Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the love that God has given us all, which He has lovingly reminded His people in the first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, of the love which He has shown them in taking care of them like a father taking care of his children, protecting them, guiding them to the right path and treating everyone equally.

And there is a parallel to what we have heard in that passage to what the Lord Jesus mentioned in our Gospel passage today, when the tax collectors of the Temple came to the disciples of the Lord and asked them on the matter of paying the Temple taxes. For the context, all the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites living in the land of Judea, Galilee and other parts of the land of Israel at that time, they had to pay the Temple tax as part of their contribution and obligation.

And the Lord mentioned using a comparison, how only strangers and aliens are taxed and obliged to pay a fee, while the sons and daughters of the kings and rulers are free from such fees, as they were considered as the family of those same kings and rulers. How can those kings and rulers expect the members of their own families, those who were dear and beloved to them to pay taxes and to be subjected to the same treatment as strangers?

By using this comparison, in fact, the Lord once again stressed to us how loving and compassionate He has been to all of us, that He has not treated us all like strangers and aliens, but rather, treating us as His own children. For truly, we are children of God, not just because He has created and made us from nothingness, and out of love, but also because through Christ, we all have shared in the relationship that the Lord Jesus has with His heavenly Father.

For the Lord Jesus is the Son of God, but also at the same time the Son of Man, because His Divinity has descended into this world and embracing the fullness of humanity through His mother, Mary, becoming fully Man but yet remaining fully Divine at the same time, having the two distinct natures of Man and God united and being inseparable in His person, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It was by His act of ultimate sacrifice on the Cross then that Christ has sealed a new Covenant between God and mankind, a new and everlasting Covenant that will never be broken again, for the Precious Blood of the Lord Himself sealed that Covenant, as it poured down from the Cross of our salvation. And through that, He united all of us to Himself, and brought us all together to be reconciled to God, His heavenly Father.

Now, all of us having heard this, we should appreciate just how much God has loved us all as His own children, as those whom He loves very dearly. But many of us have not loved Him as we should have, and we have often wandered off away from His path, many times. And because of that, we have fallen into sin and darkness, and yet, God continues to love us and wants to be reconciled with us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of His glorious saints, whose life should become an inspiration for us in how we should live our own lives as well. St. Jane Frances de Chantal was the wife of a wealthy nobleman who became a widow early in her marriage and had to take care of her children on her own. She was known for her great piety and generosity to the poor and the needy.

Initially, she was unable to forgive the person responsible for her husband’s death, but after a life-changing experience of having listened to a sermon on the matter of forgiveness and the love of God, she changed her mind and wanted to devote herself totally to God as a religious nun. Eventually, she did become a religious and established a new religious order especially for those who had not been able to join the religious life due to health or age.

St. Jane Frances de Chantal truly loves God, and she devoted her whole life to serve Him, by loving Him and spending time with Him through prayer, and even more importantly, by loving all those whom the Lord has loved, that is her fellow brothers and sisters, those who were unloved, rejected and unwanted by the society. Are we able to love God in the same way that St. Jane Frances de Chantal had done? And ultimately are we able to love God just as He Himself has loved us first?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all devote ourselves, our time, effort and energy from now on to the Lord with all of our hearts and minds. Let us all turn towards God with love, and let us be ever more faithful to Him from now on. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

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, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Monday, 12 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, Religious (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Religious)

Deuteronomy 10 : 12-22

So now, Israel, what is it that YHVH, your God, asks of you but to fear Him and follow all His ways? Love Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Observe the commandments of YHVH and His laws which I command you today, for your good.

See : the heavens, those that are seen and those that are unseen, the earth and all that is in it, everything belongs to YHVH, your God. Nevertheless, it was on your fathers that YHVH set His heart. He loved them, and after them, He chose their descendants – you – preferring you to all the peoples, as you can see this day.

Purify your hearts, then, and do not be defiant towards YHVH because YHVH is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. He is the great God, the strong and terrible God. When He judges, He treats everyone equally; He does not let Himself be bought by gifts. He renders justice to the orphan and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him bread and clothing.

Love the stranger then, because you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. Fear YHVH, your God, serve Him, follow Him and call on His Name when you have to make an oath. He is your pride and He is your God, Who has done those amazing things for you. When you went down to Egypt, your ancestors were no more than seventy persons, but now, YHVH, your God, has made you as many as the stars of heaven.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through the Scripture passages we heard of the wondrous deeds and works of God Who has performed such great miracles and wonders for the sake of His beloved people Israel, as part of the exhortation which Moses, the leader of the people mentioned to them to remind them to be faithful to the Covenant which they had made and sealed with God, as a lasting promise of faith and commitment.

In that passage from the Book of Deuteronomy in our first reading, we heard of the many wonders of God Who had taken care of the many needs of His people, protecting them from their enemies and guiding them patiently through the many years of their journey in the desert. It is a reminder also of the love and commitment which God has showered His people and which He has remembered for the love He had for them and their ancestors.

Therefore, Moses exhorted the people to remain faithful to the Law of God and to His commandments in all things, so that He would continue to bless them and protect them, and that they would prosper in the land promised to them and their ancestors, to which God was leading them into. At that time, the people of Israel were known to be stubborn and rebellious, refusing many times to obey the Lord and preferred to follow their own ways.

They were reminded that if they remained by the side of the Lord and stayed faithful, they would be blessed and glorified just as God has promised to each and every one of them. And this reflects the same message which our Gospel passage today delivers to us, as the Lord mentioned to His disciples of the reality of being His follower, in what they would have to endure as those who have devoted themselves to His cause, and the promise of true glory and happiness that will come in the end.

All of these are reminders for us that as Christians, we believe in God and take Him as Our Lord, Master and Saviour. And if we truly have faith in God and are truly devoted to Him, then we should realise that as the members of His Church, we will have to expect challenges and difficulties in our journey of faith, obstacles and barriers that will be in our paths, as we embark on our way to follow the Lord.

The people of Israel crumbled under the temptations of earthly desires and impatience, and they could not remain faithful to God, and instead, desiring quick-fixes and shortcuts to their problems. Essentially they trusted more in their own human instincts and desires rather than putting their trust in God and His providence. As a result, they fell into disobedience and sin, not realising just how much God had done for their sake, out of sincere and genuine love.

We really need to think and spend some time to reflect, brothers and sisters in Christ, on the words of the Scripture we have received today. The Lord called on us to follow Him, and made it clear to us that following Him means for us to take up our own crosses and follow Him in this journey of faith, and those who follow Him faithfully will receive from Him the assurance of eternal glory and the fullness of His providence.

And we must realise how fragile our human existence is, and how easily it is that we can fall into temptation as our predecessors have shown us. The people of Israel themselves showed us through their wicked behaviours throughout their journey in the desert. And then, throughout history, we can see just how much wickedness, injustice and suffering have been caused by our attachments and inability to resist the temptation of desire and the pulling power of sin.

Today, we mark the feast day of one renowned saint of the last century, whose life and exemplary faith are reminders for us to turn away from our sinful ways. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, also more popularly known as St. Edith Stein was a Jewish convert to the Christian faith, and who took up the religious life as a nun of the Congregation of the Discalced Carmelites during the years in between the two great World Wars.

She was an intellectual who was attracted to the truth found in the Christian faith, and that led her to Christ in accepting the faith and eventually becoming a committed religious nun. She loved God very much and dedicated herself to the rigours of the Discalced Carmelite life, and as at that time, the whole world was about to be plunged into the Second World War coupled with the persecution of Jews by the NAZI regime, she also prepared herself for the eventuality of martyrdom.

Instead of seeking glory and happiness for herself, St. Edith Stein showed us a life of total surrender to God and full trust to the Lord and His will. She was martyred in a concentration camp during the war, having been arrested and imprisoned by the NAZI regime, and placed into the horrible concentration camp and sentenced to death in a gas chamber. Yet, even after her death, the inspiring life story and exemplary faith of St. Edith Stein continue to inspire many Christians right to this very day.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow the examples set by St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, St. Edith Stein, holy woman and holy servant of God? Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves wholly to Him, turning away from our sinful and wicked past? Let us all spend time to reflect on this, and think in what way we can grow ever closer to God and be more faithful to Him, each and every day from now on. Amen.

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 16 : 24-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow Me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for My sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?”

“Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of His Father with the holy Angels, and He will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Friday, 9 August 2019 : 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 76 : 12-13, 14-15, 16 and 21

I remember the deeds of YHVH; I recall His marvels of old. I meditate on all Your work, and consider Your mighty deeds.

Your way, o God, is most holy. Is there any god greater than You, our God? You alone, are the God Who works wonders, Who has made known His power to the nations.

With power, You have redeemed Your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. You led Your people, as a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.