Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the Scripture passages all of us are reminded to keep our hope and focus on the faithfulness and the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the eternal glory and new life He has promised us, and to remain firm in our path, called as Christians to walk in God’s path, not to be deterred by fear and uncertainty, or by false teachings and erroneous ideas.

Instead, we must adhere closely to what the Lord had taught us through His Church, obeying the Law with our hearts and minds, with sincerity and honesty, that we are truly faithful in all things according to God’s will. And through our Gospel passage today, we have also been reminded not to be like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law in how they acted and in how they practiced their faith.

Contextually, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were those that were very particular on the way the Law of God was practiced by the people, and many of them were mostly concerned with the way the Law was obeyed, as they held a very strict way of interpreting the Law and followed the Law to the letter, enforcing others to follow the Law and obey its tenets in the manner that they prescribed.

But the Lord criticised and rebuked these among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law with the woes He pronounced to them, reminding all of us that this is not the way that we ought to follow or practice the Law of God in our lives. The Law of God is not to be practiced by the letter only, but by both the letter and the spirit of the Law. And what does this exactly mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means we do not just pay lip service and blindly obey the Law without even understanding the meaning, purpose and significance of the Law of God.

For example, many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law enforced a very strict interpretation and obedience to the Law, to the smallest details in how they were to be obeyed, but in their obsession with the way how the Law is to be lived and observed, they forgot and misunderstood the Law’s true purpose and meaning. The observance became for many, mostly a formality and even a chore, as they were focused on the petty details of the Law rather than why they ought to be faithful and obey the Law.

That is exactly what happened if we just focus on the ‘letter’ of the Law and not understanding or appreciating the ‘spirit’ of the Law. And in the end, such observance of the Law and actions are meaningless if not accompanied properly with the desire and understanding from the heart, mind and soul. What it means is that, for us to be truly obedient to God and to be faithful, is to follow the Lord wholeheartedly and to love Him with all of our heart, such as is the purpose and intention of the Law of God.

In our first reading today, St. Paul told the faithful in Thessalonica exactly this point, that every one of us should remain firm in our faith in God, and not be swayed by worldly temptations and false leads from those who wanted to achieve their own ambitions and mislead us from the path of truth. That is why, we must not follow the misguided path of many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom used the Law as means to promote themselves and their own agenda rather than genuine dedication to God.

How do we then live our lives with faith, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where then we should look at the examples set by our predecessors, those who have been deemed authoritatively by the Church as being worthy of praise and veneration as saints and blesseds. And today in particular, we remember the memory of two saints, in their lives and dedication to the Lord, namely St. Louis, King of France, and St. Joseph Calasanz, a holy priest of God.

St. Louis, also known as King Louis IX of France, was one of the greatest Medieval kings of France, remembered for his great piety and dedication to God, his righteous and good rule over his people. St. Louis was committed to the betterment of his people’s livelihood, exercising justice and prudence over his rule and actions, and helped to strengthen his country in faith as well as in prosperity through his long and just reign as king.

St. Louis was pious and dedicated to God, and he showed his subjects and people true Christian leadership, leading the people down the right path, reforming the government and the Church, and making everyone closer to God through their renewed faith. St. Louis also participated in the Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land from infidels and those who persecuted Christians and pilgrims. Throughout his life, St. Louis has shown us what it means to be exemplary in faith.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a renowned and dedicated pries who spent much of his ministry in reaching out to the homeless and those who were hungry and suffering, those who were without education and care. It was not easy as there were many challenges that St. Joseph Calasanz had to overcome during all of his efforts. He continued to serve the people with dedication and also spent a lot of time to rejuvenate many people in the faith.

St. Joseph Calasanz was particularly remembered for his efforts in extending education to all people, including especially the poor and those who usually had not been able to attain any education previously, as at that time in particular, education was mainly available only for the rich and privileged members of the community. To this extent, St. Joseph Calasanz taught many people on various matters, helping them to gain the important knowledge and make a difference to their lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, both St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz have shown us how we as Christians can live our lives and realising the Law of God through genuine commitment and the spending of efforts to love God, first and foremost before all else, and then to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the same manner. They have shown us what we ourselves can do in serving the Lord as good and committed Christians.

Now, are we willing and able to commit ourselves, our time and effort to do this? God has called on each and every one of us to follow Him, and therefore, let us all respond to His call with faith, and do what we can in our lives to serve Him, to glorify Him and to draw ever closer to Him through righteousness and justice, through obedience and understanding of God’s Law and commandments. May God be with us always and guide us through life. Amen.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

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, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Tuesday, 25 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

2 Thessalonians 2 : 1-3a, 14-17

Brothers and sisters, let us speak about the coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord, and our gathering to meet Him. Do not be easily unsettled. Do not be alarmed by what a prophet says, or by any report, or by some letter said to be ours, saying, the day of the Lord is at hand. Do not let yourselves be deceived, in any way.

To this end He called you, through the Gospel we preach, for He willed you, to share the glory of Christ Jesus, Our Lord. Because of that, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions that we taught you, by word or by letter. May Christ Jesus, Our Lord, Who has loved us, may God Our Father, Who, in His mercy, gives us everlasting comfort and true hope, strengthen you.

May He encourage your hearts and make you steadfast in every good work and word.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the wonderful love which God has given to His people, as the leader of Israel that time, Joshua, the successor of Moses, gathered the whole nation before him and before the Lord just before he was about to pass away in old age. Joshua recounted before the people of the wonderful things that God had done for their ancestors, in His faithfulness and providence.

Most of the people of Israel at that time were those born after the whole nation had been brought into the land of Canaan and settled there, many of them have not experienced or known the wonderful love of God, His many miracles and providence which their parents and grandparents would have seen and remembered as they were brought out of their slavery in Egypt and journeyed through the desert for forty years.

That was why Joshua gathered the whole people to remind them that it was God Who had made them prosper and grow in the land they then have called their own, given to them by God Who cleared their path before them, Who provided and cared for them and their needs, and Who watched them through their every steps and ways. Based on experience and history, the people of God, the Israelites were quick to forget all that God had done for them.

We all knew how they rebelled against God and disobeyed Him, so far as to make for themselves a false idol and god, a golden calf which they claimed to be the god who had saved them from their enslavement in Egypt. They refused to follow the Lord’s commandments and ways, and they preferred to follow their own thoughts and ideas, their own prejudices and preferences, their own desires and the many temptations of the world.

And in the Gospel passage today we heard about the discussion between the Lord Jesus and the Pharisees regarding the matter of marriage and divorce, as the latter wanted to test the Lord with the question asking why the Law allowed the people of Israel to do divorce with certain conditions. And the Lord reminded the Pharisees and the people that God did not in fact condone such a practice and reminded them all of the sanctity that is inherent in marriage.

But it was because of God’s great love for His people, so great and wonderful that He has been so patient and so compassionate towards them, that He was willing to accommodate them and to guide them towards the right path despite all the rejections, doubts, waywardness and rebelliousness they have shown against Him. When the laws as prescribed and recorded by Moses allowed for the provision of divorce, it was not meant to be taken for granted, and yet the people took it as an excuse to live loosely without regard for holiness and sanctity in life.

God wanted to accommodate His people so as to lead them to Him and allow them to grow more faithful in each and every days of their lives. The Lord has all good intentions and desire for His people and yet, they misused His love and providence, and took for granted what He has lovingly done for their sake. God has continued to love His people regardless, caring for them patiently and revealing to them what He truly wants for them.

Now, all of us ought to reflect on our own lives therefore, on whether we have loved God as we should have, or whether we have been like the people of Israel in the ancient times, in how they constantly disobeyed the Lord and fell into temptations and sin. Have we lived our lives in the way that we should have lived, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we truly loved God wholeheartedly as the holy saints have done?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, a holy king and servant of God, the first to be crowned as the King of Hungary by the crown sent to him by the Pope. St. Stephen was remembered for his great many contributions to the Church and to his people, as he strengthened his country and ruled wisely for many years, and also establishing the strong foundations of the Church in the whole of his realm of Hungary.

St. Stephen truly loved God as shown by his great piety, his commitment to the works of God, his personal holiness and faith. And we can see how he also loved Him by loving those whom God has entrusted to be under his care, as those who were in his kingdom prospered under his just and well-managed rule, and his genuine care and generosity towards all of them, especially those who were poor, weak and needy.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to emulate the examples of this holy and devoted servant of God, our holy predecessor who have shown us what it truly means for us to be Christians? Let us all not take the love of God for granted any longer, but instead, appreciating everything that He has done for us, and be thankful of the generous love, compassion and mercy which He has given for us.

May the Lord, through the intercession of St. Stephen of Hungary, grant us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on, dedicating our whole lives to His service for the greater glory of His Name. May God bless us all and our every endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 19 : 3-12

At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus. They wanted to test Him and asked, “Is a man allowed to divorce his wife for any reason he wants?”

Jesus replied, “Have you not read that, in the beginning, the Creator made them male and female? And the Creator said : Therefore, a man shall leave father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one body. So, they are no longer two, but one body. Let no one separate what God has joined.”

They asked him, “Then why did Moses command us to write a bill of dismissal in order to divorce?” Jesus replied, “Moses knew the hardness of your hearts, so he allowed you to divorce your wives; but it was not so in the beginning. Therefore, I say to you : whoever divorces his wife, unless it be for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said, “If that is the condition of a married man, it is better not to marry.” Jesus said to them, “Not everybody can accept what you have just said, but only those who have received this gift. There are eunuchs born so, from their mother’s womb. Some have been made that way by others. But there are some who have given up the possibility of marriage, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who can accept it, accept it.”

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Psalm 135 : 1, 2, 3, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His kindness endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods, His kindness endures forever.

Give thanks to YHVH of Lords, His kindness endures forever.

He led His people through the desert, His kindness endures forever.

He struck down great kings, His kindness endures forever.

And He killed mighty kings, His kindness endures forever.

He gave their land as an inheritance, His kindness endures forever.

A heritage to Israel His servant, His kindness endures forever.

And He freed us from our oppressors, His kindness endures forever.

Friday, 16 August 2019 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Joshua 24 : 1-13

Joshua summoned all the tribes of Israel in Shechem, and assembled the elders, leaders, judges and secretaries. And together they presented themselves before God.

Addressing the people, Joshua said to them : “YHVH, the God of Israel, commands me to say to you : Your ancestors lived beyond the Euphrates River – Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor – serving other gods. But I brought Abraham your father from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan.”

“Then I gave him a son Isaac, that he might have numerous descendants. And to Isaac, I gave two sons : Esau and Jacob. Esau received the mountains of Seir as his inheritance, while Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. Then I sent Moses and Aaron to punish Egypt in the way that you know, that you might leave.”

“Then I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and you came to the sea. The Egyptians pursued you with chariots and horses as far as the Red Sea. Then you cried to YHVH, and He put immense darkness between you and the Egyptians. He made the sea go back on them and they were drowned. You have witnessed all the things He did in Egypt, and then you lived in the desert for a long time.”

“Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites who were on the east of the Jordan. You fought them but it was I Who gave them into your hand; you destroyed them and you seized their lands. Balak, the son of Zippor, king of Moab, declared war on Israel and commanded Balaam son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to him, so Balaam blessed you and I saved you from the hands of Balak.”

“Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. And the landlords of Jericho fought against you : the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites declared war on you, but I gave them to you. The two Amorite kings fled from you because of the swarm of hornets that attacked them and not because of your sword and bow.”

“I gave you lands which you have not tilled, cities which you did not build but in which you now live. I gave you vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant but from which you now eat.”

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, first of all, what He had told His people in exile in Babylon through the prophet Ezekiel, of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and Judah as a consequence of their abandonment of God’s laws and commandments. And then in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which Our Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people, of a wicked servant who owed a great debt to his master.

In that first reading, what we heard in God’s words and commands to His prophet Ezekiel, happened at the time when the remaining people of God in the southern kingdom of Judah was facing increasing pressure from the Babylonians, who was the superpower of the time. The Babylonians ruled over most of the region and had subjugated most of the peoples and nations around them, including the kingdom of Judah.

This was the premonition of what would happen next, when the people of Judah and their king, Zedekiah, rebelled against the Babylonians, who immediately sent a punitive force that destroyed Judah, besieged Jerusalem and eventually destroyed the city and the Temple of God, leaving nothing valuable behind, and bringing most of the people to the land of Babylon as exiles.

The people of God in Judah has made a Covenant with God since the time of their ancestors, and God has repeatedly forgiven them their sins and constant disobedience, as they broke the laws and the Covenant again and again. God has entrusted them with the governance over the lands promised to them and their ancestors, and forgave them their debts of sin, but they acted wickedly and persecuted the prophets sent to them to guide them back to the truth.

This is related to what we have heard today in our Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus told the people about a servant who was to be punished by his master, because of his massive debt of ten thousand pieces of gold, a huge amount of money at that time. But the servant begged the master to be merciful, and to give him more time to be able to pay off his debt, as he had his family to take care of.

The master saw his servant’s plight and had pity on him. He forgave the servant and even wrote off all of his debts. It was a great favour and care showed by the master towards his servant. Yet, that same servant, undoubtedly very joyful and pleased at his experience of being forgiven by his master, went to one of those fellow servants who owed him a small amount of money, and threatened him to pay off his debt immediately.

Despite the other servant’s pleas, begging for the servant to give him more time to pay off the debt, and unlike the master’s action, the forgiven servant refused to let the other servant go and was very harsh of him, demanding that the small debt be paid completely. The other servants saw the exchange between them and reported the incident to the master, who became very angry with the forgiven servant and threw him into prison, demanding that he paid every single coin he owed.

Through this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted to make it clear to each and every one of us, that we mankind, represented by the servants in that parable, are so beloved by God, the master in the parable, Who has willingly forgiven each one of us our sins, no matter how great they are, should we be willing to reach out to Him, and sincerely come to Him, begging for forgiveness and mercy.

Sin is our debt to God, and is the fruit of our disobedience against His will, His laws and commandments. And yet, God readily forgives us our sins, should we be sincere in our desire to repent. The Lord Jesus Himself came into this world, to bring forth this point about God’s great love for each one of us sinners. He Himself willingly took up our sins and gathering them on Himself, dying on the cross for our sake.

And that is why, just as our Lord and Master has forgiven us our sins, then we too are expected to do the same with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should not be like the wicked servant who has been forgiven by his master for such a massive debt, and yet could not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a much smaller debt. This means that as true and genuine Christians, we must be true in our actions, in how we live our lives according to our faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, the first Christian king of Hungary. He was highly regarded as a model king and ruler, and as a devout Christian. He was widely acknowledged as the founder of the state of Hungary, and helped greatly in establishing the Christian Church and faith throughout his dominion.

Yet, despite his position, wealth and power, St. Stephen ruled with temperance, good judgment, and exhibited great generosity and humility throughout his reign. He truly cared for his people and did his best to improve their livelihood and cared for them. He did not abuse his power or oppress his people using his power and influence. Instead, he used the authority that God gave him with responsibility and tempered with love and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples shown to us by St. Stephen of Hungary should be our inspiration and model, for which we ought to follow suit, in how we live our own lives, dedicating ourselves to God wholeheartedly and with genuine intention. Let us be exemplary in our Christian way of living, and be role models for each other in faith, from now on, that many more people may come to righteousness in God, through us. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 16 August 2018 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints)

Matthew 18 : 21 – Matthew 19 : 1

At that time, Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive the offences of my brother or sister? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “No, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“This story throws light on the kingdom of Heaven : A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. Among the first of them was one who owed him ten thousand pieces of gold. As the man could not repay the debt, the king commanded that he be sold as a slave with his wife, his children and all his goods, as repayment.”

“The servant threw himself at the feet of the king and said, ‘Give me time, and I will pay you back everything.’ The king took pity on him, and not only set him free, but even cancelled his debt. When this servant left the king’s presence, he met one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred pieces of silver. He grabbed him by the throat and almost choked him, shouting, ‘Pay me what you owe!'”

“His fellow servant threw himself at his feet and begged him, ‘Give me time, and I will pay everything.’ But the other did not agree, and sent him to prison until he has paid all his debt. Now the servants of the king saw what had happened. They were extremely upset, and so they went and reported everything to their lord.”

“Then the lord summoned his servant and said, ‘Wicked servant, I forgave you all that you owed me when you begged me to do so. Were you not bound to have pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ The lord was now angry. He handed the wicked servant over to be punished, until he had paid the whole debt.”

Jesus added, “So will My heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters.” When Jesus had finished these sayings, He left Galilee and arrived at the border of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan River.