Wednesday, 25 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are always ever reminded of the Lord’s calling on us to be righteous and good, to be faithful and committed to Him, no matter what happens and in what circumstances. We have to resist the temptations to follow our desires and to fall into the traps set by the evil ones, all the those seeking to mislead us in our journey of faith and life.

That is why as we heard the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Thessalonica in our first reading today, we are called to reflect on our nature as Christian to be holy and good, to be obedient to God’s will and to follow Him in all of our ways. The Apostle reminded the faithful there to be righteous and to adopt a life that is becoming of their identity and nature as Christians, and we are therefore called to do the same as well.

St. Paul’s words echoed clearly together with the words of the Lord in our Gospel today, as we heard the continuation of the Lord’s laments against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, as He rebuked them for their hypocrisy and lack of genuine faith in God. The Lord spoke in this way as those Pharisees who had imposed their version of the Law and its harsh and uncompromising nature on the people of God had misled the faithful into thinking that it is the right way of obeying God’s Law.

And all these happened while they themselves did not truly obey the Lord’s commandments in their hearts, as their obedience and observance of the Law was merely superficial and with the desire and intention to be praised for their actions and piety. Their preoccupation with vanity and worldly greatness led them astray, and thus the Lord rebuked those leaders who had failed to appreciate the true nature of the Law and who refused to listen to the truth that God Himself has brought into the world, through Christ.

All in all, as we heard these words of the Scripture, we are all called to follow the Lord with sincere devotion and genuine love for Him, and not just merely paying lip service or treating our faith as merely a formality. Instead, we should integrate our faith in our lives, within our every actions and deeds, in every words we speak, and in every interactions we made with our fellow men, we should show that we are God’s people, His faithful ones, as Christians through and through in all things.

Are we able and willing to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? God has called on us all to follow Him, and we should respond to Him with faith, and we should strive to be exemplary in our way of life, that our interior disposition and not just our external appearance show that we truly belong to Him. In all things, let us be inspiration for one another, and help our fellow brothers and sisters to walk faithfully in the path that God has shown us. And we should also look up to inspiration ourselves, from the two great saints whose feasts we are celebrating today.

First of all, St. Louis, also known as St. Louis IX, King of France was one of the great Medieval kings of Christendom, and one of the few kings that were canonised as a saint. St. Louis was remembered during his long reign as a great and holy king, as a ruler who was always caring for the well-being of his people, always doing his best to improve their livelihood and strengthening the foundations of the state while reforming the society and governance of the nation.

And as a most faithful Christian King, St. Louis also dedicated a lot of effort to support the Church and its growth, ensuring the unity of the faithful, the eradication of heresies and divisions within the Church, encouragement of missionaries to lead the people to the truth, establishment of parishes and monasteries among many others. And the King himself led a great Crusade to the Holy Land which he unfortunately was unable to complete, as he passed away on the way in Tunis.

Nonetheless, we have seen the great dedication with which St. Louis had given himself, for the betterment of the people entrusted to him and for the benefit of the Church. Then, the other saint whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Joseph Calasanz similarly also showed us all what it means to be a dedicated Christian in all things, as he was remembered for his commitment to the poor and the needy, in his work in establishing free education to the poor, and as a priest who founded the Order of the Poor Clerics Regular, also known as the Piarists.

St. Joseph Calasanz and his role in founding the Piarists contributed immensely to the establishment of free education and better schools and opportunities for the poor children, and many of these were helped by the loving care showed by the Piarist priests and others who had contributed, inspired by the examples set by St. Joseph Calasanz. This saint had done things that were not well accepted at his time, and nonetheless, he still did his best, giving his all to the mission and calling he has embraced.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow the examples set by these two most faithful saints of God? Are we willing to listen to the Lord and walk ever more devotedly in His path from now on? This is our calling as Christians, and we should embrace it most wholeheartedly, and not to give in to the temptations of our desires and pride, or to give in to fears, doubts or uncertainties. Let us all trust in the Lord always, and be His genuine and loving witnesses in our world today, in everything we say and do, even in the smallest of things. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Matthew 23 : 27-32

At that time, Jesus said to the people and to His disciples, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, beautiful in appearance; but, inside, there are only dead bones and uncleanness. In the same way, you appear religious to others, but you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness within.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets, and decorate the monuments of the righteous. You say : Had we lived in the time of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the blood of the prophets. So, you, yourselves, confess to be the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.”

“And now, finish off what your ancestors began!”

Wednesday, 25 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Psalm 138 : 7-8, 9-10, 11-12ab

Where else could I go from Your Spirit? Where could I flee from Your presence? You are there, if I ascend the heavens; You are there, if I descend to the depths.

If I ride on the wings of the dawn, and settle on the far side of the sea, even there, Your hand shall guide me, and Your right hand shall hold me safely.

Shall I say, “Let darkness hide me, I prefer the night as my light?” But darkness, for You, is not dark.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

1 Thessalonians 2 : 9-13

Remember our labour and toil; when we preached the Gospel, we worked day and night, so as not to be a burden to you. You are witnesses, with God, that we are holy, just and blameless toward all of you who now believe. We warned each of you, as a father warns his children; we encouraged you, and urged you to adopt a way of life worthy of God, Who calls you to share His own glory and kingdom.

This is why we never cease giving thanks to God for, on receiving our message, you accepted it, not as human teaching, but as the word of God. That is what it really is, and, as such, it is at work in you who believe.

Monday, 16 August 2021 : 20th 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we as God’s people are to keep His commandments and His Law faithfully, dedicating our hearts completely to the Lord, loving Him with all our strength and effort, and doing whatever we can to be His faithful and dedicated witnesses in our community, wherever we may be. And we should do this with sincere heart and be filled with genuine commitment to the Lord, in giving of ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

In our first reading today, we heard of the moment when the Lord sent His servants and called judges to be His representatives among His people, to be their leader and guides in their journey of life, in the land promised to them and which they had received. And we heard how those people had fallen into sin, disobeying God and following the path of pagan and idol worship, forgetting the love which God had shown them and their ancestors, all the miracles and wonders, and the good fortunes and life they have enjoyed in the promised land.

As a consequence, they had to suffer because of their insolence and their lack of gratitude and appreciation of everything that the Lord had done for them. They were easily swayed by worldly pleasures and temptations, and they did not truly have genuine love for the Lord, and as a result, they easily fell into the traps that the devil and all of his forces had set up in order to mislead and distract all of the people from their path towards God. They were lulled by the comfort of their new life, and were tempted to abandon the strict rules and regulations of the Law, which served as a constant reminder that they ought to live worthily for the Lord.

That is why, they walked away from God’s path and became wayward. And yet, despite the punishment that He has levied against them, the Lord in fact still loved His people very much. Those punishments were meant to chastise and discipline as much as to remind and to redirect the people to the right path, which God has shown His people through His judges and other servants, all those appointed to help the people to be reconciled with God and to find their way back to Him, so that they may be saved. And the same passage told us how the people fell again and again into sin, as once the previous judge passed on, they would fall again into temptations and sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in what we then heard in our Gospel passage today, we heard about the encounter between a rich young man with the Lord. The young man wanted to follow the Lord and asked Him what he should have done in order to follow Him. And the Lord then asked him if he has already dedicated himself to the Law and understood God’s commandments. The young man was well-versed in the Law and the commandments, and he confidently said that he had done everything as prescribed by the Law.

However, when the Lord then called him and asked him to give up everything he had to the poor and to leave everything behind in order to follow the Lord, he left the Lord with great sorrow and being very dejected. This showed us all that the man did not truly have the Lord as the true focus and emphasis of his heart, and that is why he had a hard time detaching himself from the temptations of his worldly comforts, his possessions and wealth, his properties and resources, all of which had prevented him from truly embracing the Lord’s will.

This is why today we are all reminded not to fall into the same temptation of the flesh, and to listen to God and obey His will. We should remain firmly faithful in Him, and just as the Israelites looked up to the Lord’s appointed judges for guidance and inspiration, we should also seek inspiration from among our holy predecessors, namely the saints whose lives had been virtuous and exemplary, and which we can also emulate and follow in our own respective lives.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian King of Hungary. St. Stephen was remembered as a great king who ruled wisely and helped to unite his people and make his nation a strong and also most importantly Christian one. He dedicated his country to the Blessed Virgin Mother of God and established many churches and institutions throughout the land. Not only that the people and the country flourished physically and economically, but also spiritually.

St. Stephen ruled as a wise and just king, and he genuinely cared for the well-being of his people, both in physical and spiritual matters. He helped to establish a solid foundation for the Church, building its infrastructure and hierarchy, and led to many of his own people to convert to the true faith. He was also pious and dedicated to God, and his own piety became great inspiration to many of his successors and many others who emulated his great example as a Christian king.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we too can emulate the faith and the good examples set by St. Stephen of Hungary, in our own lives. Are we all able to commit ourselves to the Lord in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, and not be easily tempted and swayed by worldly desires and possessions? Let us all not be like the rich young man, who still loved his worldly possessions more than the Lord. It does not mean that we have to sell everything and give everything to the poor, but rather, we must never put the Lord as less important than those worldly things.

Let us all now therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord, inspired by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, particularly that of St. Stephen of Hungary. May the Lord be our guide and strength, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully and with greater dedication to serve the Lord in each and every moments of our lives. May God bless each and every one of us, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 16 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 19 : 16-22

At that time, it was then, that a young man approached Him and asked, “Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you ask Me about what is good? One, only, is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.”

The young man said, “Which commandments?” Jesus replied, “Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honour your father and mother. And love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “I have kept all these commandments. What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow Me.” On hearing this, the young man went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Monday, 16 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 105 : 34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43ab and 44

They dared not destroy the pagans, as YHVH commanded; they mingled with these nations and learnt to do as they did.

In serving the idols of the pagans, they were trapped into sacrificing children to demons.

They defiled themselves by what they did, playing the harlot in their worship. The anger of YHVH grew intense and He abhorred His inheritance.

He delivered them many a time, but they went on defying Him and sinking deeper into their sin. But He heard their cry of affliction and looked on them with compassion.

Monday, 16 August 2021 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Judges 2 : 11-19

The Israelites treated YHVH badly for they served the Baals instead. They abandoned YHVH, the God of their ancestors who had brought them out of Egypt, and served other gods, the gods of the neighbouring peoples. They bowed before those gods and offended YHVH.

When YHVH saw that they had abandoned Him to serve Baal and Ashtaroth, He became angry with His people and gave them into the hands of plunderers who left them in misery. He Himself sold them to their enemies who completely surrounded the Israelites, so that these Israelites could no longer withstand them. Whenever they felt strong for an offensive, YHVH would turn against them and send evil upon them, as He had warned them and sworn to do. And this caused much distress and anguish for the Israelites.

YHVH raised up “judges” (or liberators) who saved the Israelites from their exploiters. But neither did they obey those “judges” for they still prostituted themselves to other gods and worshipped them. They soon left the way of their fathers who obeyed the commandments of YHVH; they did not follow the way of their fathers.

When YHVH made a judge appear among His people, YHVH was with him and saved them from their enemies. That lasted as long as the judge lived, for YHVH was moved to pity by the lament of His people who were oppressed and persecuted. But when the judge died, they again became worse than their ancestors – worshipping and serving other gods. They would not renounce their pagan practices and stubborn ways.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture passages all of us are reminded to keep our hope and focus on the faithfulness and the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the eternal glory and new life He has promised us, and to remain firm in our path, called as Christians to walk in God’s path, not to be deterred by fear and uncertainty, or by false teachings and erroneous ideas.

Instead, we must adhere closely to what the Lord had taught us through His Church, obeying the Law with our hearts and minds, with sincerity and honesty, that we are truly faithful in all things according to God’s will. And through our Gospel passage today, we have also been reminded not to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in how they acted and in how they practiced their faith.

Contextually, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were those that were very particular on the way the Law of God was practiced by the people, and many of them were mostly concerned with the way the Law was obeyed, as they held a very strict way of interpreting the Law and followed the Law to the letter, enforcing others to follow the Law and obey its tenets in the manner that they prescribed.

But the Lord criticised and rebuked these among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law with the woes He pronounced to them, reminding all of us that this is not the way that we ought to follow or practice the Law of God in our lives. The Law of God is not to be practiced by the letter only, but by both the letter and the spirit of the Law. And what does this exactly mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means we do not just pay lip service and blindly obey the Law without even understanding the meaning, purpose and significance of the Law of God.

For example, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced a very strict interpretation and obedience to the Law, to the smallest details in how they were to be obeyed, but in their obsession with the way how the Law is to be lived and observed, they forgot and misunderstood the Law’s true purpose and meaning. The observance became for many, mostly a formality and even a chore, as they were focused on the petty details of the Law rather than why they ought to be faithful and obey the Law.

That is exactly what happened if we just focus on the ‘letter’ of the Law and not understanding or appreciating the ‘spirit’ of the Law. And in the end, such observance of the Law and actions are meaningless if not accompanied properly with the desire and understanding from the heart, mind and soul. What it means is that, for us to be truly obedient to God and to be faithful, is to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to love Him with all of our heart, such as is the purpose and intention of the Law of God.

In our first reading today, St. Paul told the faithful in Thessalonica exactly this point, that every one of us should remain firm in our faith in God, and not be swayed by worldly temptations and false leads from those who wanted to achieve their own ambitions and mislead us from the path of truth. That is why, we must not follow the misguided path of many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom used the Law as means to promote themselves and their own agenda rather than genuine dedication to God.

How do we then live our lives with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where then we should look at the examples set by our predecessors, those who have been deemed authoritatively by the Church as being worthy of praise and veneration as saints and blesseds. And today in particular, we remember the memory of two saints, in their lives and dedication to the Lord, namely St. Louis, King of France, and St. Joseph Calasanz, a holy priest of God.

St. Louis, also known as King Louis IX of France, was one of the greatest Medieval kings of France, remembered for his great piety and dedication to God, his righteous and good rule over his people. St. Louis was committed to the betterment of his people’s livelihood, exercising justice and prudence over his rule and actions, and helped to strengthen his country in faith as well as in prosperity through his long and just reign as king.

St. Louis was pious and dedicated to God, and he showed his subjects and people true Christian leadership, leading the people down the right path, reforming the government and the Church, and making everyone closer to God through their renewed faith. St. Louis also participated in the Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land from infidels and those who persecuted Christians and pilgrims. Throughout his life, St. Louis has shown us what it means to be exemplary in faith.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a renowned and dedicated pries who spent much of his ministry in reaching out to the homeless and those who were hungry and suffering, those who were without education and care. It was not easy as there were many challenges that St. Joseph Calasanz had to overcome during all of his efforts. He continued to serve the people with dedication and also spent a lot of time to rejuvenate many people in the faith.

St. Joseph Calasanz was particularly remembered for his efforts in extending education to all people, including especially the poor and those who usually had not been able to attain any education previously, as at that time in particular, education was mainly available only for the rich and privileged members of the community. To this extent, St. Joseph Calasanz taught many people on various matters, helping them to gain the important knowledge and make a difference to their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, both St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz have shown us how we as Christians can live our lives and realising the Law of God through genuine commitment and the spending of efforts to love God, first and foremost before all else, and then to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the same manner. They have shown us what we ourselves can do in serving the Lord as good and committed Christians.

Now, are we willing and able to commit ourselves, our time and effort to do this? God has called on each and every one of us to follow Him, and therefore, let us all respond to His call with faith, and do what we can in our lives to serve Him, to glorify Him and to draw ever closer to Him through righteousness and justice, through obedience and understanding of God’s Law and commandments. May God be with us always and guide us through life. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Matthew 23 : 23-26

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the Law : justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.”