Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and not just having an empty and meaningless faith, or merely being superficial in our love and dedication to God. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations for power, glory, fame and wealth, for influence and prestige, among many other things. We must not allow all these to cloud our judgment, and we have to keep ourselves well attuned to the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Matthew on the matter of the Pharisees and their religious practices, which the Lord spoke before those assembled and gathered to listen to Him. The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and also the teachers of the Law because many among them, the religious and intellectual elites of the Jewish community, did things that were unbecoming of their trusted position as the guardians of the Law of God as well as the leaders of the people.

They made it difficult for the people of God to come towards their Lord and Master, imposing very strict practices and rules, customs and obligations to follow, which were mainly due to their mistaken interpretation and understanding of the Law of God. As such, they did not bring the people closer to God as they had been entrusted to do, but instead, they were driving more and more people away from God in their misguided zeal and lack of proper understanding of the Law and its true intentions.

That was why the Lord rebuked them, and spoke out against them, to remind all of them and the people included, of what it truly means to be the believers and followers of the Lord. It means that we cannot be merely superficial in our faith, focusing on our own appearances and vanity, by appearing outwardly religious and good, and yet rotten and wicked in our hearts and minds. We should not be like those who made loud and widely publicised prayers and acts of faith, and yet, at the same time, being prejudiced against the poor and sinners, hating and disliking them.

Instead, all of us are called to reflect more deeply on the true intention and meaning of the Law of God, so that all of us may understand and appreciate it better, and that we may be better and more genuine Christians in all things, and not just in name only. We cannot be those who only profess the faith in the Lord in our lips only, and then act in a manner contrary to our faith. Those who did so have not only been lacking in faith, but in fact, may also scandalise their faith and the Lord’s Name, by making others to misunderstand God and His truth.

That is why all of us are challenged to live our lives in the way that is aligned with the Lord, and to do whatever we can in order to proclaim Him in our own communities, by our own words, actions and deeds. We cannot be idle in our faith, and neither can we act in ways that brought scandal to the Lord and to our Christian faith and Church. And that is why, we should strive to do what we can, to obey the Lord more wholeheartedly from now on, and to give of ourselves to Him with ever greater sincerity.

Today we can also follow the good examples and inspiration from St. Rose of Lima, one of the famous saints of the Church, who is the first saint canonised from the New World, the Americas. She is remembered for her great love and true piety for the Lord, in all of her actions and deeds, dedicating her whole life to the Lord. She was born into a noble family, and later on would dedicate herself to a life of holy virginity and total dedication to God, as a lay member of the Dominican Order.

St. Rose of Lima had led a most virtuous and pious lifestyle since very early age, that since her youth, it was told that she had observed fasting and abstinence regularly, leading a prayerful life and a holy life. She was renowned for her great beauty, and many suitors tried to get her attention, and even her own family tried to force her to marry. In the face of all these efforts and oppositions, St. Rose of Lima cut her hair and made herself look ugly to deter the suitors and steadfastly refused any attempts to force her to marry.

Throughout the rest of her life, St. Rose of Lima dedicated herself to the Lord and poured out her love to others, especially those who were poor and needy, those who were sick and troubled. She spent a lot of time ministering to them and taking care of them, while spending other times in prayers and devotions, doing whatever she could to commit herself wholly to God. Her exemplary faith and life had inspired so many others to follow in her footsteps.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we also able to do the same with our own lives? Are we able to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way as St. Rose of Lima had done with hers? Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord and do whatever we can to glorify God by our lives, and be faithful witnesses of His truth in all things. May the Lord be with us all and may He bless us in everything we say and do, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Matthew 23 : 13-22

At that time, Jesus said to the people and to His disciples, “But woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You, yourselves, do not enter it, nor do you allow others to do so.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray long prayers! Therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to make a single convert; yet, once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves!”

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say : To swear by the temple is not binding; but, to swear by the gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of more worth : the gold in the temple, or the temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say : To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value : the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred?”

“Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the temple, is swearing by the temple, and by God, Who dwells in the temple. Whoever swears by heaven, is swearing by the throne of God, and by Him, Who is seated on it.”

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to YHVH a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name; and make music for Him with harp and timbrel. For YHVH delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night, on their couches, let the praise of God be on their lips. This is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

1 Thessalonians 1 : 1-5, 8b-10

From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy, to the church of Thessalonica, which is in God, the Father, and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May the peace and grace of God be with you.

We give thanks to God, at all times for you, and remember you in our prayers. We constantly recall, before God, our Father, the work of your faith, the labours of your love, and your endurance, in waiting for Christ Jesus our Lord.

We remember, brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called. The Gospel we brought you was such, not only in words. Miracles, the Holy Spirit, and plenty of everything, were given to you. You, also, know how we dealt with you, for your sake.

The faith you have in God has become news in so many places, that we need say no more about it. Others tell, of how you welcomed us, and turned from idols, to the Lord. For you serve the living and true God, and you wait for His Son, from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, Who frees us from impending trial.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scriptures, speaking to us about the need to follow the will of God, and to do His works, for all of us have been called by God to be His workers in the plentiful and rich field of this world. This is the essence of what we have heard particularly in today’s Gospel passage, when Jesus spoke to His disciples and the people on the parable of the workers in a vineyard.

In that parable, we heard Jesus speaking about how a master of a vineyard needed workers to work in his vineyard, and therefore he went about, seeking for workers in the marketplaces and the other public places, calling the people to work in his place. In that parable, the master of the vineyard is the Lord our God, and the field or the vineyard is this world where we live in, and where the Lord is also constantly at work.

And all of the workers represent none other than each and every one of us whom God has called to be His followers and servants, to become the workers of the faith. All of us have been called to serve the Lord and to work in the rich harvest of this world, just as He Himself said on another occasion, that while the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few.

Why is that so? That is because while there are indeed lots of opportunities for the works of God through His Church to be fulfilled, and then there are also many souls out there who are still trapped in the darkness of sin and in the temptations and in the preoccupations of this world, but there are not many in the Church who are willing to take up the Lord’s challenge and do what we can in order to help His good works.

Many of us are lukewarm, and many of us are not enthusiastic in living our faith life actively and with devotion. And this is not what we should be doing as Christians. As true Christians, all those who have devoted themselves to the Lord, we should be active in reaching out to others who are in need of the salvation of God and also in need for our care, compassion and love.

And at the same time, many of us have become proud with ourselves, to the point of being dismissive or even looking down on others who are in need of salvation. We become like Abimelech, the son of Gideon the Judge, who was proclaimed king of the people of Israel, after having murdered all the other sons of his father in order to secure power, glory and fame all for himself. Jotham, the only surviving son of Gideon from the massacre thus denounced him in the first reading we heard today from the Book of Judges.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not how we should conduct ourselves. We should be humble and accept the will of God and what He has planned for us. Indeed, as the Gospel passage showed us today, those workers who were called to work earlier complained against the master when they found out that those who were called to work at the last hour received the same pay as what they had received. They thought it was unfair for the master to have done so.

But the master was not being unfair, just as the Lord has called each one of us according to His plan and time, at the time of His own choosing, and all of us share the same reward, be it that we have been called to God’s salvation earlier or later. We have received the assurance and promise of life everlasting, true joy and happiness which we can find in the Lord alone.

Let us all not be proud, or be afflicted by greed in our life. Let us instead follow the example of the holy woman, St. Rose of Lima, whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Rose of Lima is the first saint of the New World, the Americas, and was a devout lay member of the Dominican religious order. St. Rose of Lima devoted herself completely and thoroughly to the Lord, rejecting the pursuits of the world and all the temptations it offered to her.

St. Rose of Lima lived a very virtuous life filled with prayer and commitment to God, and wanted to become a nun, if not for her father’s stern opposition. St. Rose of Lima therefore devoted her whole life, until her death, as a layman member of the Dominican order, spending her time in prayer, and it was told that she even wore a crown of thorns as a reminder of the suffering and the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us all commit ourselves to God in the same manner as St. Rose of Lima had done in her life. Let us thoroughly devote ourselves to God through actions, words and deeds, so that in everything we do, we will always be the workers of God’s vineyard and remain faithful to Him in all things. May St. Rose of Lima and her intercession help us on this journey towards the eternal life in God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 20 : 1-16a

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A landowner went out early in the morning, to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay each worker the usual daily wage, and sent them to his vineyard.”

“He went out again, at about nine in the morning, and, seeing others idle in the town square, he said to them, ‘You also, go to my vineyard, and I will pay you what is just.’ So they went. The owner went out at midday, and, again, at three in the afternoon, and he made the same offer.”

“Again he went out, at the last working hour – the eleventh – and he saw others standing around. So he said to them, ‘Why do you stand idle the whole day?’ They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ The master said, ‘Go, and work in my vineyard.'”

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wage, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ Those who had gone to work at the eleventh hour came up, and were each given a silver coin. When it was the turn of the first, they thought they would receive more. But they, too, received one silver coin. On receiving it, they began to grumble against the landowner.”

“They said, ‘These last, hardly worked an hour; yet, you have treated them the same as us, who have endured the heavy work of the day and the heat.’ The owner said to one of them, ‘Friend, I have not been unjust to you. Did we not agree on one silver coin per day? So take what is yours and go. I want to give to the last the same as I give to you. Do I not have the right to do as I please with what is mine? Why are you envious when I am kind?'”

“So will it be : the last will be first.”

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 20 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

The king rejoices in Your strength, o YHVH, and exults in Your saving help. You have granted him his desire; You have not rejected his request.

You have come to him with rich blessings; You have placed a golden crown upon his head. When he asked, You gave him life – length of days forever and ever.

He glories in the victory You gave him; You shall bestow on him splendour and majesty. You have given him eternal blessings, and gladdened him with the joy of Your presence.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Judges 9 : 6-15

Then all the lords of Shechem and the whole council assembled together by the oak of the pillar in Shechem, and proclaimed Abimelech king. When Jotham was told about this, he went to the top of Mount Gerizim. There he cried out to them, “Listen to me, lords of Shechem, that God may listen to you!”

“The trees once set out to find and anoint a king. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’ The olive tree answered, ‘Am I going to renounce the oil by which – thanks to me – gods and people are honoured, to hold sway over the trees?'”

“The trees said to the fig tree : ‘Come and reign over us.’ The fig tree answered them, ‘Am I going to renounce my sweetness and my delicious fruit, to hold sway over the trees?'”

“The trees said to the vine : ‘Come and reign over us.’ The vine answered, ‘Am I going to renounce my juice which cheers gods and people to sway over the trees?'”

“Then the trees said to the bramble bush : ‘Come, reign over us.’ The bramble bush answered the trees, ‘If you come in sincerity to anoint me as your king, then come near and take shelter in my shade; but if not, let fire break out of the bramble bush to devour even the cedars of Lebanon.'”