Friday, 27 August 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scripture all of us are reminded of the need for all of us to always be faithful and ready for the Lord at all times, and not to be easily swayed by worldly temptations and the desires for worldly glory, fame and other things that can lead us astray and down into the path towards damnation. Instead, we should always be vigilant at all times and do whatever we are expected to do as Christians, as we have heard from our Scripture passages today.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the parable that our Lord told to His disciples, the well-known story of the five wise and five foolish maidens who were at a wedding that occurred at night, as the handmaidens to welcome the bridegroom to the celebration. If you are wondering why the wedding banquet was done at night, it is because in the Holy Land, where the story’s setting would have likely taken place, during certain months the temperature and conditions during the day is usually not favourable to conduct a celebration, being often hot and sunny. Hence, the celebrations often happened at night as it would be cooler.

However, at a time when electrical lighting were non-existent, it would have been very dark at night, save for the lights from natural sources such as the moon and the stars. That is why, the handmaidens as the bearers of the oil lamps were important not only to make things more festive, but also to help illuminate the dark surroundings, welcoming the bridegroom to his wedding celebration. This is why, they could definitely not afford to run out of oil at a time when their presence were needed the most.

Those five wise maidens brought with them extra oil and were well-prepared while the five foolish maidens did not. As a result, when the bridegroom delayed in coming, then those foolish maidens ended up running out of oil, and the wise maidens did not have enough oil to share with them, or else all of their lamps might have been snuffed out by the time the bridegroom came to the wedding banquet. And when the bridegroom did come, the foolish maidens were away to buy the oil, and when they returned, they were denied entry to the banquet, all due to their own carelessness and lack of preparation.

What this story in the parable tells us is that God has given us all the wisdom to discern and to think of what our course of life going forward is, and hence, we should be spending the time to discern carefully our path in life going forward, that we do not make the wrong decisions in life which will end up leading us down the wrong way. Yet, many of us have not done what is necessary to commit ourselves to the Lord, and instead, we have idled ourselves in pursuits of worldly pleasures and satisfaction, for the fame and glory of the world. All these will lead us eventually down the path to our downfall if we do not do anything about it.

That is why we should also reflect on the words of the Apostle St. Paul in his Epistle and letter to the Church in Thessalonica in our first reading today, as he reminded the faithful there to follow the Lord faithfully and lead a holy life befitting of their identity as Christians, to be holy as the Lord is holy, and this is the calling which all the faithful have been called to, to do what the Lord had shown them through His Law and His Church, that everyone ought to play their part as members of God’s Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should also be inspired by the great examples set by St. Monica, one of the great saints of the Church, whose life and dedication to both God and to her son, St. Augustine of Hippo, can be source of inspiration for ourselves on how we ought to act and behave as Christians, in answering God’s call and in living our lives faithfully as God’s people and as those who truly and wholeheartedly believe in Him.

St. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, the great Doctor of the Church, and as a loving mother, she was always devoted to her son. St. Monica was married to a pagan nobleman, and gave birth to St. Augustine of Hippo. She was a Christian, but she had to patiently watch and hoped for her husband and son to embrace the Lord and the faith in Him, while she had to see her son falling into the path of sin, as St. Augustine in his youth experimented with various ideologies and philosophies, including the heresy of Manichaeanism.

St. Monica never ceased to pray for the sake of her husband and son, and her fervent prayers, her piety and charitable acts eventually touched first her husband, who accepted the Lord on his dying moment, while St. Augustine also eventually discovered God in his journey of self-discovery, and was received back into the Church, and in the end, became a great servant of God and saint, as one of the four original Doctors of the Church, all of which would not have been possible if it was not for the dedication, prayer and commitment from St. Monica, St. Augustine’s loving mother.

Having seen the faith, dedication and the love by which St. Monica has lived her life, and her love both for God and for St. Augustine, we should also be inspired by her examples, so that we may live our lives more worthily from now on, to be faithful disciples and followers of the Lord in all things, and to be persistent in our commitment to God and love for Him, and in our care and concern for the brothers and sisters and others whom we encounter throughout life.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, to be always devoted and true to our faith, so that in each and every moments of our lives, we may always strive to be exemplary in our every actions, words and deeds, that the Lord will always guide us throughout the challenges and trials we may face in our journey in life. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 25 : 1-13

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “This story throws light on what will happen in the kingdom of heaven : Ten bridesmaids went out with their lamps to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were sensible. The careless bridesmaids took their lamps as they were, and did not take extra oil. But those who were sensible, took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom delayed, they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.”

“But at midnight, a cry rang out, ‘The bridegroom is here, come on and meet him!’ All the maidens woke up at once, and trimmed their lamps. Then the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some oil, for our lamps are going out.’ The sensible ones answered, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you. You had better go to those who sell, and buy some for yourselves.'”

“When the bridegroom came, the foolish maidens were out buying oil, but those who were ready went with him into the wedding feast, and the doors were shut. Later the other bridesmaids arrived and called out, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered, ‘Truly I do not know you.'”

“So stay awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.”

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 96 : 1 and 2b, 5-6, 10, 11-12

YHVH reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the distant islands be glad. Justice and right, are His throne.

The mountains melt like wax before YHVH, the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim His justice, all peoples see His glory.

You who love YHVH, hate evil, for He preserves the lives of His faithful; He delivers them from their foes.

He sheds light upon the upright, and gladness upon the just. Rejoice in YHVH, you, who are blameless; and give praise to His holy Name.

Friday, 27 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 4 : 1-8

For the rest, brothers, we ask you, in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, and we urge you, to live in a way that pleases God, just as you have learnt from us. This you do, but try to do still more. You know the instructions we gave you on behalf of the Lord Jesus : the will of God for you is to become holy and not to have unlawful sex.

Let each of you behave towards his wife as a holy and respectful husband, rather than being led by lust, as are pagans, who do not know God. In this matter, let no one offend or wrong a brother. The Lord will do justice in all these things, as we have warned and shown you.

God has called us to live, not in impurity but in holiness, and those who do not heed this instruction disobey, not a human, but God, Himself, Who gives you His Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 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 words of the Scripture which continues to remind us of the dangers of having this faith in God and not understanding what our faith is truly about. In the Gospel passage, we heard therefore the continuation of yesterday’s rebuke made by the Lord Jesus against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had persistently opposed His good works among the people and misled the people with the way they observed and enforced the Law of God.

For the context, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often focused on the external appearances and external applications of rules, laws, customs and rituals pertaining to the customs of the people of Israel as handed down from Moses and through many generations, being modified and adjusted, and changed to the point that the laws and customs as how the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law practiced them were no longer reflecting the true intention and purpose of the original and true Law of God.

They practiced the Law and observed the precepts and customs with the intention of being honoured and praised for their piety and devotion, and the Lord rebuked them for being superficial and shallow, because they focused on appearances and external applications of the Law, which means that they took on the literal meaning and understanding of the Law rather than the true spirit and meaning of the Law of God.

They focused on the wrong things and instead of leading the people to become ever closer to God and to turn away from their sinful ways and love God more, they ended up turning inwards into their own worst enemies, their own pride and ego, their ambitions and worldly desires, wanting to be glorified and honoured for their obedience to the Law and for their exemplary faith, and their faith became one for show rather than genuine faith.

This is what the Lord rebuked them for, to remind them and also all of us not to follow that same path towards sin, and deeper into sin still. Rather, He has called us to break away from these wrong paths and to resist the temptations of worldly glory, from the pull and allure of our ego and pride, from our greed and the desires of our body and the flesh, for worldly pleasure, for acclaim, fame and adulation, for honour and glory.

Today, we celebrate the feast day of one renowned servant of God, whose story and life together with that of her son can encourage us all to be more courageous in living our lives with faith. St. Monica is a Roman Christian woman who was married to a pagan, and together they had a son, named Augustine, later to be known as St. Augustine of Hippo. Tomorrow we shall celebrate the feast of this saint, the son of St. Monica.

The two saints were celebrated side by side during two days because through the dedication which St. Monica had for her son, it was what made her son turn away from the path of sin and into the glory of heaven as a saint. For St. Augustine once led a debauched and sinful life, following pagan gods of Manichaeism and even had an adulterous relationship with a woman, before eventually, through the ceaseless prayers made by St. Monica, his mother, not only that St. Augustine was converted, but even her husband also turned to the faith before he passed on.

St. Monica lived her whole life virtuously and she dedicated herself just to two, first and foremost to God, of course, and then to her son, St. Augustine of Hippo. She showed us all what it truly means to be faithful to God, to show love first and foremost to God and then to her fellow men. She was known as a charitable and generous person in life, and her examples should inspire us to do the same in our own lives.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives in the same manner as St. Monica has lived hers? Are we able to live our lives with genuine faith and not just for appearances or for formality as what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done? We are challenged to rethink the way we have lived our lives thus far, and realign them with God’s way. He is showing us the way forward and we should trust Him to lead us on this journey of faith.

May the Lord through the intercession of His faithful servant, St. Monica help us all to turn away from our many temptations in life, and be more faithful to Him from now on. May He strengthen us all to live in faith more courageously, and be genuine in our love that in our every words, deeds and actions, we will glorify God and do everything out of love for Him and not for our own selfish gains and personal desires. May God bless us all and our every good works in His Name. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 23-26

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the Law : justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.”

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 4-6

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is formed in my mouth, You know what it is all about, o YHVH. From front to back You hedge me round, shielding me with Your protecting hand. Your knowledge leaves me astounded, it is too high for me to reach.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 2 : 1-8

You well know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not in vain. We had been ill-treated and insulted in Philippi but, trusting in our God, we dared announce to you the message of God, and face fresh opposition. Our warnings did not conceal any error or impure motive, nor did we deceive anyone.

But, as God had entrusted His Gospel to us, as to faithful ministers, we were anxious to please God, Who sees the heart, rather than human beings. We know, nor did we try to earn money, as God knows. We did not try to make a name for ourselves among people, either with you, or anybody else, although we were messengers of Christ, and could have made our weight felt.

On the contrary, we were gentle with you, as a nursing mother, who feeds and cuddles her baby. And so great is our concern, that we are ready to give you, as well as the Gospel, even our very lives, for you have become very dear to us.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we listened to the word of God speaking to us about the importance for us to stay true to our faith in the Lord, no matter what distractions or temptations that may come in our way. We should not be easily swayed by worldly desires and concerns, that we end up being corrupted by our greed and desires, by our ego and pride, and therefore end up falling into sin.

In the first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Thessalonica in Greece stated to them that they must not easily be alarmed or be discouraged by what some people might be hearing, especially if these ran contrary to the Gospel and the truth that the Apostles had brought into their midst. He reminded them to be strong and to remain true to the faith which they have received from the hands of the Apostles.

This would come to be important as in time to come, there were many heresies and false teachings that came among the people of God, which brought down many of the faithful, and including even priests and bishops who came to believe in all those falsehoods and wrong teachings. Heresies and syncretic teachings such as Arianism, Gnosticism, Monophysitism, Manichaeanism, and many others, including more recent examples, have caused many souls to be lost to the Lord.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in His series of condemnations for those who were entrusted with the care and guidance over the people of God. They were supposed to show care and concern for the fate of the Israelites, but they have failed to fulfil their obligation and supposed duty. Instead, they abused their power and influence for their own uses and selfish purposes.

They imposed harsh rules and regulations on the people, expecting them to follow their standard and practices of the Law, but they did all these, in order to be praised more by the people, to be respected and even feared, as the only authority that was available in teaching the people. Even though their interpretation of the Law and God’s commandments were wrong and misguided, but they refused to listen to the Lord Who came to right the wrongs they have committed.

Faced with such great challenges and difficulties, the Church and many of the faithful people of God struggled. Many people fell, and even from within the hierarchy of the Church itself fell into the heresies and became spreaders of the lies and terrible falsehoods instead. And yet, while many have fallen, but equally many have recovered from the fall and returned to the true faith in God.

And today we celebrate the feast of one great and renowned saint, whose life was the perfect example of that experience of falling into sin and to the lies of the devil, and returning back to the faith with a repentance and conversion of heart. St. Augustine of Hippo, also known as St. Augustine the Great is one of the most well-known and respected saints of Christendom, considered as one of the four original Doctors of the Church.

But early in his life, St. Augustine lived a life of debauchery, immorality and sin. He was not a Christian unlike his mother, St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated just yesterday. St. Monica prayed hard for the conversion of her son, who lived in a state of great sin and committing adultery, even to the point of having a son out of wedlock. But St. Monica did not give up on her son, and continued to pray for him, knowing that God would also never abandon His people.

St. Augustine turned to Manichaeanism following the examples of his peers and through the enticing nature of its worldly teachings. But in the end, he did not find true satisfaction and joy in the false ways of the Manichaeans, and through the works of St. Ambrose of Milan, another one of the four great Doctors of the Church and by St. Monica’s intercession, St. Augustine eventually repented his sinful ways and turned to the Lord.

It was through this long journey of repentance and faith, that many of the faithful living throughout the ages, even until this very day, benefitted through the many great works of St. Augustine of Hippo, who after turning away from his past, sinful ways, turned to be a great champion and protector of the true Christian faith or orthodoxy. He wrote extensively and preached in many occasions, inspiring many future generations of Christian leaders and teachers to continue keeping the fullness of truth as preserved in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, all of us are called to follow in their footsteps, in the courage of the saints and all of our predecessors. Let us all remain true to the fullness of truth of God, found in the Church alone, that by its sacred traditions and the preservation of the rightful interpretation of the Holy Scriptures through the Holy Spirit, by the teachings of St. Augustine and the many other holy and committed teachers of the truth, we may remain ever faithful and remain true in our dedication to the Lord, despite all the challenge we may encounter in life.

May the Lord be with us always, that each and every one of us will find the courage like that shown St. Augustine, to acknowledge just how sinful we have been, and how we are in need of God’s healing and mercy. Let us all turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and live a renewed existence in faith. May God bless us all and our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 23-26

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You do not forget the mint, anise and cumin seeds when you demand the tenth of everything; but then, you forget what is most fundamental in the Law : justice, mercy and faith! You should have done these things without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a mosquito, but swallow a camel.”

“Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You fill the plate and the cup, with theft and violence, and then pronounce a blessing over them. Blind Pharisee! Purify the inside first, then the outside, too, will be purified.”