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, 21 August 2017 : 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 heard about how God was with His people throughout their time in the land granted to them by God. But the people of Israel had not always been faithful, and they lapsed again and again into sin, disobeying God and His commandments. They worshipped the pagan gods and idols of their neighbours, Baal and Ashtaroth, and they abandoned the God Who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and cared for them with His love.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why is that so? The people of Israel had settled down in the land of Canaan, after the long journey of the Exodus, staying at a land blessed by God, rich and overflowing with milk and honey, where each of the agricultural products and crops the people grew produced rich harvests. They lived in a state of grace and joy, and they enjoyed the many good fruits of the world. But that led them to become decadent and then made them to drift away from the path of the Lord.

The Israelites had with them the laws and the commandments of God, and yet, they eventually failed to remain faithful to those laws and commandments. Why was that so? They had those laws, and they had the leaders, the priests and the elders to guide them to the path of God through the interpretation and obedience to those laws. But those laws would be of no use if the Lord was not truly in the hearts and minds of the people.

That is because if the people did obey the laws and the commandments, but if they did not truly live in accordance to those commandments and believe in them in their hearts wholeheartedly, that was why they easily fell into the temptations of the devil. They were easily swayed by worldly things, and the allures of pagan worship that included revelry and worldly pleasures thus attracted them. They found it too difficult for them to obey the strict commandments of God.

That is what the Gospel passage today has also told us, as it showed us the moment when a young man met and asked the Lord Jesus, about what he ought to be doing in order to receive eternal life. He has obeyed all the laws and commandments of God, as prescribed through the laws of Moses, and further explained and enforced by the Pharisees and by the teachers of the Law.

However, it is indeed possible for someone to obey the Law and at the same time, not truly having a strong commitment and devotion to God. When the Lord Jesus told him that he ought to let go of all the things he had and possessed, and gave them for the sake of the poor before following Him, the young man became very sad and dejected, and he walked away in sorrow. Why is that so? Because to him, his material possessions and wealth worth to him so greatly, that he was not able to be separated from them, even just the thought of it sorrowed him so.

How many of us are like him, brothers and sisters? How many of us are incapable of separating ourselves from our worldly possessions and concerns, ending up in us sacrificing our relationship with God. We end up being so preoccupied with our work, with our pursuit for worldly glory, fame, money and all those things, that they ended up becoming the new idols in our life, like that of Baal and Ashtaroth that deceived and swayed the Israelites to the path of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to turn away from all these temptations and false idols of our life. We may think that as Christians we believe in God and worship Him. Yet, if we spend so much of our time trying to accumulate these worldly possessions, and adore them so much, is it not that we have made them to be idols that we worship besides God?

It is important for us all to learn to put aside all these distractions, and we can perhaps learn from the examples of the holy saint whose feast we celebrate today, that of Pope St. Pius X, the holy Pope and saint, known also as the Pope of the Holy Eucharist, for his great dedication to the Lord and for his attempts to bring the Lord in the Eucharist closer to the people, by allowing people at a younger age to receive Him.

But Pope St. Pius X was also remembered for his dedication to the people, as well as his dedication to his family. He was a dedicated parish priest for many years, and he helped many people to overcome their problems and brought them back to the Lord. And as a bishop and later as the Patriarch of Venice, he continued to devote himself to the people, caring for them and remaining humble in all things.

Despite his privileges and position, he never tried to accumulate power, glory and fame upon himself, but instead, he continued the devote himself to do the works of God, and continue to bring glory to God. And he did not forget the kindness of those who were dear to him, especially to his mother, whom he cared for even unto the day of her passing.

Pope St. Pius X encouraged the faithful to have a strong faith and devotion to the Lord, encouraging them to seek for personal holiness in their lives. He encouraged and promoted the traditions of the faith and ensured that the people of God would be able to grow closer to their Lord by returning to the true teachings of the Church, which he ensured by the reformulation of the laws of the Church and the establishment of the first ever Canon Law of the Church, to weed out the excesses of the Church and the faith, and to return to the true faith of their forefathers.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Pope St. Pius X and the other holy saints and martyrs of God have lived their lives in commitment to the Lord, devoting all of their efforts and works to bring glory to God. There will indeed be lots of opposition, challenges and temptations when we do so, as we walk in the path of God. There will be plenty of moments when we will be pulled to the left and right, even by those who are dear and close to us, tempting us and even pressuring us to abandon our journey towards the Lord.

Our holy and devoted predecessors have experienced all of these, and so we are likely to experience them as well. Shall we now heed these examples, the piety and devotion which the holy saints, especially Pope St. Pius X had shown? Let us all walk in their footsteps, and throw away from our lives, the false idols of human greed, money, possessions, worldly fame and glory, and let us all reorientate ourselves and turn wholeheartedly to the Lord. Pope St. Pius X, pray for us, that all of us will be forgiven by God and be brought into His ever loving embrace. Amen.

Monday, 21 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 19 : 16-22

At that time, it was then, that a young man approached Him and asked, “Master, what good work must I do to receive eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you ask Me about what is good? One, only, is good. If you want to enter eternal life, keep the commandments.”

The young man said, “Which commandments?” Jesus replied, “Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honour your father and mother. And love your neighbour as yourself.” The young man said to Him, “I have kept all these commandments. What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all that you possess, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow Me.” On hearing this, the young man went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Monday, 21 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pius X, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 105 : 34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43ab and 44

They dared not destroy the pagans, as YHVH commanded; they mingled with these nations and learnt to do as they did.

In serving the idols of the pagans, they were trapped into sacrificing children to demons.

They defiled themselves by what they did, playing the harlot in their worship. The anger of YHVH grew intense and He abhorred His inheritance.

He delivered them many a time, but they went on defying Him and sinking deeper into their sin. But He heard their cry of affliction and looked on them with compassion.