Friday, 20 August 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded of the need for each and every one of us as Christians to follow the Lord and His commandments wholeheartedly, filled with genuine love both for God and for our fellow men. This is the essence of our Scripture passages today, as we heard both the account from the Book of Ruth in our first reading, and the account from the Gospel regarding the Lord speaking about the most important commandment in the Law.

In our first reading today, we heard of the reading from the Book of Ruth in which we heard about this Moabite woman who was the daughter-in-law of Naomi, an Israelite woman who had been bereft of her husband and her two sons, one of whom was Ruth’s first husband. Therefore at that time, both widows decided to come back to the land of Israel from their sojourn in Moab, Israel’s southern neighbour. Naomi told Orpah, her other daughter-in-law and Ruth both to leave her and return to their homeland, which Orpah did, but Ruth insisted that she would follow Naomi wherever she went, and Naomi’s God would be hers too.

We may notice that the Book of Ruth is unique in that it was named after a Moabite woman, hailing from a pagan people that was often in clashes against the Israelites. But what is truly extraordinary as we heard the story of how Ruth followed her mother-in-law to the land of Israel is that, her love for her mother-in-law and her readiness to be part of the people of Israel, and to embrace God was extraordinary, especially when considering that many among the Israelites themselves had not been faithful to God.

And even more significantly is the fact that Ruth was none other than the great-grandmother of the famous and important King David of Israel, as she would later on marry Boaz, one of Naomi’s relatives, and became the mother of Obed, the father of Jesse, who then in turn was David’s father. Ruth was therefore that unique woman, a non-Israelite who came voluntarily to be part of God’s people, and who sincerely sought to care for her relatives, particularly that of her mother-in-law, a virtue which led Boaz to marry her.

This was a woman and servant of God who truly loved God and obeyed Him with all her heart, a fulfilment of the commandments that He has given to the people, which ironically many of those people had themselves disobeyed the same Law and commandments. And it was a foreigner, and a woman especially who proved to them that even others could become a disciple and follower of the Lord, if one came to love the Lord and embrace His path fully with faith, as Ruth had done.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Lord told a teacher of the Law who asked Him which one among all the commandments of the Law was the greatest of all, and He responded that first and foremost everyone ought to love God beyond everything else, and to show that love by our actions and by our concrete devotion towards God. And we should also show this same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, to all those whom we encounter in this life that we may indeed be true Christians in all things, following the examples of God’s love itself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should look upon the examples set by our holy predecessors, in helping us to be truly faithful to the Lord, much like as what Ruth had done, a holy, God-fearing and righteous woman, through whom many generations afterwards were brought closer to God. It was probably not a surprise why David and his family were righteous and obedient to God given that they descended from this faithful and dedicated woman, whose story we are being reminded of today.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned Abbot and servant of God, who was remembered for his great faith in the Lord, his holiness and piety, and his devotion to Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, as well as everything that he had done for the sake of the Church, especially in its reforms and the modernisation of the religious orders and monasteries, by his establishment of the Cistercians in development from the Benedictine Order. St. Bernard of Clairvaux inspired many people and through his many works, he became very influential in the many aspects of the Church.

St. Bernard devoted many years in his numerous works throughout the Church, travelling from places to places and in being involved in the governance and management of the Church thanks to his close relationships with the Popes and the other leaders of the Church. He gave himself and entrusted everything to the Lord, and courageously as well as patiently enduring many challenges and trials as he did his best to serve the Lord and to be exemplary in his own lives and actions.

Let us all also be inspired by the examples which St. Bernard has shown, and let us commit ourselves to the Lord. May the Lord, our most loving God, have mercy on us and give us the strength to persevere in faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Friday, 20 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 20 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 145 : 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in YHVH their God, Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all they contain.

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Friday, 20 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ruth 1 : 1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22

There was a famine in the land during the time of the Judges, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah departed with his wife and two sons, to sojourn in the country of Moab. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. She was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.

After living in Moab for about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion also died; and Naomi was left bereft of husband and two sons. Having heard that YHVH had come to help His people by giving them food, Naomi prepared to return home.

But Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law returns to her people and her gods. You too, must return. Go after her.” Ruth replied, “Do not ask me to leave you. For I will go where you go and stay where you stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God.”

Thus it was that Naomi returned from Moab with her Moabite daughter-in-law and arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest began.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 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, on this day the Lord speaks to us through our Scripture passages on the matter of being called and chosen by God, as we heard from the first reading passage taken from the Book of Judges on the calling of Gideon, one of the Judges of Israel and also from the Gospel passage where we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples on following Him and how they have all followed Him and served Him.

In our first reading today, God called Gideon to become His instrument in becoming the Judge over Israel, to be the one through whom God would act on behalf of His people. At that time, as mentioned in the passage, the people of Israel were oppressed by the Midianites who invaded the land of Israel and imposed their power and dominion over them, causing suffering and trials for God’s people.

But all of that were also caused by the failure of the people to be faithful to God, their loving Father and Creator. They preferred to follow their own paths and their own desires rather than to follow the laws and the precepts of God. Yet, this did not make the love that God has for them become any lesser or weaker. Instead, He continued to love them and cared for them regardless, and that was why He called the Judges to bring about reprieve and liberation for His beloved ones.

And today, as we heard about the calling of Gideon the Judge, we see how God called not the greatest and the mightiest in this world to become His servant and instrument by which He performed His wonderful works. Gideon himself admitted that his family and tribe were among the lowliest and humblest in terms of prestige, social strata and ranking among the whole nation of Israel, and yet, God called His servant from among his family.

Now, as we move on to our Gospel passage today, we can see the clear comparison between the calling of Gideon the Judge with that of the calling of the Apostles of Jesus Christ our Lord. The Lord had called His disciples and the twelve of them in particular He had chosen to be His Apostles, the leaders and the inner circle of His confidants and servants, whom He called from their various backgrounds and origins, much like how Gideon had been called.

God did not choose or call those who were powerful and mighty, those who were influential or beloved by many, those who were skilled and intellectual by the standards of the world to be His instruments. In this world, the norm would have been for us to seek those who are of good qualities as I have just mentioned to be our friends and followers, but God works by a different way and standard. He calls the ordinary people and makes them extraordinary by His power, providence and grace.

And God reassured all those whom He had called, when His disciples asked that of Him, that those who have dedicated themselves to Him, He will provide and protect, and they will not be disappointed for God is always ever faithful. Indeed, in that same reassurance, God also made it clear how in following Him, those whom He had chosen would have to endure sufferings, challenges and trials, and would also have to make many sacrifices, but as long as God is by their side, they truly have nothing to fear.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to God’s call in our own respective lives? As those whom God had chosen and called as Christians, as those who have professed our faith in Him, all of us are called to walk in His way and to proclaim His truth among the nations of this world. Are we able to commit ourselves as Gideon had committed his life and how the Apostles and those who followed the Lord, the innumerable saints and martyrs had done all these while?

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernard the Abbot, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned saint and abbot of the religious order later known as the Cistercians. He was the one who helped to reform the monastic practices at the time, and founded the Cistercian order based on his reforms and works. He was remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, and for his many writings and works, which still inspired and influenced many even many centuries after his passing to this day.

St. Bernard’s great faith and love for God ought to be our compass and guide in how each and every one of us should also love God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to His cause from now on. And having heard from all these examples we have from our holy predecessors, let us all be driven by our passion and strong desire to love and serve the Lord to the best of our abilities from this moment forth. May the Lord continue to strengthen us in our resolve and commitment to serve Him faithfully from now on, that we will always glorify Him in our daily actions and deeds. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (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, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly.

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.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Judges 6 : 11-24a

The Angel of YHVH came and sat under the sacred tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash, of the family of Abiezer. Gideon, the son of Joash, was threshing the wheat in the wine press to hide it from the Midianites.

The Angel of YHVH said to him, “YHVH be with you, valiant warrior.” Gideon answered, “Please, my lord, if YHVH is with us, why is all this happening to us? Where are the wonders which our fathers recounted to us? Did they not say that YHVH led them up from Egypt? Why has He abandoned us now and given us into the hands of the Midianites?”

YHVH then turned to him and said, “Go, and with your courage, save Israel from the Midianites. It is I Who send you.” Gideon answered : “Pardon me, Lord, but how can I save Israel? My family is the lowliest in my tribe and I am the least in the family of my father.”

YHVH said to him, “I will be with you and you shall defeat the people of Midian with one single stroke.” Gideon said to Him, “Please give me a sign that it is indeed You Who speak. Do not leave until I return with an offering and present it to You.” YHVH responded, “I am going to wait for you here.”

Gideon went and prepared a young goat, took a measure of flour and baked unleavened bread. He put the broth in a pot and the meat in a basket, and went to present them to the Angel under the tree. Then the Angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the bread; put them on this rock, and pour the broth over them.”

Gideon did so. At that moment, the Angel of YHVH extended the staff he was holding and touched the meat and the bread. Suddenly, fire blazed from the rock. The fire consumed the meat and the bread, and the Angel of YHVH disappeared.

Gideon realised that he was the Angel of YHVH and said, “Alas, o Lord YHVH! I have seen the Angel of YHVH face to face.” But YHVH said to him, “Peace be with you. Do not fear for you shall not die.” Gideon built an altar to YHVH in that place and called it YHVH-Peace.

Thursday, 20 August 2015 : 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, on this day we heard about how God yet called another, and chose him to be judge over His people Israel, Jephthah, to liberate the people of God from oppression and tyranny of the Ammonites. He called Jephthah and made him the tool of victory against the Ammonites, crushing them and freeing the Israelites after many years of suffering.

But Jephthah made a vow before God, which certainly made him to regret having made such a vow. He vowed that whatever came out of his house, he would sacrifice it to God, and his own daughter became a victim of his own lack of faith and impulsiveness. He made a vow to the Lord, likely because there remained doubt in his heart that he could have done what he was called to do.

Remember that Jesus told His disciples and the people not to swear or make a vow in the Name of God? That is because when one makes a vow, that means actually that the person is not entirely sure or committed to the cause for which he was making a vow for. If one is sure about making a commitment or a decision, and if one is able to make a stand, then surely, a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would suffice.

In the Gospel today, Jesus told His disciples and the people of God the parable of the wedding garment, which is related to what we have heard in the first reading. In that parable we heard how the king held a wedding feast where he invited many of his invited guests, to come and join in the celebration, and yet those invited guests refused to come and continued with their own lives as if ignoring the king and his wedding feast.

The king represents the Lord, and the wedding feast represents the gathering of the people of God who had been invited to the feast, where the King, our Lord, had given us His blessings, to share in the food and drink which He blesses us with. And in this, we see yet another connection with what we have witnessed in the first reading today.

And what is this connection? Jephthah indeed had made such a great vow, and on one side, we can see how he should not have done that. However, the connection that we should see is how Jephthah fulfilled the vow which he had made to the Lord, and gave even his only daughter to God, as a sacrifice according to his vow, and how this is in perfect parallel and harmony to the example of Jesus, the Son of God.

For God Himself had been perfectly faithful to His promise and vow to us, to the covenants which He had established and renewed again and again with us mankind, since the days of Adam, to the days of Abraham and then David, and until the time of Jesus, and until this very day and on the days that are to come. God showed His perfect faithfulness and love, by giving us and not holding back from us, His only Son, whom He sent into the world to be our Redeemer.

And through this God had also invited all of us, His beloved people, to the banquet which He had prepared for all of us. He had prepared for us the banquet, the wedding feast, in which God and mankind are to be reunited again, because the shackles and obstacles of sin had been removed from all of us who heeded His call and join in the feast of the Lord.

The Holy Mass is the banquet of the Lord, where God gives us His own Body and Blood, that we may share in them and therefore, partake of the Lord, and be made holy and just. For the Lord Himself would dwell in us and make us the Temples of His holy presence.

And then, this is where we must take heed of another part of the Gospel today. The man without the wedding garment was taken out of the banquet and cast out into utter darkness. This means that, when we take part in the Holy Mass, and whenever we live our daily lives, we who have the Lord dwelling in us, the Temple of His presence and His Spirit, should act according to what He had shown and taught us, abandon all forms of wickedness and sin, or else risk to suffer the consequences of our Lord’s wrath.

Let us all follow the example of St. Bernard the Abbot, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrate today. He was truly a holy and great man, whose works and devotions to the Lord was fully well known throughout Christendom, and many aspired to follow his examples. He dedicated his whole life in good service of the Lord, preaching the truth about the Lord and calling many sinners to forgiveness and grace of God.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux did not fear trouble or heresy that were threatening the souls of many around him. He waded through the difficulties and challenges, and called out many people out of the darkness and out of the terrible heresies, by his tireless works and commitments, seeking to bring salvation to as many as possible. He preached well into his old age, and trying to advance the cause of the Lord and His Church wherever possible.

May Almighty God help us that we may also follow in the examples of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and become ever more devoted servants of our Lord, and in our words and actions, may all of us be true to our faith and bring love and goodness to each other in all the world. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 20 August 2015 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 22 : 1-14

At that time, Jesus went on speaking to them in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king celebrated the wedding of his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the wedding feast, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again he sent other servants, ordering 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 fields, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king became angry. 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 crossroads, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out at once into the streets and gathered everyone they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see those who were at table, and he noticed a man not wearing the festal garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding garment?’ But the man remained silent.”

“So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the dark, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Know that many are called, but few are chosen.”