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, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture that reminded us of the need to understand what God wants each and every one of us to do as His followers and disciples, in particular given the context of today’s Scripture passages. We are called to love Him and to serve Him, as part of the Covenant which He has made for us. But ultimately, God also desires for our well-being and salvation.

In the first reading today we heard of the many favours and wonders that He has bestowed on those who have been faithful to Him, focusing on the persona of Abraham, the righteous man who has devoted himself to the Lord such that God Himself made a Covenant between Himself and all of his descendants. And the Covenant He made was such that, He has been faithful to what He has promised to Abraham, that He will bless his descendants and make them His own beloved people.

As Abraham became the father of many nations, and by virtue of our Christian faith, we have also become the spiritual children of Abraham, all of us are part of the same Covenant that God has established with him, and which He has renewed again and again throughout the centuries and ages past. He has always been faithful even though many of us mankind have been wayward and disobedient.

That was why He also gave us His laws and commandments, all with the purpose of getting us all to love Him and to put our focus on Him, and not on all the various distractions we often have in life. And one such law, as mentioned in our Gospel passage today, is the law of the Sabbath, which regulated the way the people of God should act and behave on the seventh day in the week, the Sabbath day, a day that the Lord had made holy.

The Scriptural basis of the law of the Sabbath is related to the works of the Lord Himself, Who created the universe and all the world, only to rest on one of the days, at the last day. Thus, the same day in the Jewish law and tradition is meant for the people of God to ‘rest’ from their various activities and to focus their attention on God, and God alone. That is the true intention and purpose of the Sabbath day and its related laws.

Unfortunately, the purpose and the intention of the Law had been forgotten and misunderstood by the people and their elders, as the Gospel passage had shown us. What had been given with the good intention of realigning men and their focus and attention towards God, instead became a source of great obstacle and suffering for many among the people, as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced them on the people.

Those people enforced a very strict observation of the Sabbath law to the point that the people could not do anything, even anything good and productive, and even in the matter of feeding oneself, as the disciples of the Lord did when they were hungry and picked on the grains of the wheat in the field. They have forgotten that by doing so, what they did was in fact observing the Law in the letter, but not in the spirit.

This means that they knew what the Law is, but they failed to understand and appreciate what the Law is truly about, its meaning and purpose. The Law of God is meant to bring us closer to God, to help us to focus on Him and His way, and not to distance us and make it difficult for us to follow Him. This is why, the Lord rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for their shortsightedness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we should turn towards the Lord with a new spirit and commitment to love and to serve Him with all of our strength, obeying Him by understanding that all of His laws and commandments are meant to redirect our attention and focus on Him, and away from all things that can end up causing us to fall into temptation and damnation. And today, we should model ourselves based on the examples shown by the holy servant of God, St. Vincent, holy deacon and martyr.

St. Vincent was a deacon who served the people of God in what is today Spain, in the city of Saragossa, during the difficult years of terrible persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. He dedicated himself so much to his service and his faith, that even when he was arrested and forced to reject his faith, he refused to do so. His defence of his faith was so resolute and strong that it made his enemies even angrier and he suffered grievously for his dedication.

Nonetheless, St. Vincent continued to be faithful and dedicated himself to the service of God. He remained firm in his dedication, and was martyred in good faith. His examples and his courage continued to inspire many of the faithful throughout the ages. And we can also follow his good examples, by devoting our own lives to the Lord, and by knowing how much love He has given to each and every one of us.

Let us all from now on, turn towards the Lord, spending day after day of our lives with faith, doing our very best to serve the Lord. Let us devote ourselves with a new spirit and strength, from now on, each and every days of our life. May God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Mark 2 : 23-28

At that time, one Sabbath Jesus was walking through grainfields. As His disciples walked along with Him, they began to pick the heads of grain and crush them in their hands. Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look! They are doing what is forbidden on the Sabbath!”

And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need, when he and his men were very hungry? He went into the house of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate the bread of offering, which only the priests are allowed to eat, and he also gave some to the men who were with him.”

Then Jesus said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Master even of the Sabbath.”

Tuesday, 22 January 2019 : 2nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 110 : 1-2, 4-5, 9 and 10c

Alleluia! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of the Lord are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

He lets us remember His wondrous deeds; the Lord is merciful and kind. Always mindful of His covenant, He provides food for those who fear Him.

He has sent His people deliverances and made with them a covenant forever. His holy Name is to be revered! To Him belongs everlasting praise.