Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God against the king of Tyre, which He delivered through the prophet Ezekiel. The city of Tyre was famous since the ancient times, thousands of years ago, as a rich and powerful city, to be exact an island city populated by the Phoenicians, a seafaring and merchant-based people, who colonised many trade centres throughout the Mediterranean.

The city of Tyre, its people and king were all fabulously wealthy, and they had all the resources and worldly materials that people at that time desired. In addition, the city’s strategic and highly defensible position, being an island protected by the sea around it, and with a powerful navy easily supported by its immense wealth, the city of Tyre became a very proud city, ambitious and haughty. It was the epitome and symbol of worldly power, pride and greed.

This is related to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel passage today, which is a continuation of what we heard in yesterday’s Gospel about a young, rich man who came to the Lord asking how he could attain eternal life. The Lord Jesus asked him whether he had done and obeyed the commandments and laws of God, and he responded that he did.

But when the Lord asked him to sell everything he had and follow Him, the young man immediately hesitated and left in great sorrow, as he could not bear to part with his immense wealth and material possessions. Then the Lord in today’s Gospel passage explained how it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, by using the comparison to a camel, pointing out how it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

What the Lord Jesus had told us in the Scripture passage, is however, not a condemnation or rejection of the rich. The Lord our God loves every single one of us, whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, or by whatever parameter it is that we often measure ourselves against each other with. What the Lord intended to tell was that, the wealth and riches of the world are themselves not the issue, but it was how we mankind often misuse these, or in how we live our lives according to these things.

What I mean is that, many of us are often so preoccupied with these worldly and material goods, that we end up being overcome by greed and desire, and we end up doing things that are wicked and unjust, and against God’s laws and commandments, in order for us to gain more of these tempting things and worldly attachments. And this is the great obstacle that lies on our path towards God’s salvation and grace.

Many of us are unable to resist the temptations brought by all these worldly and material allures of our flesh and mind. We are surrounded by so many of these temptations, and the world only makes it worse by continually bombarding us with materialistic advertisements, actions, and persuasions among many others. That is why, as Christians, all of us are called to make our stand, to resist the temptations that will come our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pius X, holy Pope and Successor of St. Peter, who was the Supreme Pontiff approximately a century ago. He was remembered for his great holiness and piety, and for his great dedication towards the betterment of many of the faithful. He was born into a poor family in northern Italy, and chose to follow the calling to be a priest, eventually rising to be a bishop and later on the Patriarch of Venice.

But even though Pope St. Pius X rose in prestige and worldly power, he remained humble and true to his commitment to the Church and the faith. He worked hard and spent his time ministering to his flock, living austerely and devoting himself to a life of prayer and service to God. Pope St. Pius X was always concerned for those who have been entrusted to him, and later on as Pope, he was remembered for extending the reception of Holy Communion to people of younger ages, and for the reform of the Church music.

All of these were meant to get the faithful to be more involved in the Church, and by the repositioning of the Gregorian Chant as the primary form of worship music in the Church, he helped to reestablish and strengthen the sense of the sacred in the divine worship, and strengthened the Holy Mass as the centre and heart of our Christian faith. And Pope St. Pius X was also always striving for peace among the countries of the world, at that time enduring rising tensions. He died a broken man when the first World War broke out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to imitate the zeal and courage which Pope St. Pius X has shown throughout his life, as well as his humility and desire to serve the Lord with all of his heart and with all of his might. Are we able to do all these? Let us all throw away all of our pride and arrogance, and learn to be humble in life.

Going back to the story of the mighty city of Tyre at the start of our reflection today, that city would be conquered and thrown down by Alexander the Great, destroyed and razed to the ground. It would never again regain its greatness and power, and would eventually be forgotten and overlooked by subsequent generations. This happened to all other great powers who boasted their might and power.

All of these remind us that in God alone we are able to put our complete trust and not in worldly things, all sorts of wealth, power, prestige, fame or glories, all of which are temporary and can be destroyed at any time. Let us all therefore from now on, renew our commitment to live faithfully, to spend our time and effort to draw closer to God with each and every passing day. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 19 : 23-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you : it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe Me : it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On hearing this, the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see, we have given up everything to follow You. What, then, will there be for us?”

Jesus answered, “You, who have followed Me, listen to My words : on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on His throne in glory, you, also, will sit, on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for My Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first, will be last, and many who are now last, will be first.”

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 32 : 26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-35ab

I said I would scatter them afar and blot out their memory among humankind, but I feared the enemy’s boasting, lest the adversary misunderstand.

And say : ‘We have triumphed, the Lord has not brought this about.’ They are a senseless and undiscerning nation. Had they wisdom, they would have known.

For how could one or two men put to flight a thousand or ten thousand, unless their Rock had abandoned them, unless their Lord had given them up?

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 28 : 1-10

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre : You are very proud and self-satisfied : ‘I am a god, I sit like a god in the heart of the sea.’ Yet you are man and not a god; would you hold yourself as wise as God? You consider yourself wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you. Your wisdom and know-how have earned you a fortune, gold and silver flowed to your treasury.”

“Clever in trade, you became wealthy and, as your fortune increased, your heart became prouder. But now, YHVH has spoken to you, to the one who is like God : I am bringing foreigners against you, the most feared of all the nations. Their sword will challenge your wisdom and debase your refined culture. They will bring you down to the pit and you will die in the depths of the sea.”

“Will you be able to say ‘I am a god’ when your murderers are killing you? You are a man and not a god. You will die the death of the uncircumcised and perish at the hands of aliens, for I have spoken – word of YHVH.”

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first of all, what He had told His people in exile in Babylon through the prophet Ezekiel, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah as a consequence of their abandonment of God’s laws and commandments. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which Our Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people, of a wicked servant who owed a great debt to his master.

In that first reading, what we heard in God’s words and commands to His prophet Ezekiel, happened at the time when the remaining people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah was facing increasing pressure from the Babylonians, who was the superpower of the time. The Babylonians ruled over most of the region and had subjugated most of the peoples and nations around them, including the kingdom of Judah.

This was the premonition of what would happen next, when the people of Judah and their king, Zedekiah, rebelled against the Babylonians, who immediately sent a punitive force that destroyed Judah, besieged Jerusalem and eventually destroyed the city and the Temple of God, leaving nothing valuable behind, and bringing most of the people to the land of Babylon as exiles.

The people of God in Judah has made a Covenant with God since the time of their ancestors, and God has repeatedly forgiven them their sins and constant disobedience, as they broke the laws and the Covenant again and again. God has entrusted them with the governance over the lands promised to them and their ancestors, and forgave them their debts of sin, but they acted wickedly and persecuted the prophets sent to them to guide them back to the truth.

This is related to what we have heard today in our Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus told the people about a servant who was to be punished by his master, because of his massive debt of ten thousand pieces of gold, a huge amount of money at that time. But the servant begged the master to be merciful, and to give him more time to be able to pay off his debt, as he had his family to take care of.

The master saw his servant’s plight and had pity on him. He forgave the servant and even wrote off all of his debts. It was a great favour and care showed by the master towards his servant. Yet, that same servant, undoubtedly very joyful and pleased at his experience of being forgiven by his master, went to one of those fellow servants who owed him a small amount of money, and threatened him to pay off his debt immediately.

Despite the other servant’s pleas, begging for the servant to give him more time to pay off the debt, and unlike the master’s action, the forgiven servant refused to let the other servant go and was very harsh of him, demanding that the small debt be paid completely. The other servants saw the exchange between them and reported the incident to the master, who became very angry with the forgiven servant and threw him into prison, demanding that he paid every single coin he owed.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to make it clear to each and every one of us, that we mankind, represented by the servants in that parable, are so beloved by God, the master in the parable, Who has willingly forgiven each one of us our sins, no matter how great they are, should we be willing to reach out to Him, and sincerely come to Him, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

Sin is our debt to God, and is the fruit of our disobedience against His will, His laws and commandments. And yet, God readily forgives us our sins, should we be sincere in our desire to repent. The Lord Jesus Himself came into this world, to bring forth this point about God’s great love for each one of us sinners. He Himself willingly took up our sins and gathering them on Himself, dying on the cross for our sake.

And that is why, just as our Lord and Master has forgiven us our sins, then we too are expected to do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should not be like the wicked servant who has been forgiven by his master for such a massive debt, and yet could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. This means that as true and genuine Christians, we must be true in our actions, in how we live our lives according to our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian king of Hungary. He was highly regarded as a model king and ruler, and as a devout Christian. He was widely acknowledged as the founder of the state of Hungary, and helped greatly in establishing the Christian Church and faith throughout his dominion.

Yet, despite his position, wealth and power, St. Stephen ruled with temperance, good judgment, and exhibited great generosity and humility throughout his reign. He truly cared for his people and did his best to improve their livelihood and cared for them. He did not abuse his power or oppress his people using his power and influence. Instead, he used the authority that God gave him with responsibility and tempered with love and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples shown to us by St. Stephen of Hungary should be our inspiration and model, for which we ought to follow suit, in how we live our own lives, dedicating ourselves to God wholeheartedly and with genuine intention. Let us be exemplary in our Christian way of living, and be role models for each other in faith, from now on, that many more people may come to righteousness in God, through us. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 18 : 21 – Matthew 19 : 1

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.”

“The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he has paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished these sayings, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 77 : 56-57, 58-59, 61-62

But they challenged and rebelled against God the Most High, and disobeyed His decrees. They were unfaithful, like their ancestors, deceitful and crooked, as a twisted bow.

They angered Him with their high places; they aroused His jealousy with their idols. Filled with wrath, God rejected Israel.

He lead His glory into captivity, His Ark, into the hand of the enemy. He gave His people over to the sword, so furious was He at His inheritance.