Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scriptures, beginning with the vision of Ezekiel the prophet, who saw the glory of God and His Throne in heaven. He saw God enthroned in glory and all the Angels worshipping and adoring His majesty. This reading is chosen today, in tandem with the Gospel passage, to show us all that although we cannot see God directly now, but truly, He is the Lord and Master of all things, of the whole entire universe.

He is the One around Whom our lives should be revolving. He is the one true focus of our lives, and He should be at the very centre of our existence. But unfortunately, in our world today, as how it was during the time of the prophet Ezekiel and the time of our Lord’s coming, the Lord has often been forgotten and relegated to a less than important or prominent position in the hearts and minds of men.

At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, God has been so forgotten, after generations of people who refused to obey the Lord’s laws and commandments and who worshipped the pagan idols and heathen gods that they were scattered throughout the nations, carried into exile in the land of Babylon. The Temple of Jerusalem and the city were destroyed, and the kingdom of Israel and Judah were no more.

They were not able to commit themselves to the Covenant which God had made with their ancestors. They chose to find the easy way out, by looking for the idols of the people around them, which offered them worldly pleasures, prestige and all sorts of things they could not gain through the Lord, their God. Many of them wanted to be accepted by their pagan neighbours, and therefore, followed their customs and false beliefs.

At the time of the Lord Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were the ones entrusted to safeguard the Jewish customs and practices, that they zealously guarded against all sorts of perceived opposition or aberrations. To them, it was their interpretation of how the Law should be enacted and lived up to by the people that was right, and not any other versions or ways.

And they took great pride in this privileged position, to the point that they became boastful, arrogant and filled with ambition. This was what the Lord Jesus took issue with, as He rebuked them before the people, telling them not to follow their examples in how lived their faith lives. He rebuked them for their pride and their self-centredness, in wanting to be seen by others in their pious devotions and actions.

What is the problem here, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was the ego and pride that were in the hearts of man that were the problems. We were often so full of ourselves, thinking that we were the best, and we alone knew what was the best for us. Our selfish desires and wants for worldly comfort, happiness, pleasures, joys, all these temptations eventually overcome us, and fill us such that we are unable to realise how central is the Lord’s role in our lives and how insignificant our power and greatness are in the face of God’s own glory and power.

Now, the Lord Jesus Himself in the Gospel passage of this day told us of what we as Christians should do in order to prevent this from happening. First of all, as Christians we must be humble and not be proud. After all, everything that we are, our power, intellect, strength, material wealth and all else are in fact due to God’s grace and blessings. We would have nothing without God, and without Him, everything that we have, are meaningless.

For all the glory, the fame, the prestige, honour and wealth that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had gathered, all of them were merely fleeting and temporary. They were only gathering for themselves worldly treasures that could be easily destroyed at any time. And this came true when the Temple of Jerusalem itself, with the entire caste of the Pharisees and the elites of the Jewish society overthrown during a failed rebellion against the Romans just a few decades after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two holy man of God, saints whose life examples and actions can become inspiration for us to follow in how we live our own lives with faith. St. Louis was a famous King of France, as King Louis IX during the thirteenth century, who was remembered for his great reputation as a just and wise ruler, his commitment to the faith and the betterment of the Church, his participation in the Holy Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom.

Although he was a great king who possessed much power and amassed great prestige and honour from his many years as ruler of the great kingdom of France, with one of the mightiest and best-equipped armies of Christendom, but St. Louis remained humble and dedicated to the mission to which he was called as king, that is to serve his people with true dedication and love. He was remembered for his great acts of justice and chivalry, his care for the poor and the oppressed throughout his kingdom.

Essentially, St. Louis followed the examples set by Christ Himself, Our Lord and King. Even though Jesus was truly King above all kings and has all authority above all authority, but He remained humble in all things, and He showed it by example, serving even His disciples by washing their feet, a job which at that time customarily done by a slave. St. Louis showed the example of Christian leadership as first shown by the Lord Himself.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a Spanish priest and renowned educator, who was also the founder of the religious order known as the Piarists. He and his fellow religious was remembered for their loving care for the poor and the less fortunate, providing for their needs and giving free education for their children. He helped to establish the structures in place to provide care for these less fortunate among the community of the faithful.

The love which St. Joseph Calasanz and his fellow religious and his dedication to the less fortunate and the needy should be inspirations for us to follow, together with the faith and great commitment shown by St. Louis. Let us all therefore follow in their footsteps and turn towards the Lord, with great humility and desire to love Him more than anything else, even more than ourselves.

If we have been proud, arrogant or selfish, then perhaps it is indeed time for us to reorientate ourselves and become true Christians through which we can truly follow the Lord with all of our hearts. May the Lord continue to guide us all, as we grow in faith, in love for Him and for our brethren, and in our humility. Amen.

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

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.

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Ezekiel 43 : 1-7a

The Man took me to the gate, facing east. Then I saw the glory of God of Israel approaching from the east, with a sound like the sound of the ocean; and the earth shone with His glory. The vision was like the one I had seen when He came for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen on the bank of the river Chebar. Then I threw myself to the ground.

The glory of YHVH arrived at the Temple by the east gate. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court : the glory of YHVH was filling the House. And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the Man stood beside me. The voice said, “Son of man, you have seen the place of My throne.”

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.