Monday, 28 August 2017 : 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, on this day we listened to God speaking to the people, condemning the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their hypocrisy in their faith, in how they have not been truly faithful to God, and how they have not obeyed God in His laws and commandments, through their mistaken interpretation and application of the Law entrusted to them as the teachers and the leaders of the people of God.

That is because the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had not been faithful in keeping the commandments, and their duty was to ensure that the people of God obeyed those laws and through those laws learn to love the Lord as He had commanded, and then show the same love towards their fellow men and women. That is the essence of the Law which the Lord Jesus had spoken to His people and revealed to them, as the real intention of the Law God gave to them.

Yet, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law misused their authority and teachings to suit their own desires and to seek their own personal and worldly glory. They used the Law to suit their own needs and wants, and allowing certain practices that were not in line with the Law, but which brought about convenience to them, as well as benefits. They turned around a blind eye to unlawful practices and wickedness, including those of their own, and yet punished those who genuinely and sincerely desiring to love God.

Yes, they closed the gates of salvation to those who needed it most, by turning away prostitutes, tax collectors and other sinners, whom they despised, looked down upon, and sneered on. They themselves did not practice the Law of God and did not have the love of God in themselves, but they wanted to look down on others just because they thought that those people did not deserve to be saved because of their sins.

How is this relevant to all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ? The message of the Scripture passages today is that each and every one of us as Christians must not follow what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. We must not think that all of us are better than others and that certain people are beyond God’s grace and salvation, for it is God’s prerogative to judge the soul of a person and not us.

And these readings we heard today perfectly match the holy saint whose feast we celebrate today, as we remember together the memory of St. Augustine of Hippo, a holy bishop and a well-known saint, known for his many works and writings in various matters of the faith, so much so that he was considered among the four original Doctors of the Church, whose contributions to the Church was indeed immense.

Yet, how many of us know that St. Augustine of Hippo was also a sinner, especially in his involvement with the Manichaean heresy and how he spent his early life in debauchery and wickedness, seeking the glory and the pleasures of the world, and certainly no one would have thought that St. Augustine, then a pagan philosopher whose life was filled with sin and wickedness, would be a Christian one day, less still a saint.

It was by the ceaseless prayers and efforts of his mother, St. Monica, a devout Christian, who prayed daily for his sake, and for the conversion of his soul, that God called St. Augustine to his service. St. Augustine of Hippo yearned in his heart to seek for fulfilment which he was unable to attain through all of his worldly pursuits for knowledge, for worldly glory and power, for the pleasures of the body and others.

Thus, eventually St. Augustine made a complete turnaround in his life, repenting from his past sins, and under the tutelage of another great saint, St. Ambrose of Milan, who would also be counted together with St. Augustine as one of the four original Doctors of the Church, St. Augustine was baptised as a Christian, and henceforth walked on the path that God had set for him.

From what we have heard in the Scripture passages today, and what we have heard in the story of St. Augustine of Hippo, a great sinner turned a great saint, much as St. Paul the Apostle himself was a great enemy of the Church and the faithful before his conversion, we see how God through His Church transformed men and women who were once sinners into saints and holy people, through the transformation of those who were willing to repent wholeheartedly from their sins, and opening themselves to God’s love and grace.

It means that as Christians all of us must not be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who despised those they deemed to be sinners and unworthy, but instead, we must love them and embrace them, and most importantly, we must call them to repentance and forgiveness for their sins through that sincere repentance.

All of us are also sinners, all in need of repentance and then God’s mercy. Therefore, let us all open our hearts and minds, allowing God to do His work in us, and through us as well, that by our work and effort, we may call ever more souls towards God and His light, delivering them from the darkness of sin and thus saving them from the fires of hell.

May the Lord bless us all His Church, that all of us who are sinners may come ever closer to Him, and have that strong desire in us to sin no more and to repent, wholeheartedly turning ourselves to His way. Let us all also help one another in our journey towards God, that in the end, no one will be lost from God, and all of us will receive from Him, the gift of eternal life. St. Augustine of Hippo, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Monday, 28 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 23 : 13-22

At that time, Jesus said to the people and to His disciples, “But woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You, yourselves, do not enter it, nor do you allow others to do so.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray long prayers! Therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel by sea and land to make a single convert; yet, once he is converted, you make him twice as fit for hell as yourselves!”

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say : To swear by the temple is not binding; but, to swear by the gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of more worth : the gold in the temple, or the temple which makes the gold a sacred treasure? You say : To swear by the altar is not binding, but to swear by the offering on the altar is binding. How blind you are! Which is of more value : the offering on the altar, or the altar which makes the offering sacred?”

“Whoever swears by the altar, is swearing by the altar and by everything on it. Whoever swears by the temple, is swearing by the temple, and by God, Who dwells in the temple. Whoever swears by heaven, is swearing by the throne of God, and by Him, Who is seated on it.”

Monday, 28 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to YHVH a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name; and make music for Him with harp and timbrel. For YHVH delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night, on their couches, let the praise of God be on their lips. This is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!

Monday, 28 August 2017 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Thessalonians 1 : 1-5, 8b-10

From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy, to the church of Thessalonica, which is in God, the Father, and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May the peace and grace of God be with you.

We give thanks to God, at all times for you, and remember you in our prayers. We constantly recall, before God, our Father, the work of your faith, the labours of your love, and your endurance, in waiting for Christ Jesus our Lord.

We remember, brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called. The Gospel we brought you was such, not only in words. Miracles, the Holy Spirit, and plenty of everything, were given to you. You, also, know how we dealt with you, for your sake.

The faith you have in God has become news in so many places, that we need say no more about it. Others tell, of how you welcomed us, and turned from idols, to the Lord. For you serve the living and true God, and you wait for His Son, from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, Who frees us from impending trial.

Thursday, 10 August 2017 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God reminded us this day, that all of those who sowed meagrely will also reap meagrely, using the parable of the sower and the seeds as a guide to teach all of us His people. The Lord has given us all the blessings and graces in life, so that we may use them for the benefit of one another, and not to serve our own selfish purposes and desires.

What does that mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that we should not be greedy or be haughty in life. We must not think that all the power and glory, all the wealth and blessings we have in this world were due to our own might and power. All of these have in fact been entrusted to us by the Lord our God, to be shared with each other.

In the same passage from the first reading today, from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, God showed us how we ought to become true and committed Christians. It is through our generosity in the giving of ourselves, in the service and love which we show upon our fellow brethren, our willingness to care for each other that lead us to the righteousness in God.

But all of us are too ready to care about ourselves first before others. We always instinctively think that we have to protect our own interests and desires first, before we even think in the slightest manner about others. And this is exactly what the Lord Jesus spoke about in the Gospel passage today. Jesus spoke of those who love their lives, who will in the end lose everything that they tried to protect, and then conversely, those who do not even worry to lay down their lives, who will gain eternal life.

It is again another reminder for us that as Christians, all of us must be selfless, and we must not put forth our personal desires and interests before that of others, and before that of the needs of the general community. Those who want to protect their own lives first, they are too absorbed in their desires and they succumb to the temptations of worldliness.

In another occasion as recorded in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus even said, that all those who loved themselves, or loved their families and friends more than they loved the Lord, those will not be considered worthy of the Lord. Jesus mentioned that because as long as we put ahead our own personal desires and interests, ahead of what the Lord had commanded us to do, that is firstly, to love our Lord with all of our heart and strength, and then, to love our fellow men in the same manner.

A Christian is not selfish, but selfless. A Christian is not haughty and proud, but humble in heart and open in his or her mind, ready to welcome the words of God, through which He spoke to us and let us known His will. And we should perhaps learn from the examples of the holy saint whose feast we are celebrating today, namely St. Lawrence, a holy deacon and saint of the Church, who were also martyred for his faith and dedication to God.

St. Lawrence was a deacon of the Church in Rome, entrusted with the care of the faithful people of God in the city of Rome and its surroundings, the heart of Christendom and also the heart of the Roman Empire at the time. The faithful had to serve the Lord and worship Him in secret as the Roman Empire's official pagan religion and faith rejected the teachings of Christianity, and actively persecuted the faithful and the Church.

Thus, St. Lawrence lived and served the Lord at a difficult time, where every single day was indeed a matter of life or death. However, he continued to faithfully serve the Lord's people, ministering to them and obeying the will of God through His Church. And when he, along with the Pope St. Sixtus II and many others of the faithful were arrested by the Roman authorities, he remained strong and resolute in his faith, even unto martyrdom.

St. Lawrence showed us all, the people of God, that as Christians all of us need to be selfless and be humble, and be generous in our love and care for others, putting the will of God above everything else, and not allowing our personal desires and interests from interfering from our faith in God and from what we ought to be doing as God's faithful disciples.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all renew our commitment to the Lord, by walking in the footsteps of St. Lawrence of Rome, holy deacon and martyr, that by emulating the faith and devotion which he once had in God, we too may be worthy to share the same everlasting inheritance and glory he has received for eternity. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 10 August 2017 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 12 : 24-26

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Those who love their life destroy it, and those who despise their life in this world save it even to everlasting life."

"Whoever wants to serve Me, let him follow Me; and wherever I am, there shall My servant be also. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honour him."

Thursday, 10 August 2017 : Feast of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright's offspring will be blessed.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

He has no fear of evil news, for his heart is firm, trusting in YHVH. His heart is confident; he need not fear; he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.