Wednesday, 21 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture showing us the parable which the Lord Jesus used in teaching His disciples, on the workers in a vineyard, whom the landowner called in various times throughout the day. Some of the workers worked right from the beginning of the day while others started their work later and some still worked just at the very last hour.

This parable in fact shows us how the Lord works with us and through us, and how in our lives each and every one of us have been called by God to serve Him and to be with Him doing His will and walking in the path that He has shown us. And that is why in the parable, each and every workers mentioned in fact represent all of us mankind, the people of God whom He had called to follow Him, just as the vineyard owner, representing God, called all the workers to his field.

That vineyard is representing the world we are living in today, the world that God has created and is His dominion. When the owner of the vineyard called on the workers to work in his field, that is representative of how God called us all as Christians to be His stewards and representatives in this world, doing our good works and committing ourselves to the care of this wonderful creation He has given and blessed us with.

That is because as Christians, all of us have been called by God and entrusted with many things, especially to bear witness of the truth of God in this world, among His people, the people of many nations and races. We are called to be witnesses of our faith in God through our everyday actions and deeds, through our words and interactions with one another, especially with those who have not yet known God.

God has called us all at different points of time in our lives, and He never ceases to call on us even if we have not responded well to His call. That is why just as the vineyard owner went again and again into the town calling on more people to work in his vineyard, thus the Lord also called on us mankind to follow Him, again and again without cease, wanting us to follow Him and to walk in the path He has prepared for us.

And with regards to the ending of that work, when the vineyard owner gave each workers the same amount of pay, a silver coin, regardless of the time when each worker started their job or how long they have done the job, this is in fact showing us all that God has called us all to share in the same inheritance and glory which He has promised us and treated us all equally without distinction or being biased. All of us are equally beloved by Him.

That is why the workers who grumbled because they expected to receive more payment for their longer working hours were mistaken, because they did not work for genuine reasons but rather with the expectation to receive more than others. They were looking for the earthly rewards and not for the true reward of God, that is immeasurable. This is why the Lord Jesus mentioned about this matter as part of His parable, to remind us all His disciples that we do not seek for earthly glory, happiness and treasures in God, but rather the true happiness of life, that is our salvation and graceful existence with God.

Today we celebrate the feast of a holy, dedicated and courageous servant of God whose life and examples can be great inspiration for us all as Christians in how we should live out our lives with faith and how we ought to commit ourselves and dedicate ourselves to God’s service for each and every moments of our lives. Pope St. Pius X lived and reigned as Pope and leader of the Church just over a century ago but his passion in loving the Lord and in serving the Church and the faithful was truly inspirational.

He was born into a poor peasant family background, as Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, in a large and poor family in northern Italy. Young Giuseppe felt the calling of God during his formation and education years, and eventually became a priest with the support of his family. As a priest, the future Pope worked hard in the parishes and in the community of the faithful, patiently ministering to the needs of the poor and the underprivileged in the midst of the community. He ministered to the sick and the dying and all the faithful, caring for them spiritually and physically.

Eventually he was made the Bishop of Mantua in northern Italy and then as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, signifying the great contributions which this holy man of God had done over the many years of his courageous and dedicated service for the greater glory of God and for the benefit of the faithful. Then, in the year of Our Lord 1903, he was elected the Supreme Pontiff, Pope and leader of the Church, and during the eleven years of his pontificate, Pope St. Pius X vigorously laboured to serve the people of God.

He was remembered as the Pope of the Eucharist for his determination to push the practice of frequent Holy Communion for the faithful and for the age of the First Communion to be earlier, so that the faithful may become more attuned to the Lord and grow to be more faithful through the more regular reception of the Holy Eucharist. He also worked hard in opposing the heresy and sin of modernism among the faithful, persevering against the forces trying to subvert and lead the people of God into sin through the temptation of worldliness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives with faith as what Pope St. Pius X had shown us? Are we able to love God and to do His will with all of our hearts as we should? There will be challenges and difficulties along the way, but rest assured that the Lord will reward us in the end for our faith, not with the glory and happiness of this world, but with true happiness and joy of His saving grace that surpasses all earthly joy and pleasures. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He strengthen us to live ever more courageously in faith as Pope St. Pius X and many other saints had done. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 21 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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, 21 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.'”

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us all of the love which God has constantly shown to us, despite all of our disobedience and refusal to love Him. He has always been faithful to the Covenant He made with each and every one of us, and He has blessed us all throughout these lives we have, and everything that we are today, all of these are because of Him and His endless love for us.

In our first reading passage today from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses, who was at the last moments of his life, was speaking to the entire congregation of the people of Israel, those who have survived the whole forty years journey through the desert, having been led and guided by God throughout all those years of ordeal, suffering, trials and time of purification from their sins.

Those who have sinned and disobeyed God had perished in the desert as God Himself had told them, while their sons and daughters and those who remained faithful to God were the only ones who would then enter into the land promised to them and their ancestors, the land of Canaan. Moses reassured them all that God would be with all of them and they had nothing to fear. It was because of that fear which made Israel disobeyed and distrusted the Lord that caused the whole nation to wander in the desert for forty years in the first place.

God has always been faithful, and He continues to love His people generously as He has always been. And that is the clear message of today’s passage from the Book of Deuteronomy. God will care for us and take care of everything we need, but we need to trust in Him and put our whole lives, our whole existence in His care and devote ourselves to His providence and His compassionate mercy.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord through His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, reminds us yet again of this love which He has for all of us. By using the example and parable of the lost sheep, He shows that if even any one of us, represented by the sheep of the flock, wanders off and becomes lost, God, as our ever loving and dedicated Shepherd, will go all the way to look for us and to find us, and be reunited with us.

That is exactly what He has done, brothers and sisters in Christ, by willingly humbling Himself and assuming the form of our humanity, in becoming the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, to become the One through Whom we would be saved, by His works and by His ultimate sacrifice of love, the sacrifice of the Cross. God loves us so much that He willingly embraced all the sufferings and the pains of the punishments for our sins, and by His Cross, He unites us all back to Himself, reconciling us all by the atonement for our sins.

But His love, compassion, mercy and forgiveness will not be able to enter into us, if we remain obstinate and stubborn as those Israelites who have disobeyed and rebelled against God. They have closed their hearts and minds against the Lord and preferred to follow the temptations and false promises of Satan instead of listening to and obeying the Lord Who has loved and cared for them throughout all those years.

That is why, all of us need to reexamine our lives and reflect on the other words of the Lord today, Who has mentioned that unless we are like children in the manner of our faith, we will not be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Why is this so? That is because we all surely know how children usually behave. Children below a certain age of understanding and knowledge are truly pure and innocent, and they will believe whatever they have heard, seen and experienced wholeheartedly.

And this is exactly the kind of faith that all of us must have as well, a pure love and commitment to God, a genuine dedication and longing for Him. We should not be swayed by the many temptations in life, the temptations of desire, the temptations of worldly glory and the many other things that often prevented us from finding our path towards the Lord. Today, therefore, we should look at the examples shown by two great saints of the early Church who have overcome the temptations of worldly glory and chose to be truly faithful to the Lord.

Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were two great leaders of the early Church during the years of terrible persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Maximinus in the early third century after the birth of Christ. At that time, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were in fact on the opposing sides of the bitter divide between two factions in the Church, when Pope St. Pontian was elected to be the successor of St. Peter. Some of the Church elders has elected St. Hippolytus earlier on as an Antipope.

The bitter division and conflict between the two saints then and their followers threatened to cause great schism in the Church, but eventually, by the grace of God and because of the persecutions against the Church, they were reconciled to each other, and when the Pope was arrested and exiled, Pope St. Pontian chose to voluntarily resign his position, and it was likely that St. Hippolytus did so as well, allowing for the restoration of the full unity in the Church and the continuation of the line of St. Peter even after they were exiled and martyred for their faith.

The example of humility shown by those two saints and their devotion to God and to the people entrusted to them, despite the divisions that occurred temporarily at that time should show us that if we are able to cast off the temptations of pride, of worldly glory and power, of influence and fame, and accept humbly the cross of Christ as Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus had done, we too can share in their glory, through our own virtuous and exemplary lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all pray to the Lord, asking Him for strength and encouragement, that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him and find our way to the salvation He has promised to us all. May all of us be ever more committed and be able to serve Him from now on with all of our hearts and with all of our strength. Amen.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 18 : 1-5, 10, 12-14

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child, set the child in the midst of the disciples, and said, “I assure you, that, unless you change, and become like little children, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble, like this child, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever receives such a child, in My Name, receives Me.”

“See that you do not despise any of these little ones; for I tell you, their Angels in heaven continually see the face of My heavenly Father. What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 13 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Deuteronomy 32 : 3-4a, 7, 8, 9 and 12

For I will proclaim the Name of the Lord and declare the greatness of our God. He is the Rock, and perfect are all His works, just are all His ways.

Recall the days of old, think of the years gone by; your father will teach you about them, your elders will enlighten you.

When the Most High divided humankind and gave the nations their inheritance, He set up boundaries for the people after the number of the sons of God.

But the Lord keeps for Himself His portion Jacob, His chosen one. The Lord alone led them, without the aid of a foreign god.