Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard of the exhortation for us to be holy, to be good and ever righteous in the presence of God, to be ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again as He has promised. And that is why we must dedicate our whole lives in His service and to be ever committed in our faith, not to be lax or complacent in living that faith, or else, we may regret it when the time of reckoning comes.

In our Gospel passage today, this is very well illustrated with the parable of the faithful servant and the bad servant, using the example of those servants to highlight what will happen to us should we take the Lord’s words seriously, or if we choose instead to ignore Him and continue to reject what He has called us to do in our lives. Unless we listen wholeheartedly to God’s words calling us and speaking to us in the depth of our hearts, we will be easily swayed and tempted to abandon His path.

The parable highlighted first of all, the two types of servants, one that is diligent and conscientious of all that he had been entrusted with, while the other servant was lazy and thought that the master would not come back so soon, and did not do as he had been tasked to, and instead abused his authority and treated his fellow workers and those under his authority badly for his own selfish desires.

The servants represent us, brothers and sisters in Christ, all the sons and daughters of man. All of us have been entrusted by God for our various tasks and callings in life. And this passage is a reminder that whatever we do in life, whatever we say and act, and how we interact with one another, all of these are significant and they will count on the moment of our reckoning, be it at the end of our lives or when the Lord finally comes again into this world.

The faithful and diligent servant represent those who have listened to the Lord, obeyed His commandments, and did everything as he or she had been told and taught through the teachings and laws of the Church. Meanwhile, the lazy and bad servant are those who ignored the teachings and laws of the Lord as held by His Church, and those who preferred to live their lives their own way, without regards for the path that the Lord had set before us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard in our readings today, as St. Paul highlighted in our first reading today that, for all of us the faithful people of God, we have been assured of the glory of God and the eternal joy that will be ours. However, we need to trust in God and put our faith in Him, or else, because of our lack of faith, we are the ones who make ourselves stumble in rejecting the surety of the glory of God and instead, exchange it for the temporary pleasures and glory of the world.

Do we want to be like that lazy and bad servant who slacked and took it for granted that his master had granted him so much and so good a life, that he disobeyed and did things to satisfy his own selfish desires? We see how it all ends, when the master came back suddenly and the bad servant was caught unaware by it. Do we want to be caught unaware also in our vices and sins, and then be cast out into the eternal darkness, from where no regret can do anything for us anymore?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should follow the examples set by St. Monica, whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Monica was a pious and devout woman, who was remembered especially as the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, the great bishop and Doctor of the Church, one of the finest saints of the early Church. And the role of St. Monica in making St. Augustine to be who he was cannot be underestimated, as it was her persistent faith and commitment, her love for her son and her refusal to give up on him that eventually led St. Augustine to return to the faith.

St. Augustine was born to St. Monica, a Christian woman, and Patricius, a Roman pagan, his father, who led a dissolute and wicked lifestyle, which would eventually also be followed by St. Augustine in his younger days. But despite being surrounded by all sorts of wickedness and vices of the world, St. Monica patiently and faithfully lived her life as a wife and mother, and she also acted with virtue, often giving alms and charities for the poor and the needy.

St. Monica definitely wanted her husband and son to be turned to the light, but the path would indeed be long, arduous and can be heartbreaking at times. Not just that she had to endure her husband, who although respected her, but lived wickedly, St. Monica also had to endure seeing her own son falling into sinful path, as he grew up and began to seek the truth, in a long journey, during which time, he would dwell into false ways like Manichaeism and also various hedonistic ways.

It was so bad that St. Augustine even caused a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock, meaning that he made the woman pregnant while not being married to her. This amongst others, such as his pursuit of pagan philosophical pursuits, must have hurt St. Monica badly, seeing her family like that. Yet, St. Monica patiently put her faith in God and dedicated herself to pray for her family’s conversion.

Eventually, by her patient faith and endurance, her care and concern for her loved ones, St. Monica managed to turn the heart first of her husband, who was said to have converted to the Christian faith and repented from all his sinful ways when he was dying. And when St. Augustine and St. Monica were divided by the former’s adoption of Manichaean heresy and his wicked way of life, St. Monica patiently endured and followed her son, eventually leading her to find St. Ambrose of Milan, the influential and charismatic man who eventually together, managed to turn St. Augustine back into the truth of Christ after many years of resistance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see in St. Monica the example of a true and virtuous Christian, who remained committed to God despite the challenges and pains that she had to endure. St. Monica showed true Christian virtues and patiently persevered, continuing to pray and to do what she could, just as the faithful and diligent servant had done, in dedicating her efforts to the greater glory of God.

And you see just how much impact that had caused, as through St. Augustine and the many people whom he inspired and touched, countless peoples and souls had been saved thanks to the perseverance and faith of St. Monica, his loving mother. Are we able and willing to follow in her footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the sacrifices required at times to be faithful to God, in all things?

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us and encourage us to be always faithful despite the challenges, trials and tribulations we may encounter in life. May God bless us all, and may St. Monica pray and intercede for each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 24 : 42-51

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.”

“Imagine a faithful and prudent servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time. Fortunate, indeed, is that servant, whom his master will find at work when he comes. Truly I say to you, his lord will entrust him with everything he has.”

“Not so with the bad servant, who thinks, ‘My master is delayed.’ And he begins to ill-treat his fellow servants, while eating and drinking with drunkards. But his master will come on the day he does not know, and at the hour he least expects. He will punish that servant severely; and place him with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

People will proclaim Your mighty deeds; and I will declare Your greatness. They will celebrate Your abundant kindness, and rejoice in singing of Your justice.

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 1 : 1-9

From Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, and from Sosthenes, our brother, to God’s Church which is in Corinth; to you, whom God has sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called, to be holy, together, with those, who, everywhere, call upon the Name of Our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.

Receive grace, and peace from God, Our Father, and Christ Jesus, Our Lord. I give thanks, constantly, to my God, for you, and for the grace of God given to you, in Christ Jesus. For you have been fully enriched, in Him, with words, as well as with knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. You do not lack any spiritual gift and only await the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

He will keep you steadfast to the end, and you will be without reproach, on the day of the coming of Our Lord Jesus. The faithful God will not fail you, after calling you to this fellowship with His Son, Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

Monday, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture through which we are reminded that God is truly amazing in all of the plans that He has for each and every one of us. And it is only by listening to Him and obeying His will that we will find true satisfaction, joy and comfort in life. For all that the world can offer us, there is nothing that can truly satisfy us except God alone.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in Thessalonica, St. Paul thanked God for all the faith which the people had shown in Him despite all the persecutions, difficulties and challenges they encountered in life. It was indeed a difficult time to live as Christians, as the early Christians were shunned and opposed by the Jews, and were looked with disdain and suspicion by the Greeks and the Romans alike.

But St. Paul encouraged them all that God would work wonders through them and He would strengthen them and make them worthy to be His disciples and followers. And the time would come when He would glorify the faithful for the obedience which they had shown in many occasions. This is a reminder that God never abandoned His people, and that He still loves each and every one of us, and desires that all of us can be reconciled with Him.

This is when the Lord Jesus came in through the action that He highlighted in today’s Gospel passage. He harshly rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their self-serving, selfish and self-centred attitude in dealing with their faith as well as in how they exercised the authority entrusted to them over the people of God. He rebuked them for their lack of true and genuine faith, as their faith expressions were merely, for most, a self-serving attitude.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law essentially have given in to the temptations of the world. They gave in to their pride, when they refused to believe in the truth and the Good News that the Lord Jesus had brought before them and the people. And their desire for power, for recognition, fame and status within the society was likely the reason for their constant and stubborn refusal to believe in God’s truth, despite all that they have seen and witnessed.

The Lord essentially told us all, that to be Christians, we must be prepared to face rejection, suffering, challenges, difficulties and trials along our journey of faith. But God also assured us, that He will never abandon us. If He has not abandoned even sinners and all those who have disobeyed Him, then all the more He will not abandon us all, who kept our faith in Him. God always loves us all, and to those who have fallen into sin, He always gives a second chance.

Today, it happens that appropriately, we also celebrate the feast of St. Monica, known especially because she was the mother of another great saint, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the four original Doctors of the Church. St. Monica was remembered as a loving mother and a devout and prayerful Christian, whose attention in life could not be anything less than the fate of her own son’s soul.

This came about at the time when St. Augustine, St. Monica’s son, was still young. Although St. Monica was a Christian, but her husband and her son were not. And living in a world filled with hedonistic pursuits and worldly pleasures, it was inevitable that St. Augustine fell into those temptations and lived in a state of great sin. But St. Monica did not give up on her son, as well as her husband.

She prayed and prayed, day after day, for their conversion and desire to embrace the Christian faith. Eventually, her unceasing prayers and efforts bore fruits, as first, her husband had a change of heart and confessed the Christian faith, and then her son also had a change of heart and became a Christian as well. That was how St. Augustine eventually became a great saint in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by what St. Monica had shown, in her dedication and never-giving up attitude towards her son, St. Augustine. Let us all also show the same love, care and concern towards our brethren, especially all those who have fallen into the traps of sin along their journey towards God. Let us help each other in our way towards God. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 4-5

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name.

Proclaim His salvation, day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

How great is YHVH and worthy of praise! Above all gods, He is to be feared. For all other gods are worthless idols, but YHVH is the One Who made the heavens.

Monday, 27 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

2 Thessalonians 1 : 1-5, 11b-12

From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy, to the Church of the Thessalonians, which is in God, our Father, and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May grace and peace be yours, from God, the Father, and Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, we should give thanks to God, at all times, for you. It is fitting to do so, for your faith is growing, and your love for one another, increasing. We take pride in you, among the Churches of God, because of your endurance, and by your faith in the midst of persecution and sufferings. In this, the just judgment of God may be seen; for you must show yourselves worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are now suffering.

May our God make you worthy of His calling. May He, by His power, fulfil your good purposes, and your work, prompted by faith. In that way, the Name of Jesus, our Lord, will be glorified through you, and you, through Him, according to the loving plan of God and of Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Saturday, 27 August 2016 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of a great and remarkable saint, a loving and devoted mother, one of the cherished daughter of our Lord, who had given herself to serve the Lord, especially by her tireless and never-ending perseverance in trying to make her son, another very famous and important saint, to return to the faith in God and be saved from eternal damnation.

And as I will elaborate more on the matter later on, let us see how this great woman had fulfilled and done what the Scriptures today have heeded us to do, that we do the same things and commit ourselves in the same way that she has done it. It is important then that we take note of what the Lord spoke of through His Apostle St. Paul in our first reading today about whom God had chosen to be His word-bearers and tools among the nations, and what He Himself spoke about in the Gospel regarding the parable of the silver talents and the good and the lazy servants.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and to the faithful ones in Corinth, St. Paul spoke passionately about being chosen by God, and whom God had chosen to be His people, and more importantly to be those who would become His bearers of the truth that He brought into the world, that through them and their works, they might bring eternal life and salvation to all those who believe in them.

In this matter, we should see how God had not chosen by using worldly standards of power, influence, fame and wealth. God did not choose us because we are great in the eyes of this world, unlike how people in this world usually gets chosen for something important. While the world praised and glorified wealth, praising those who have been successful in getting more money and accomplishments for themselves, but God chose differently.

God chose not the powerful of the world but instead what is powerful according to His standards, that is the strength of our devotion and commitment, the strength of our faith and the love that is within each and every one of us. For God, there is no greater value in us than the love which we show back to Him, He Who has loved us all and cared for us. God values not all the riches and the wealth that this world can assemble, for these are temporary and transient in nature.

And yet, it does not mean that we should just accept God’s calling and then be passive in all things. It also does not mean that we should then lay back and do nothing since after all God does not value the wealth, riches, fame and all the other worldly things, is He not? As we then need to look deeper just beyond what St. Paul had said and link it to what we also heard in the Gospel today, where our Lord Jesus spoke about the parable of the silver talents and the servants.

In that parable, God spoke about a master who entrusted his silver talents to several servants, each of which did differently with the silver talents entrusted to them. But the gist of the matter is that while the good and devoted servants invested those silver talents which they have received, and received back not just the silver talents they invested but also even more silver talents as profit, the lazy and wicked servant just hid the silver talent, never investing them, and in the end gained nothing.

This is a comparison which we can make with our own lives in this world. We are all the servants to our Master and Lord, and we have been entrusted with different kinds of gifts that God had blessed us with, our talents and abilities, as well as the seeds of faith, hope and love that He has planted in each and every one of us. And yet, how they would come to be depends indeed entirely on us and our ability to grow them and prepare them through our work and effort.

To be a Christian means that we must be active, and indeed be actively involved in the actions that God has called us into, that is to serve and to love one another with sincerity and generosity from deep within our hearts, probably just as how much as St. Monica, the holy woman and a devoted mother had done in her own life. She devoted her life for the sake of her son, St. Augustine of Hippo, who would go on to become a great saint in his own right.

We mostly would know St. Augustine of Hippo as a very great saint who is now known as one of the four original Doctors of the Church, and who with St. Jerome is among the two pillars that helped to establish the Church in the West, that is Rome and thus what our Church today is about, and what we believe in. His writings are still widely read today and continued to inspire many, but these all would not have been possible if not for the tireless efforts of St. Monica, his mother.

St. Monica was a Christian who married a pagan husband, who was an important administrator in the public service. Their son, St. Augustine was given the best of education possible and available to him, and yet, he drifted slowly into the wickedness and the debauchery of the world, seeking pleasures and hedonistic pursuits in life, following the examples of his peers and friends.

Certainly, no mother would ever want her child to fall into the abyss, and no mother would ever want to lose her child to the darkness of sin. And as a Christian herself, we can simply imagine what kind of pain and sorrow existed in the heart and mind of St. Monica, who was faced with that great agony of seeing how both her husband, a pagan, and her son in particular, were slipping into the embrace of the devil and eternal damnation.

Then we have to note what St. Monica did ceaselessly without fear and without stop, that she prayed and hoped without end, knowing that God would answer her prayers, and rescue the soul of her beloved ones from the chasm of death. And God did answer her prayers and her charitable efforts, and touched by her loving care, first it was her husband who turned to the Lord, and then St. Augustine himself, as he felt that longing for something that he could not find in the debauchery of the world, that is God alone.

The perseverance and the love that St. Monica had shown us is truly exemplary, and she had shown us the love of a good and devoted Christian mother, as how a Christian is supposed to be like. Let us all learn from what she had done, and how she had devoted her life to God, to her husband, and more famously from these, is how she had loved her son and had not given him up to the darkness.

Therefore, shall we also do the same to our brethren around us? Shall we not show love, care and compassion for our brothers and sisters who are now struggling in the darkness? Let us endeavour to break free from our comfort zones and seek out to be the light and the bearers of God’s salvation to these brethren of ours.

May God help us in our work and efforts to bring each other closer to His presence, that all of us may be saved and may receive the glory of eternal life, just as what St. Monica had done, never ceasing to believe that her son, St. Augustine, could be saved from eternal death in sin. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 27 August 2016 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the money, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Very well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!'”

“But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered; so you should have deposited my money in the bank, and on my return you would have given it back to me with interest.'”

“‘Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”