Monday, 26 August 2019 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, through today’s Scripture readings, all of us are reminded of the need for us to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and not be like hypocrites in our faith and in how we live out our lives. When we are faithful to God, let our every actions, every words that come out from our mouth and our every deeds proclaim the greater glory of God, and are done with the pure intention of loving and serving God alone.

We are reminded in our Gospel passage today, when the Lord Jesus released His scathing rebuke of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom have often opposed Him and His many good works by their actions and their selfish attitudes, their pride and their stubbornness in refusing to believe in God despite the truth which He Himself had brought into this world and willingly revealed before all of His beloved people.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were highly respected and also feared within the community of the people of Judea and Galilee at that time, because they were the ones who were knowledgeable about the laws and customs of Moses and Israel, and they were also the intelligent ones, the privileged ones who were highly educated and influential within the society. Their actions and words carry a great deal of weight and influence, power and sway.

But the Lord pointed out how their actions and deeds were often not like their words. They spoke of being faithful to God on one hand, and yet, their actions, their public show of piety and devotion, in their very strict interpretation and observation of the laws and customs of the people of Israel were devoid of the love and true faith that one has to have for God. Instead, their actions and deeds were often self-serving and self-glorifying.

From what we have heard in the Lord’s words against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law we can see how those people did not truly have God at heart, but trying to make use of the opportunity and the situation to bring more benefit, advantage, power, fame and whatever it is that satisfy them to their own selves. They want great returns and in a sense, profit from what they have done, and they did not place God first and foremost in their minds and in their hearts.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what many of us as Christians have been doing all these while as well. If we spend some time to reflect carefully on our own lives, how many of us can confidently say that in our every actions, words and deeds in life, we have been truly faithful to God and did everything for His greater purpose and for His greater glory? Or have we rather followed our own desires and our own ambitions instead?

Let us all really spend some time to think about our every actions and all that we have done thus far. And let us all discern how we can move on and be more faithful to God in all the things we say and do. Let us all no longer be subservient to our desires and to the whims of our ego and pride. We need to take the concrete effort to put God first and foremost in our lives, and resist the temptations of worldly glory and the temptations of the flesh.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have been reminded in today’s Scripture passages not to follow the path of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, let us all pray to God our loving Father, that He will always continue to guide us through this journey of life, that each and every one of us will be ever more faithful and be more dedicated to Him, so that in our every words, actions and deeds we will always glorify God.

May the Lord bless us all and may He continue to be our Light, the One Who guides us all through to the right paths, despite the darkness and the many temptations present in this world. Amen.

Sunday, 25 August 2019 : Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the Lord speaking to all of us through the words of the Sacred Scripture focusing on this one important question that we may have often asked ourselves, “Who is it that can be saved?” Or sometimes we may also ask ourselves the same question in a different way but with similar meaning, such as “Are we worthy or good enough to be saved?”

In what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages we are all reminded that unless we are truly faithful and try our best to do what the Lord wants from us, we will not have any part in the promised inheritance of God which He has promised to all those who are faithful to Him. To do that, we will have to show that we are truly faithful and good in our faith by our conscious and constant actions grounded on this faith that we have.

In our first reading passage today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard a great prophecy by Isaiah made with regards to the gathering of many nations and peoples from all origins to come to worship the Lord, the prophet spoke of how those people will come to glorify God and to praise Him, and surprisingly, how God will choose even the priests and the Levites from among them, people who were used to be considered as pagans and unworthy of God.

And this is closely related to what the Lord Jesus revealed in our Gospel passage today from the Gospel of St. Luke in which He spoke to the people with regards to the matter of salvation, and how people who assumed that they were saved by God and worthy will be disappointed to know that they are not counted among those whom God will invite to enter his eternal kingdom of glory. Conversely, there will be those people whom the earlier group considered to be unworthy and yet manage enter the kingdom of God.

In fact, the Lord Jesus was criticising the actions and attitudes of the people of Israel, who since the ancient times had been proud of their unique heritage and status as the chosen race and people of God since the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They looked down on the pagan peoples and the races of people outside the direct inheritance of Israel, considering those people to be inferior, unworthy, unclean and as sinners.

Yet, they failed to look at themselves and realise just how they themselves have been unworthy, unclean, sinful and rebellious in their attitudes towards God, in their refusal to obey Him and their stubbornness in rejecting the truths and the messages of the prophets sent into their midst to remind them to be faithful to God. They assumed their salvation to their status as the descendants of God’s faithful servants and treated it as their birthright.

But that is not how God’s salvation works, brothers and sisters in Christ. Through today’s Scripture passages, God wants each and every one of us to know that first and foremost, all of us, each and every one of us are equally beloved by God and we are all equal without distinction and without prejudice, for God is good to all of those whom He loves, even to all of us sinners. He does not distinguish between us but continues to love us all regardless and always tries to reconcile us to Himself.

It was just that He called some first from among the multitudes of His people, to be His first chosen ones and first-called, but He never meant to exclude everyone else, and with the end goal in mind of the salvation of the whole race of man. God desires that all of us who have been sundered and separated from Him will eventually be reunited with Him through repentance and by the power of the love which He has shown us, through which He hopes to bring a change in our hearts, minds, attitudes and way of life.

Yet, many of us are often unaware of this loving aspect of our God, His desire to love us and to show His merciful forgiveness to us, despite of all the things we have done, all the wicked and unbecoming behaviours and attitudes of sinful people. In the second reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews, we heard how God is represented like that of a father who loves his children, who cares for them and their needs.

And in the same passage, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews also described how the father who cares for his children will chastise the children whenever it is necessary to do so. This is done not because the father does not love the children, but rather precisely because he loves the children that he wants them all to be good and to walk in the right paths, and not to fall and remain in the wrong paths because of wrong thoughts and influences.

That was why God chastised His people, the Israelites many times throughout history, if we explore through the many chapters of the books of the Old Testament. Ever since God had made and renewed the Covenant He established with them and their ancestors, He has always tried to guide them and to discipline them along their journey, by punishing and chastising them as necessary and by weeding out all those who had no love for Him at all, those who were totally unrepentant.

The people living at the time of the Lord Jesus were no different, and it was to them that the Lord addressed what He has revealed to the people in today’s Gospel passage. Many of them professed to believe in God and to be pious, and yet, they did not truly have faith in Him, and their beliefs and piety were often just empty gestures and meaningless because ultimately, in their hearts, God did not have the most important place at all.

They became proud because they thought of themselves as the privileged and chosen people, and those who were most afflicted were those with power and authority, intelligence and knowledge, such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom took great pride in their piety and observance of the laws of Moses, and looked down even on the other people of Israel, especially those whom they considered to be sinners and unworthy.

But they forgot that it was not them who determined whether they are worthy or not. It is truly only God Who is capable and worthy of judging the worthiness of a person. And we have to remember this fact, that it is not we who make ourselves worthy before God, but rather, He calls us to be worthy for Him. He has called us again and again, reminding us and wanting us to seek Him and to be righteous and just once again, free from sin and from all corruptions of our past wickedness.

Contrasting the attitudes of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and many among the people of Israel at the time of the Exodus, who doubted the Lord and refused to believe in Him, in His prophets and in His truth, these people who often took great pride in their status, in their privileges and supposed superiority, paled in faith and in righteousness as compared to those people mentioned throughout the Scriptures as the righteous people from the pagan nations.

Take for example, Rahab, the Canaanite woman who helped the scouts of Israel to escape the city in their time of great predicament, and then Ruth, a Moabite whose faith and dedication to God was exemplary and eventually became one of the ancestors of the great king David of Israel. And we also heard of Naaman the Syrian, who although initially was skeptical of the Lord’s power, but devoted himself wholeheartedly after he was healed from his leprosy, and many others who have shown great faith in God.

And in the New Testament, we heard of the faith of the Syro-Phoenician woman who dedicated herself and trusted the Lord so much that despite the apparent rejection and humiliating insults the Lord spoke to her, she remained truly faithful and adamant that the Lord was capable of healing her daughter. This faith mirrored that of the widow of Zarephath at the time of the prophet Elijah, as she took care of the prophet during difficult years.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are reminded through what we have heard from the Scriptures and what we have discussed throughout today’s discourse, that God’s love is truly great and boundless, sincere and true, never-ending and not being biased. He loves each and every one of us equally without being prejudiced or biased by any of our worldly parameters, the parameters that we often use to divide ourselves into different groups and cliques.

God did not divide us or loved us based on prejudices by skin colour, or language, or height, or our appearances. All these things do not affect His love for us in any way, and as I mentioned many times today, God loves each and every one of us equally without distinction, and each and every one of us have been given opportunities after opportunities, chances after chances to turn away from our sins and to return to our Lord’s loving embrace.

And the number one obstacle that often prevented us from doing so is our pride. As mentioned earlier, those who claimed to know the Lord and claimed salvation to be their own, and even looking down on those whom they deemed to be inferior or less worthy than them, are all due to the pride that are in our hearts. And the more we entertain this pride present within us, the more this pride will grow and suffocate the faith present in us.

Now, we are called by God, as we have been called many times thus far. If we have responded to Him and walked in the path that He has shown us, then it is good and we should continue our journey. But if we have not yet responded to His call and instead we have been so busy and preoccupied, so full of our pride, arrogance, greed and all sorts of things that have prevented us from truly being faithful and from truly loving God, then we should do something at once with our lives.

Instead of being proud and arrogant, let us all be humble, knowing that after all, we are all sinners, and no matter whose sins are more or less serious than the other, all of us have been made corrupt and unworthy by those sins. And those whose sins are greater and repent wholeheartedly will be saved, while those with lesser sins and yet proudly refuse to repent will not be saved. While sin made us corrupted and separated from God, what matters is our desire to repent from those sins and our willingness and sincerity to love God, our loving Father and Creator.

Are we willing to allow God’s love, compassion and mercy to enter into us and make a difference in our lives? Or are we often too full of ourselves, with too much pride and worldly desires that we have not allowed God to enter into our lives and transform them into new lives of grace? We are all called to be true Christians, and the path for us have been shown to us, and the best way to start is for us to be humble, and to be open to the Lord entering into our hearts, into our minds and into the deepest parts of our beings, that from now on, we exist no longer for ourselves, but for the love and for the greater glory of God.

May the Lord continue to guide us in this journey of faith, and may His love continue to sow in us all the same genuine and strong love that He Himself has shown us first, and which we are now called to do the same as well. Let us all be witnesses of God’s love, and show this same love in our interactions with one another, that truly we will be ever righteous and just, and in the end, God will welcome us all into His eternal kingdom and glory. Amen.

Saturday, 24 August 2019 : Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of one of the principal disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord, namely that of St. Bartholomew, who was also known as Nathanael as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. In that passage we heard about the moment when the Lord called Nathanael to become one of His followers, revealing Himself on Who He truly is, the Saviour promised to the world.

The Lord called Nathanael and reassured him that He truly is the Messiah, although initially Nathanael doubted Him for having come from the humble village of Nazareth in Galilee, where no one great has been prophesied to be born, but the Lord showed him that He truly is God Who knows everything and all things, Who has brought into this world the truth with which He would save this world and all the people He loves.

And Nathanael came to believe in the Lord and followed Him wholeheartedly to the very end, becoming one of His Apostles and went through the many moments throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry and beyond, and later on throughout the evangelical and missionary ministry he embarked on in proclaiming the truth of God to the people in many faraway places, known as St. Bartholomew the Apostle.

St. Bartholomew was accredited with many missions to places as far as India, Armenia among other places, spreading the Good News of the Lord to the people in those places who have not yet heard the truth of the Lord. He persevered even through the many challenges and persecutions he had to face throughout his ministry, and even through the rejections and oppositions he endured all those years.

Eventually, it was told that he was martyred in a city in Armenia where he was hung and flayed alive after according to some Apostolic traditions, he managed to convert the king of Armenia to the Christian faith. The opponents of the faith struck out against him and persecuted him, and St. Bartholomew died as a martyr, bravely and faithfully defending his dedication to the Lord to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have now heard about the life and dedication of the Apostle St. Bartholomew, in his commitment to the Lord all the years of his life. But do we all also realise that each and every one of us are also called to walk in the path set before us by the Apostles? Just as St. Bartholomew had dedicated himself completely and trusted the Lord completely, in performing the missions which He had entrusted to him and the other Apostles, all of us are also called to do the same mission and work.

For the works of the Church and the mission God had entrusted the Church and His Apostles are truly still far from done. We are all called to walk in their footsteps and continue their work of evangelisation and ministering to the people of God. We are all called to be witnesses of our faith in everything we say and do, and we are expected to live our lives with faith, to be exemplary in our actions and our deeds, with all of our dealings and interactions with one another.

And as what we perhaps have experienced in our own lives and what the Apostles and the story of saints and martyrs have shown us, we are likely to endure challenges and oppositions, persecutions and rejections in our lives as we live our lives with faith, and often we will have to be torn because of those whom we love who cause us hurt and pain just because they disagree with our way of life filled with faith.

Are we able to endure such sufferings and challenges, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to go through those difficult times and moments and yet still remaining true to our faith in God? The Apostles have shown us, the martyrs and the many other saints of God have proved to us that it is possible for us to live a truly Christian life and persevere on despite the difficulties we may face in our respective lives.

In our first reading today, the reading from the Book of Revelations should become a great source of inspiration to us, as St. John saw in his vision the coming of the great New Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, on which was written the names of the Apostles of the Lord, on each of the twelve gates of the great city. This is a reassurance and promise from God, that all of those who have been faithful to Him and devoted themselves to Him, from the Apostles to all of us, will not be forgotten, but instead will receive the fullness of joy and true happiness, glory and satisfaction in God in due time.

Let us all be encouraged and be strengthened in faith, that from now on we will no longer be lukewarm in living our faith, but instead grow to be better in faith and in our good works and deeds, all done for the greater glory of God. May the Lord through the intercession of His Apostle, St. Bartholomew and the other Holy Apostles, saints and martyrs continue to guide us in our own respective journeys of faith in life. Amen.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God speaking to us through the Scriptures first of all through the story of Ruth, one of the ancestors of David, the king of Israel and therefore also the ancestor of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth was actually not counted among the people of Israel, but was a Moabite, one of the people considered as pagans by the Israelite.

At that time, and as it was up to the time of Jesus, the Moabites and many of the Canaanites were often looked down by the Israelites, as the latter took great pride in themselves being the chosen people of God. They considered the other people and races and nations to be unworthy of God and that they were superior to those other races and nations. And yet, we have heard from the Book of Ruth, how Ruth loved God and dedicated herself to Him through her dedication to her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth did all these even though she was not related at all by blood to Naomi, and her husband, the son of Naomi had died without leaving any child behind. Technically and legally at that time, Ruth could have freely left her mother-in-law and return to her homeland, which even Naomi, her mother-in-law insisted her of doing. Yet, Ruth stayed with her and committed herself to God and to the people of Israel.

This is how this wonderful woman came to become the one through whom the great king of Israel would be born eventually, by the grace of God in which Ruth bore her husband, Boaz, a son Obed who was the grandfather of king David, the king of Israel. It was the love, faith and dedication of Ruth which made everything possible. She was faithful and dedicated to her newfound faith, and her examples are exactly what God wants us to emulate in our own lives.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Who was confronted by the Pharisees who wanted to test Him using the Law and the commandments of God, trying to trap Him in His words and responses. They asked what the most important Law in the commandments was, and the Lord spoke it plainly and clearly, summing up the entirety of the Law into two main facets, namely, loving God with all of our strength, might and effort, and also loving our fellow brothers and sisters around us in the same way.

The context of this passage was that at that time, the Pharisees and the Lord has plenty of disagreements with regards to the matter of obeying God and following His laws and commandments. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law believed in a very strict interpretation of the laws and rules of Moses, and they enforced this way on the rest of the people of God, causing a lot of difficulty and also misunderstanding of the true meaning of the Law.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law professed to believe in God and even took great pride in being so observant and particular in their way of following the rules and rigour of the laws of Moses, but for many of them, truly their hearts and minds were not centred on God. They did what they have done out of pride and desire for worldly recognition and power.

But for the example which we have discussed earlier, Ruth, who was a foreigner and an alien in the land of Israel, had more faith and true dedication to God than all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law, because she truly loved God with all of her heart, with all of her mind and with all of her strength, and she also loved her fellow men in the same manner. She was devoted to her aging mother-in-law who would have been left all alone to fend for herself should Ruth had decided to leave her. Instead, she took care of her mother-in-law and dutifully did all that she could to help her.

And during the time of Jesus, although not mentioned in today’s Gospel passage, yet another woman and foreigner put all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law to shame, because she had greater faith than all of them. While the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law doubted the Lord and refused to believe in His truth and message, a Syro-Phoenician woman who came to the Lord with great faith did not even mind being humiliated and had so much faith in Him that she trusted Him so much.

Today, we also celebrate yet another servant of God whose life has been similar to what we have heard about Ruth and the Syro-Phoenician woman. St. Rose of Lima was known as the first of the New World saints, meaning that she was the first saint hailing from the continent now known as the Americas. In what is today modern day Peru, St. Rose of Lima was a lay member of the Dominican Order, who was renowned for her great piety and charity for the poor and the needy in her society.

St. Rose of Lima had led a very virtuous life from her youth and she has always desired to join a religious order, dedicating her life to God, meeting opposition from her family. In the end, she joined as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, but persevered in her commitment to a life of purity and chastity dedicated solely to God. She was known for wearing a heavy silver crown with small spikes inside on her head, emulating the crown of thorns worn by the Lord at His crucifixion.

St. Rose of Lima has shown her great love and dedication for the Lord, devoting herself wholeheartedly towards Him. Are we able to do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to commit ourselves like what all those people we have mentioned today had done? We are all called to follow the Lord with faith, and in order to do so, we must truly put God at the very centre of our lives.

Let us all make God the very reason why we live, and the very focus of our every efforts and works. Let us all turn towards Him with all of our strength and from now on, let us all walk faithfully in His presence. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us all in faith. Amen.

Thursday, 22 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a full seven days after the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, celebrating the glorious queenship of the Mother of God, as the Queen of Heaven, and also as her many other titles suggest, as Queen of Angels, as Queen of All Saints, and as Queen of Peace and Queen Mother.

Mary is Queen not because of her own power or inheritance, but because of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was in her womb for nine months and was born from her, a virgin and humble woman of the small and poor village of Nazareth. Mary is Queen because her Son is King, the King of Kings and the true King of Israel, the Heir of David and Solomon, and also the King of the entire Universe by virtue of His being the Creator of the whole universe and the world.

It is very important for us to take note and to keep in mind this nature of Mary’s queenship and the great honours we always give to her because of her special place within our faith and within the Lord’s plan of salvation. We do not honour Mary because of her own greatness or power, and neither do we treat her like a divine being or a goddess, as what some would have accused us of doing because of their misunderstanding.

Instead, we honour Mary as a special person, being and a glorious Queen because we honour, adore and worship her Son, as our one and only True God and King. In many ancient traditions and kingdoms, in many nations and peoples, the mother of the king has a very important position, as the queen mother of the nation. And the queen mother does not have to be born into royalty or be descended from royalty. Her great honour comes from her son who is the king.

And the queen mother has a special position and being revered by many in the whole country, as in the Scripture, in the Book of Kings, we can see how Solomon placed his mother Bathsheba at his right hand, sitting on a throne by his side, and he often asked his mother for advice and inputs in how he ought to make decisions and reign as a king. It was truly a great honour that Solomon as king has given to his mother.

Therefore, if kings and rulers of this world have honoured their mothers as such, and if we ourselves love and honour our own mothers, how can our Lord Jesus not honour His own mother? That is why, we all believe fervently that Mary is truly honoured as the Queen Mother of Heaven, as the glorious Queen of Angels and all Saints because she truly sits at the side of her Son in heaven, beside His Throne, a special honour reserved only for her.

And just one week ago as I have mentioned earlier today, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, when we celebrate the moment Mary was assumed or taken up in the whole body and spirit up from this world into heaven. Therefore, we believe that Mary is now in heaven, glorified by her Son and reigning as Queen by His side, and becoming for us our greatest intercessor, as the greatest and most honoured among the saints.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us should really be thankful that we have Mary as someone whom we can trust and rely on, as the one through whom our prayers and thoughts can be brought to, our petitions which she will pass on to her Son. That is why so many people have strong devotion to Mary, because not only that she is truly close to her Son, but even more so because she is also our mother just as she is the mother of Our Lord and Saviour.

From the cross, Our Lord has entrusted His own mother to us as our own mother when He entrusted her to St. John the Apostle, who represents the Church symbolically. And in the same manner, just as He also entrusted St. John to Mary as her own son, therefore Our Lord has entrusted us all, His beloved people to be the beloved children of His own mother, Mary. That is why Mary has always loved us all just as she has loved her Son with all of her heart.

She has done so much in trying to bring us closer to her Son, in her numerous Apparitions, in Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima among many others, imploring all those who have seen her to spread the message of God’s truth and for the repentance of sinners. She has shown us all the love shown by a mother to her children, as she wants us all to be saved and not to be condemned and be separated from her or her Son.

Now, what are we going to do about this then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we going to appreciate what Mary has done for us, in her ceaseless intercession and prayers for our sake? We have the Queen Mother of Heaven herself by our side, and what we need to do is to keep on praying and to try our best to do what she has asked us to do, and that is to turn towards her Son, Our Lord and Saviour with faith.

O Mary, Queen of Heaven, Queen of Angels and Queen of All Saints, most glorious Queen and Mother of God, pray for us all sinners always, that we may draw ever closer to your Son, and be reconciled from all of our sins and unworthiness. We thank you for your constant love and intercession, o dear Mother most beloved. Pray for us always and guide us always to your Son. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019 : 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 the Scripture showing us the parable which the Lord Jesus used in teaching His disciples, on the workers in a vineyard, whom the landowner called in various times throughout the day. Some of the workers worked right from the beginning of the day while others started their work later and some still worked just at the very last hour.

This parable in fact shows us how the Lord works with us and through us, and how in our lives each and every one of us have been called by God to serve Him and to be with Him doing His will and walking in the path that He has shown us. And that is why in the parable, each and every workers mentioned in fact represent all of us mankind, the people of God whom He had called to follow Him, just as the vineyard owner, representing God, called all the workers to his field.

That vineyard is representing the world we are living in today, the world that God has created and is His dominion. When the owner of the vineyard called on the workers to work in his field, that is representative of how God called us all as Christians to be His stewards and representatives in this world, doing our good works and committing ourselves to the care of this wonderful creation He has given and blessed us with.

That is because as Christians, all of us have been called by God and entrusted with many things, especially to bear witness of the truth of God in this world, among His people, the people of many nations and races. We are called to be witnesses of our faith in God through our everyday actions and deeds, through our words and interactions with one another, especially with those who have not yet known God.

God has called us all at different points of time in our lives, and He never ceases to call on us even if we have not responded well to His call. That is why just as the vineyard owner went again and again into the town calling on more people to work in his vineyard, thus the Lord also called on us mankind to follow Him, again and again without cease, wanting us to follow Him and to walk in the path He has prepared for us.

And with regards to the ending of that work, when the vineyard owner gave each workers the same amount of pay, a silver coin, regardless of the time when each worker started their job or how long they have done the job, this is in fact showing us all that God has called us all to share in the same inheritance and glory which He has promised us and treated us all equally without distinction or being biased. All of us are equally beloved by Him.

That is why the workers who grumbled because they expected to receive more payment for their longer working hours were mistaken, because they did not work for genuine reasons but rather with the expectation to receive more than others. They were looking for the earthly rewards and not for the true reward of God, that is immeasurable. This is why the Lord Jesus mentioned about this matter as part of His parable, to remind us all His disciples that we do not seek for earthly glory, happiness and treasures in God, but rather the true happiness of life, that is our salvation and graceful existence with God.

Today we celebrate the feast of a holy, dedicated and courageous servant of God whose life and examples can be great inspiration for us all as Christians in how we should live out our lives with faith and how we ought to commit ourselves and dedicate ourselves to God’s service for each and every moments of our lives. Pope St. Pius X lived and reigned as Pope and leader of the Church just over a century ago but his passion in loving the Lord and in serving the Church and the faithful was truly inspirational.

He was born into a poor peasant family background, as Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, in a large and poor family in northern Italy. Young Giuseppe felt the calling of God during his formation and education years, and eventually became a priest with the support of his family. As a priest, the future Pope worked hard in the parishes and in the community of the faithful, patiently ministering to the needs of the poor and the underprivileged in the midst of the community. He ministered to the sick and the dying and all the faithful, caring for them spiritually and physically.

Eventually he was made the Bishop of Mantua in northern Italy and then as a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, signifying the great contributions which this holy man of God had done over the many years of his courageous and dedicated service for the greater glory of God and for the benefit of the faithful. Then, in the year of Our Lord 1903, he was elected the Supreme Pontiff, Pope and leader of the Church, and during the eleven years of his pontificate, Pope St. Pius X vigorously laboured to serve the people of God.

He was remembered as the Pope of the Eucharist for his determination to push the practice of frequent Holy Communion for the faithful and for the age of the First Communion to be earlier, so that the faithful may become more attuned to the Lord and grow to be more faithful through the more regular reception of the Holy Eucharist. He also worked hard in opposing the heresy and sin of modernism among the faithful, persevering against the forces trying to subvert and lead the people of God into sin through the temptation of worldliness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to live our lives with faith as what Pope St. Pius X had shown us? Are we able to love God and to do His will with all of our hearts as we should? There will be challenges and difficulties along the way, but rest assured that the Lord will reward us in the end for our faith, not with the glory and happiness of this world, but with true happiness and joy of His saving grace that surpasses all earthly joy and pleasures. May the Lord continue to guide us in our path, and may He strengthen us to live ever more courageously in faith as Pope St. Pius X and many other saints had done. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the Lord speaks to us through our Scripture passages on the matter of being called and chosen by God, as we heard from the first reading passage taken from the Book of Judges on the calling of Gideon, one of the Judges of Israel and also from the Gospel passage where we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples on following Him and how they have all followed Him and served Him.

In our first reading today, God called Gideon to become His instrument in becoming the Judge over Israel, to be the one through whom God would act on behalf of His people. At that time, as mentioned in the passage, the people of Israel were oppressed by the Midianites who invaded the land of Israel and imposed their power and dominion over them, causing suffering and trials for God’s people.

But all of that were also caused by the failure of the people to be faithful to God, their loving Father and Creator. They preferred to follow their own paths and their own desires rather than to follow the laws and the precepts of God. Yet, this did not make the love that God has for them become any lesser or weaker. Instead, He continued to love them and cared for them regardless, and that was why He called the Judges to bring about reprieve and liberation for His beloved ones.

And today, as we heard about the calling of Gideon the Judge, we see how God called not the greatest and the mightiest in this world to become His servant and instrument by which He performed His wonderful works. Gideon himself admitted that his family and tribe were among the lowliest and humblest in terms of prestige, social strata and ranking among the whole nation of Israel, and yet, God called His servant from among his family.

Now, as we move on to our Gospel passage today, we can see the clear comparison between the calling of Gideon the Judge with that of the calling of the Apostles of Jesus Christ our Lord. The Lord had called His disciples and the twelve of them in particular He had chosen to be His Apostles, the leaders and the inner circle of His confidants and servants, whom He called from their various backgrounds and origins, much like how Gideon had been called.

God did not choose or call those who were powerful and mighty, those who were influential or beloved by many, those who were skilled and intellectual by the standards of the world to be His instruments. In this world, the norm would have been for us to seek those who are of good qualities as I have just mentioned to be our friends and followers, but God works by a different way and standard. He calls the ordinary people and makes them extraordinary by His power, providence and grace.

And God reassured all those whom He had called, when His disciples asked that of Him, that those who have dedicated themselves to Him, He will provide and protect, and they will not be disappointed for God is always ever faithful. Indeed, in that same reassurance, God also made it clear how in following Him, those whom He had chosen would have to endure sufferings, challenges and trials, and would also have to make many sacrifices, but as long as God is by their side, they truly have nothing to fear.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, how do we then respond to God’s call in our own respective lives? As those whom God had chosen and called as Christians, as those who have professed our faith in Him, all of us are called to walk in His way and to proclaim His truth among the nations of this world. Are we able to commit ourselves as Gideon had committed his life and how the Apostles and those who followed the Lord, the innumerable saints and martyrs had done all these while?

Today, we also celebrate the feast of St. Bernard the Abbot, also known as St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a renowned saint and abbot of the religious order later known as the Cistercians. He was the one who helped to reform the monastic practices at the time, and founded the Cistercian order based on his reforms and works. He was remembered for his great piety and devotion to God, and for his many writings and works, which still inspired and influenced many even many centuries after his passing to this day.

St. Bernard’s great faith and love for God ought to be our compass and guide in how each and every one of us should also love God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to His cause from now on. And having heard from all these examples we have from our holy predecessors, let us all be driven by our passion and strong desire to love and serve the Lord to the best of our abilities from this moment forth. May the Lord continue to strengthen us in our resolve and commitment to serve Him faithfully from now on, that we will always glorify Him in our daily actions and deeds. Amen.