Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are urged to be faithful and to be upright in all of our actions and dealings, so that we all truly may be called the children of God. This is what Jesus said, when He rebuked the Pharisees and the elders of the people, in what is known the seven woes of the Pharisees. It is because these people who had been entrusted with the care of the people of God have failed to do as they were expected to do.
Instead, the Pharisees, the scribes and the teachers of the Law abused their power and authority which had been given to them. They twisted the Law and its various applications to suit their own purposes and to give them advantages and goodness at the expense of others, namely those whom they have been entrusted with. Those leaders and elders grew fat and rich at the expense of their sheep and flock which suffered and groaned under their oppression.
This misuse and abuse of authority and power is what Jesus was truly angry about as He talked about the actions of the Pharisees and elders, whose hearts and minds were not on the Lord and things heavenly and holy, but in things and matters of the world, of worldly goods and temptations, as well as things corrupt and unworthy of the leaders of the faithful. In this, they have failed miserably to become role models for the faithful, and instead they brought many to their downfall and ruin with them.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, what Jesus was angry about was because those Pharisees and elders cared only for the substance and for the material rather than for the souls of the faithful, and rather than things necessary for the salvation of these souls. They asked people to swear by the treasure of the Temple and by the offering on the Altar, because they cared not for the holiness and for the Presence of God, but for the material wealth and goods around which they conduct their daily duties.
This is also the prelude to when Jesus cleared the Temple itself of all the corruptions and impurities which the Pharisees had allowed to grow and develop under their care. These corruptions were the merchants and money changers who were allowed to setup their stalls in the courtyard of the Temple, selling various animals for sacrifice, and also established money exchange services for those who came from other countries, including Jews who lived far away from Jerusalem.
These merchants were corrupt, and they charged the people much more than they should have. They earned much profit at the expense of the pilgrims and the common people who sincerely came to worship the Lord. The Pharisees and the elders of Israel did not take any action because they gained profits and income by their cooperations with those merchants and cheaters, and therefore they maintained the corruption of the Temple, for their own benefits.
Today we celebrate the feast of two great saints, whose life and examples would show us the wickedness and inappropriate nature of the actions of the Pharisees and the elders of Israel. The first is St. Louis, King of France, also known as King St. Louis IX, one of the greatest medieval kings and leaders of Christendom. The other saint is St. Joseph Calasanz, a Spanish priest of the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment eras.
St. Louis IX was a great king, and he reigned well and with justice. However, he did not just do well on the matters of the world, as he also cared greatly for the spiritual growth and development of his nation and his people. A very devoted servant of God, he implemented numerous changes and reforms in the laws of the land, that the people may lead a more righteous and just lives, in accordance with the will of God and according to the teachings of the Lord through the Church.
St. Louis IX also worked hard to bring the faith to all peoples, including to heretics, the Albigensians, also known as the Cathars, bringing to them a harsh judgment and brought them to see the light of truth in God. And in the end, out of the will to defend the faith and the faithful, as well as to bring glory to God, King St. Louis IX led a crusade of the faithful to liberate the Holy Land of God, but before he reached his destination, he died. Nevertheless, his actions remained a great inspiration to all of us.
Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a devoted Spanish priest, who dedicated his life in the service of the people of God, guiding, helping and loving them, and especially to the weakest and the poorest in the society, he gave them attention and care, and he helped established many schools and educational institutions run by the religious congregation he helped establish, the Piarists.
Even when he was called to move to Rome, the heart of Christendom, the works and dedication of St. Joseph Calasanz remained the same if not even greater than before. He helped victims of a flood, helped educate poor and young children, and he ministered faithfully to the people of God wherever he went to serve. He was truly exemplary, and together with St. Louis IX, he had indeed shown how we should live our faith life, pure and untainted by the greed and desires of this world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples had shown clearly the contrasts we need to be aware of, and we ought to take these seriously, as we should not follow the examples of the Pharisees and the elders who were corrupt and were concerned about only how to bring the best for themselves and cared only for their prosperity and glory, while the saints whose lives we celebrate today, truly exemplified the virtues of the Lord and gave us the examples of how we should live our own lives.
May we all be able to rid ourselves of our selfishness and human desires, as the Pharisees had demonstrated, that these are great obstacles for us to reach the Lord. May Almighty God guide us and bless us on our way, that we may truly be able to follow in His footsteps and grow to be better and more dedicated people whom He loves dearly. God be with us all. Amen.