Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 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 God against the king of Tyre, which He delivered through the prophet Ezekiel. The city of Tyre was famous since the ancient times, thousands of years ago, as a rich and powerful city, to be exact an island city populated by the Phoenicians, a seafaring and merchant-based people, who colonised many trade centres throughout the Mediterranean.

The city of Tyre, its people and king were all fabulously wealthy, and they had all the resources and worldly materials that people at that time desired. In addition, the city’s strategic and highly defensible position, being an island protected by the sea around it, and with a powerful navy easily supported by its immense wealth, the city of Tyre became a very proud city, ambitious and haughty. It was the epitome and symbol of worldly power, pride and greed.

This is related to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel passage today, which is a continuation of what we heard in yesterday’s Gospel about a young, rich man who came to the Lord asking how he could attain eternal life. The Lord Jesus asked him whether he had done and obeyed the commandments and laws of God, and he responded that he did.

But when the Lord asked him to sell everything he had and follow Him, the young man immediately hesitated and left in great sorrow, as he could not bear to part with his immense wealth and material possessions. Then the Lord in today’s Gospel passage explained how it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, by using the comparison to a camel, pointing out how it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

What the Lord Jesus had told us in the Scripture passage, is however, not a condemnation or rejection of the rich. The Lord our God loves every single one of us, whether we are rich or poor, strong or weak, or by whatever parameter it is that we often measure ourselves against each other with. What the Lord intended to tell was that, the wealth and riches of the world are themselves not the issue, but it was how we mankind often misuse these, or in how we live our lives according to these things.

What I mean is that, many of us are often so preoccupied with these worldly and material goods, that we end up being overcome by greed and desire, and we end up doing things that are wicked and unjust, and against God’s laws and commandments, in order for us to gain more of these tempting things and worldly attachments. And this is the great obstacle that lies on our path towards God’s salvation and grace.

Many of us are unable to resist the temptations brought by all these worldly and material allures of our flesh and mind. We are surrounded by so many of these temptations, and the world only makes it worse by continually bombarding us with materialistic advertisements, actions, and persuasions among many others. That is why, as Christians, all of us are called to make our stand, to resist the temptations that will come our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pius X, holy Pope and Successor of St. Peter, who was the Supreme Pontiff approximately a century ago. He was remembered for his great holiness and piety, and for his great dedication towards the betterment of many of the faithful. He was born into a poor family in northern Italy, and chose to follow the calling to be a priest, eventually rising to be a bishop and later on the Patriarch of Venice.

But even though Pope St. Pius X rose in prestige and worldly power, he remained humble and true to his commitment to the Church and the faith. He worked hard and spent his time ministering to his flock, living austerely and devoting himself to a life of prayer and service to God. Pope St. Pius X was always concerned for those who have been entrusted to him, and later on as Pope, he was remembered for extending the reception of Holy Communion to people of younger ages, and for the reform of the Church music.

All of these were meant to get the faithful to be more involved in the Church, and by the repositioning of the Gregorian Chant as the primary form of worship music in the Church, he helped to reestablish and strengthen the sense of the sacred in the divine worship, and strengthened the Holy Mass as the centre and heart of our Christian faith. And Pope St. Pius X was also always striving for peace among the countries of the world, at that time enduring rising tensions. He died a broken man when the first World War broke out.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to imitate the zeal and courage which Pope St. Pius X has shown throughout his life, as well as his humility and desire to serve the Lord with all of his heart and with all of his might. Are we able to do all these? Let us all throw away all of our pride and arrogance, and learn to be humble in life.

Going back to the story of the mighty city of Tyre at the start of our reflection today, that city would be conquered and thrown down by Alexander the Great, destroyed and razed to the ground. It would never again regain its greatness and power, and would eventually be forgotten and overlooked by subsequent generations. This happened to all other great powers who boasted their might and power.

All of these remind us that in God alone we are able to put our complete trust and not in worldly things, all sorts of wealth, power, prestige, fame or glories, all of which are temporary and can be destroyed at any time. Let us all therefore from now on, renew our commitment to live faithfully, to spend our time and effort to draw closer to God with each and every passing day. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 19 : 23-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you : it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, believe Me : it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

On hearing this, the disciples were astonished and said, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and answered, “For human beings it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter spoke up and said, “You see, we have given up everything to follow You. What, then, will there be for us?”

Jesus answered, “You, who have followed Me, listen to My words : on the Day of Renewal, when the Son of Man sits on His throne in glory, you, also, will sit, on twelve thrones, to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. As for those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or property for My Name’s sake, they will receive a hundredfold, and be given eternal life. Many who are now first, will be last, and many who are now last, will be first.”

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Deuteronomy 32 : 26-27ab, 27cd-28, 30, 35cd-35ab

I said I would scatter them afar and blot out their memory among humankind, but I feared the enemy’s boasting, lest the adversary misunderstand.

And say : ‘We have triumphed, the Lord has not brought this about.’ They are a senseless and undiscerning nation. Had they wisdom, they would have known.

For how could one or two men put to flight a thousand or ten thousand, unless their Rock had abandoned them, unless their Lord had given them up?

Their day of calamity is at hand, and swiftly their doom will come. The Lord will give justice to His people and have mercy on His servants.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ezekiel 28 : 1-10

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Son of man, say to the prince of Tyre : You are very proud and self-satisfied : ‘I am a god, I sit like a god in the heart of the sea.’ Yet you are man and not a god; would you hold yourself as wise as God? You consider yourself wiser than Daniel; no secret is hidden from you. Your wisdom and know-how have earned you a fortune, gold and silver flowed to your treasury.”

“Clever in trade, you became wealthy and, as your fortune increased, your heart became prouder. But now, YHVH has spoken to you, to the one who is like God : I am bringing foreigners against you, the most feared of all the nations. Their sword will challenge your wisdom and debase your refined culture. They will bring you down to the pit and you will die in the depths of the sea.”

“Will you be able to say ‘I am a god’ when your murderers are killing you? You are a man and not a god. You will die the death of the uncircumcised and perish at the hands of aliens, for I have spoken – word of YHVH.”

Monday, 13 August 2018 : 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 Scripture passages relating to us about firstly the vision of the prophet Ezekiel as he saw the vision of the glory of God on His heavenly throne. He saw the Lord enthroned gloriously upon the Thrones and Cherubim, with a great multitude of Angels, surrounded by Seraphim and all the great servants of God.

In that vision, the Lord called Ezekiel, one of the exiles of Israel and Judah in the land of Babylon after they were brought there by king Nebuchadnezzar. Ezekiel was called to be God’s mouthpiece and prophet, to declare to the people in exile of His will and what would happen to the people and the kingdom of Judah, to be destroyed and brought into exile for their sins and constant disobedience against God.

Through what God has shown Ezekiel, He wanted him to know who his master truly was, that is none other than God Himself. Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and followed His commands, even though he had to encounter many opposition and challenges, even threats to his own life. He did what he could in order to perform whatever tasks He had entrusted to him, in order to bring Israel and its people to repent from their sins and reconcile with Him.

God was calling on His people through Ezekiel in order to gather them once again, that they may call Him their God, and He may call them His people. And this is related to what we heard through today’s Gospel passage, where St. Peter asked the Lord if they should all pay taxes to Temple as they were told to. And the Lord’s answer was truly wise and is something that all of us should take heed of as we carry on living our lives in this world.

At that time, the Romans ruled over most of the land around the Mediterranean Sea, including the area of Judea, where the ancient land of Israel was. They stationed garrison troops and installed governors to maintain local order, and they also imposed taxes on all the subject nations and peoples. The taxes paid to the government was used to fund all state expenses, and was also an important sign and proof of submission to the Roman state.

And on top of that, the Temple tax mentioned earlier was an additional tax levied on the Jewish people in order to maintain the running of the Temple of Jerusalem, which was the heart and centre of the Jewish faith, where sacrifices were regularly conducted. There were also many priests and ceremonies in that city, which required maintenance. Hence, again, the Temple tax was a sign of support and also obedience to the Jewish authorities, just as the Roman tax was a sign of obedience to the Romans.

The Lord Jesus said to St. Peter, asking him of his opinion, on who was supposed to pay the taxes to the kings, whether those who belong to the royalty or aliens, that is strangers and the common people. The Apostle answered that the strangers and aliens were the ones who were supposed to pay the taxes and not those who belong to the family of the kings.

Through this, the Lord wanted to state that, as the first reading passage today has shown us, He is the One and only True King of the whole Creation and the entire Universe. There is no other authority or power greater than that of God, and He alone is the source of all power and authority. And then, each and every one of us are beloved by God, that we are made to be none other than God’s own adopted sons and daughters.

Through Christ, Who became Man and as One Who is like us in His humanity, each one of us have been given the chance to call God our Father, just as Jesus called God the Father as His Father. Christ is both the Son of God and Son of Man alike, and through this, we are made to be God’s own children. Therefore, linking this fact with what the Lord had said in today’s Gospel passage, all of us ought to only obey God and His commandments alone.

But, this does not mean that we should disobey earthly and worldly authorities, as being Christians mean that we must be God-centric and we must place Him at the very centre of our lives, but not at the expense of our certain worldly obligations and relationships. We have to realise, that governments and worldly states are actually delegated part of the authority which God alone has.

That means, if we disobey the world and the order of things in this world, just because we want to obey only the Lord and no others, but at the detriment of ourselves and many others around us, we are actually not being responsible and good Christians. There are indeed occasions when the state and the government may act in contrary to the teachings of the Lord as preserved in His Church, when we are called to stand up for our faith, but as long as the state functions within the just boundaries of Christian truth and morality, we should obey the laws of the state and be good citizens of this world, just as we are first and foremost, God’s people.

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, whose life and works were intertwined together at the time when the Church was in its early days, during the time of the harsh persecutions of Christians by the Roman authorities. There were rivalry and bitterness between the two saints, as they were rival candidates to succeed to the throne of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Nonetheless, even though they eventually became rival Pope and Antipope, with portions of the faithful and the clergy on each side, but they continued to serve the faithful in their respective capacities, and as Roman citizens, surely they also obeyed the Roman state in the matter of paying taxes and also other civil duties, with the exception of the obligation to worship the pagan gods and the Emperor.

To them, their one and only true Master, is the Lord, and not the Roman Emperor or that of any other authorities of the world. That was why, they stood their ground in faith, when the community of the faithful were persecuted by the Roman authorities. And it was told that they were exiled together and endured many persecutions and sufferings, until they were martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to follow in the footsteps of those holy martyrs, who have given their all to the Lord and obeyed Him to the very end. Yet, at the same time, we are also called to continue to obey the authorities of this world, to which power and authority had been delegated from God, as long as the laws and rules do not contravene the centre tenets of our Christian faith.

May God be with us always, and may He continue to inspire us all to live with faith and with greater love, each and every day, for His laws and commandments. May He bless us all, in all of our works and endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 13 August 2018 : 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 17 : 22-27

At that time, when Jesus was in Galilee with the Twelve, He said to them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. But He will rise on the third day.” The Twelve were deeply grieved.

When they returned to Capernaum, the temple tax collectors came to Peter and asked him, “Does your Master pay the temple tax?” He answered, “Yes.” Peter then entered the house; and immediately, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? Who pay taxes or tribute to the kings of the earth : their sons or strangers and aliens?”

Peter replied, “Strangers and aliens.” And Jesus told him, “The sons, then, are tax-free. But, so as not to offend these people, go to the sea, throw in a hook, and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin in it. Take the coin and give it to them for you and for Me.”

Monday, 13 August 2018 : 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)

Psalm 148 : 1-2, 11-12, 13, 14

Alleluia! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him in the heavenly heights. Praise Him, all His Angels; praise Him, all His heavenly hosts.

Kings of the earth and nations, princes and all rulers of the world, young men and maidens, old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the Lord. For His Name alone is exalted; His majesty is above earth and heaven.

He has given His people glory; He has a praise to His faithful, to Israel, the people close to Him. Alleluia.