Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today Jesus yet again rebuke the Pharisees, casting to them the woes that troubled them, and therefore, troubled the people of God. The Pharisees and the chief priests were the religious leaders of Israel, the people of God, and their misbehaviour caused much harm to all of God’s children. It is like the blind leading the blind, and it leads to both the leader and the follower to fall into death, yes, into damnation.
Jesus did not just rebuke the Pharisees and the leaders out of thin air, as He truly had a very strong and concrete evidence that the Pharisees were indeed hypocrites, outwardly appearing to be pious and devout servants of God and His law, while in fact, deep inside, they have no love, and no God inside them. They love the Law and serve the Law but not God, and even worse still, most of these laws were in fact made by man, yes, by the Pharisees themselves, and by the teachers of the Law over the centuries.
They served their law first before they served God and His people. They abandoned their charge and their duties in the search of human vanity and worldly glory, and in doing so, they have sinned before the Lord their God, our God. They had not been faithful ministers of the Lord, in the way that St. Paul had explained to the people of God in Thessaly through his letter in our First Reading today. To be faithful disciples and ministers of the Lord involve much more than just merely following the law, doing the law, and obeying the law.
Indeed, to follow the Lord and to do His will involves a great investment and effort from us, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. We must be active participants and active stakeholders in this plan of salvation, and not just be idle bystanders and assume that everything will just come to us. What investment are we talking about here? It is love, the love within our hearts, expressed outwards through our actions, our words and our deeds. Love is important, brothers and sisters in Christ, as it is a potent weapon we can use to fight against the devil and all his evil advances.
Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the devil is up against us with all of his forces and his powers. He will not be satisfied before we fell into his traps and follow him into damnation. And that is why we must be ever vigilant, and ever mindful, of the dangers facing us, of the oppositions facing us on this path towards salvation. Not a straight and easy road, but one with many roadblocks and obstacles.
Let us not fall into temptation like those Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom fell into the trap of the devil and gave in to their human weaknesses, and to the devil’s lures. They gave in to their pride, and to their human greed, greed for power, greed for renown, and greed for influence among many others. They sought the glory of man and the praise of man, instead of divine praise, and that was what Jesus also found faulty in them.
Let us not boast of our own human strengths and abilities, but instead seek to use them humbly for the sake of God, and for the betterment of our fellow men and women, our brethren. Let us put God first before everything else, and before our own selves. Let us also our brethren in need, and their needs ahead of our own needs. Do not be quick to criticise as the Pharisees had done, but instead seek to find the good and the love in everyone. No one is worthy of damnation, and we can indeed do our part to make sure that no one will fall again into the traps of Satan.
Today, brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate the feast of St. Monica, who is also well known as the mother of the great saint and pillar of the Church, that is St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the four original and therefore one of the greatest of the Doctors of the Church. St. Augustine would not have attained such stature nor would he had done so much for the sake of the Church and for God, had his mother not given her all to ensure that things happened as they had.
St. Augustine was born into a life of privilege and as he grew, he was exposed to the world and all its temptations, and he became a great sinner, who embraced many of the things that God is displeased with. He became wayward and sought the pleasures of the world, and became a Manichaean, a heretical teaching widespread throughout the Roman Empire during the time of St. Augustine and St. Monica. He gave in to the temptations of the devil and embrace fully the pleasures of the world, and therefore was supposed to be doomed to damnation with the devil and his angels.
However, St. Monica his mother would not let his soul fall into damnation or fall into the hands of the devil. She worked hard, prayed hard, and hoped hard, that her son will return to the ways of the Lord and be converted back into the faith. She continued to support her son despite his waywardness. Eventually, her prayers and her devotion to both God and her son made a change in St. Augustine’s heart, and he returned into the fold of the Lord, and not only that he returned, but he even became a great apostle, a great preacher, and a great teacher.
St. Augustine would not have been the pillar of the Church and one of the four great Doctors of the Church, had it not been for his mother, St. Monica. It is her prayer and devotion to him, and to God, that had made the difference. We too, brothers and sisters should follow the example of St. Monica, her love and devotion for God, not in empty words and rites as what the Pharisees had done, much words but no true love for God, and instead, follow the way of St. Monica, who showed her love, perseverance, and true dedication and love for God and His children, especially in St. Augustine her son. We too can make a difference, brothers and sisters, through our own words, actions, and deeds.
It is up to us, whether we truly make our faith in God truly alive, truly vibrant with life. That it is a living faith and not an empty, dying faith. Our faith in God is measured by how much love we have for Him and for our fellow men, and our true dedication and attention to Him, not by the length and grandness of our appearances or prayers. Prayers are important, brethren, but it is the prayer that comes from our hearts that matter, and not that merely come from our mouth. God be with us all, and may He continue to shower us with His love. Amen.