom delayed in coming, then those foolish maidens ended up running out of oil, and the wise maidens did not have enough oil to share with them, or else all of their lamps might have been snuffed out by the time the bridegroom came to the wedding banquet. And when the bridegroom did come, the foolish maidens were away to buy the oil, and when they returned, they were denied entry to the banquet, all due to their own carelessness and lack of preparation.

What this story in the parable tells us is that God has given us all the wisdom to discern and to think of what our course of life going forward is, and hence, we should be spending the time to discern carefully our path in life going forward, that we do not make the wrong decisions in life which will end up leading us down the wrong way. Yet, many of us have not done what is necessary to commit ourselves to the Lord, and instead, we have idled ourselves in pursuits of worldly pleasures and satisfaction, for the fame and glory of the world. All these will lead us eventually down the path to our downfall if we do not do anything about it.

That is why we should also reflect on the words of the Apostle St. Paul in his Epistle and letter to the Church in Thessalonica in our first reading today, as he reminded the faithful there to follow the Lord faithfully and lead a holy life befitting of their identity as Christians, to be holy as the Lord is holy, and this is the calling which all the faithful have been called to, to do what the Lord had shown them through His Law and His Church, that everyone ought to play their part as members of God’s Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should also be inspired by the great examples set by St. Monica, one of the great saints of the Church, whose life and dedication to both God and to her son, St. Augustine of Hippo, can be source of inspiration for ourselves on how we ought to act and behave as Christians, in answering God’s call and in living our lives faithfully as God’s people and as those who truly and wholeheartedly believe in Him.

St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, the great Doctor of the Church, and as a loving mother, she was always devoted to her son. St. Monica was married to a pagan nobleman, and gave birth to St. Augustine of Hippo. She was a Christian, but she had to patiently watch and hoped for her husband and son to embrace the Lord and the faith in Him, while she had to see her son falling into the path of sin, as St. Augustine in his youth experimented with various ideologies and philosophies, including the heresy of Manichaeanism.

St. Monica never ceased to pray for the sake of her husband and son, and her fervent prayers, her piety and charitable acts eventually touched first her husband, who accepted the Lord on his dying moment, while St. Augustine also eventually discovered God in his journey of self-discovery, and was received back into the Church, and in the end, became a great servant of God and saint, as one of the four original Doctors of the Church, all of which would not have been possible if it was not for the dedication, prayer and commitment from St. Monica, St. Augustine’s loving mother.

Having seen the faith, dedication and the love by which St. Monica has lived her life, and her love both for God and for St. Augustine, we should also be inspired by her examples, so that we may live our lives more worthily from now on, to be faithful disciples and followers of the Lord in all things, and to be persistent in our commitment to God and love for Him, and in our care and concern for the brothers and sisters and others whom we encounter throughout life.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, to be always devoted and true to our faith, so that in each and every moments of our lives, we may always strive to be exemplary in our every actions, words and deeds, that the Lord will always guide us throughout the challenges and trials we may face in our journey in life. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 25 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven : Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were sensible. The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were, and did not take extra oil. But those who were sensible, took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.”

“But at midnight, a cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here, come on and meet him!’ All the maidens woke up at once, and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.’ The sensible ones answered, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you. You had better go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.'”

“When the bridegroom came, the foolish maidens were out buying oil, but those who were ready went with him into the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. Later the other bridesmaids arrived and called out, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered, ‘Truly I do not know you.'”

“So stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1 and 2b, 5-6, 10, 11-12

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

You who love YHVH, hate evil, for He preserves the lives of His faithful; He delivers them from their foes.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in YHVH, you, who are blameless; and give praise to His holy Name.

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 4 : 1-8

For the rest, brothers, we ask you, in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, and we urge you, to live in a way that pleases God, just as you have learnt from us. This you do, but try to do still more. You know the instructions we gave you on behalf of the Lord Jesus : the will of God for you is to become holy and not to have unlawful sex.

Let each of you behave towards his wife as a holy and respectful husband, rather than being led by lust, as are pagans, who do not know God. In this matter, let no one offend or wrong a brother. The Lord will do justice in all these things, as we have warned and shown you.

God has called us to live, not in impurity but in holiness, and those who do not heed this instruction disobey, not a human, but God, Himself, Who gives you His Holy Spirit.

Thursday, 26 August 2021 : 21st 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 Scripture, we are all called to remain true to our faith in the Lord, and to persevere in faith so that we do not easily fall into the temptations to sin, and to disobey against God and His will. We are all called to be faithful at all times and to do our best at every possible opportunities given to us so that we will always be prepared whenever He comes, as He has promised us that He will.

We should always be aware and realise that we ought not to squander whatever opportunities and gifts that God has given us all these while. Yes, God is always ever patient and He is always persisting in His efforts to reach out to us, in each and every moments, but we have also been given the gift of free will and the wisdom to discern the right path, and the outcome of each paths that we encounter in life are often already known, and yet, many among us still hesitated and refused to believe in the Lord wholeheartedly or to trust Him fully.

Instead, we allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly desires, by our hesitation to act or to dedicate ourselves to action for God, and by our sloth and laziness, in remaining comfortable and idle wherever we are, that our lives, especially that of our spiritual lives become stagnant and lacking in vigour, as we allow the devil to tempt us with inaction and with personal comfort and the reluctance to move out of our comfort zone, in pursuit of our own personal happiness and desires, which led us to be like that of the lazy servant as described in our Gospel today.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking in parables to the people, highlighting about servants of a lord and master of the house who were going to a long journey, and who entrusted to those same servants the care and responsibility over his household. The Lord clearly highlighted the two different attitudes of two different servants who acted differently upon what their lord and master had instructed them to do. Then we heard how the lazy servant was caught unprepared and red-handed in his laziness and idleness, in his debauched and wicked attitude towards those entrusted under his care when the master suddenly returned.

Meanwhile, the faithful servant who remained vigilant and did his best as was expected of him received great rewards and joy when he welcomed his master back, and he would be entrusted with far greater things on the account of his hard work and dedication to his duty and responsibilities. And this serves also as a reminder of who we are all expected to be, to walk faithfully in God’s presence, our Lord and Master, with true faith and dedication.

As we heard in that parable, all of us are called to follow the examples of the faithful and diligent servant, and not to be like the lazy and unfaithful servant. All of us have been given and entrusted with many great gifts by the Lord, in all of our various talents, abilities and different opportunities. And yet, many of us have often not used those things, gifts and opportunities as we have been called to do. Instead, we kept them hidden, ignored them, and we acted in ways that were against the Lord and in opposition to His truths.

Are we going to continue walking down that path, brothers and sisters in Christ? We should all know what lies at the end of that path, and if we are not careful, we will end up in eternity of regret, when the judgment is cast on us, and from which we have no further recourse or way out of. God has entrusted to us many things, and He has also given us many opportunities to turn things around, and He has called on us all to fulfil our responsibilities, all these while. Are we willing to listen to the Lord, and are we willing to turn to Him from now on, entrusting ourselves in His care and doing His will from now on?

Let us all therefore strive to be ever more faithful and dedicated with each and every passing opportunities, and do our very best to be worthy servants and disciples of the Lord, so that in everything we say and do, we may always glorify the Lord and praise Him, and as His worthy disciples and followers, we will be worthy of His presence and everlasting life, promised to all those who are faithful to Him. May God bless us always, in all things, and may He guide us in our journey of faith in life, even to the smallest things. Amen.

Thursday, 26 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 24 : 42-51

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.”

“Imagine a faithful and prudent servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time. Fortunate, indeed, is that servant, whom his master will find at work when he comes. Truly I say to you, his lord will entrust him with everything he has.”

“Not so with the bad servant, who thinks, ‘My master is delayed.’ And he begins to ill-treat his fellow servants, while eating and drinking with drunkards. But his master will come on the day he does not know, and at the hour he least expects. He will punish that servant severely; and place him with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”