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.

Saturday, 27 August 2016 : 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 celebrate the feast of a great and remarkable saint, a loving and devoted mother, one of the cherished daughter of our Lord, who had given herself to serve the Lord, especially by her tireless and never-ending perseverance in trying to make her son, another very famous and important saint, to return to the faith in God and be saved from eternal damnation.

And as I will elaborate more on the matter later on, let us see how this great woman had fulfilled and done what the Scriptures today have heeded us to do, that we do the same things and commit ourselves in the same way that she has done it. It is important then that we take note of what the Lord spoke of through His Apostle St. Paul in our first reading today about whom God had chosen to be His word-bearers and tools among the nations, and what He Himself spoke about in the Gospel regarding the parable of the silver talents and the good and the lazy servants.

In the first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and to the faithful ones in Corinth, St. Paul spoke passionately about being chosen by God, and whom God had chosen to be His people, and more importantly to be those who would become His bearers of the truth that He brought into the world, that through them and their works, they might bring eternal life and salvation to all those who believe in them.

In this matter, we should see how God had not chosen by using worldly standards of power, influence, fame and wealth. God did not choose us because we are great in the eyes of this world, unlike how people in this world usually gets chosen for something important. While the world praised and glorified wealth, praising those who have been successful in getting more money and accomplishments for themselves, but God chose differently.

God chose not the powerful of the world but instead what is powerful according to His standards, that is the strength of our devotion and commitment, the strength of our faith and the love that is within each and every one of us. For God, there is no greater value in us than the love which we show back to Him, He Who has loved us all and cared for us. God values not all the riches and the wealth that this world can assemble, for these are temporary and transient in nature.

And yet, it does not mean that we should just accept God’s calling and then be passive in all things. It also does not mean that we should then lay back and do nothing since after all God does not value the wealth, riches, fame and all the other worldly things, is He not? As we then need to look deeper just beyond what St. Paul had said and link it to what we also heard in the Gospel today, where our Lord Jesus spoke about the parable of the silver talents and the servants.

In that parable, God spoke about a master who entrusted his silver talents to several servants, each of which did differently with the silver talents entrusted to them. But the gist of the matter is that while the good and devoted servants invested those silver talents which they have received, and received back not just the silver talents they invested but also even more silver talents as profit, the lazy and wicked servant just hid the silver talent, never investing them, and in the end gained nothing.

This is a comparison which we can make with our own lives in this world. We are all the servants to our Master and Lord, and we have been entrusted with different kinds of gifts that God had blessed us with, our talents and abilities, as well as the seeds of faith, hope and love that He has planted in each and every one of us. And yet, how they would come to be depends indeed entirely on us and our ability to grow them and prepare them through our work and effort.

To be a Christian means that we must be active, and indeed be actively involved in the actions that God has called us into, that is to serve and to love one another with sincerity and generosity from deep within our hearts, probably just as how much as St. Monica, the holy woman and a devoted mother had done in her own life. She devoted her life for the sake of her son, St. Augustine of Hippo, who would go on to become a great saint in his own right.

We mostly would know St. Augustine of Hippo as a very great saint who is now known as one of the four original Doctors of the Church, and who with St. Jerome is among the two pillars that helped to establish the Church in the West, that is Rome and thus what our Church today is about, and what we believe in. His writings are still widely read today and continued to inspire many, but these all would not have been possible if not for the tireless efforts of St. Monica, his mother.

St. Monica was a Christian who married a pagan husband, who was an important administrator in the public service. Their son, St. Augustine was given the best of education possible and available to him, and yet, he drifted slowly into the wickedness and the debauchery of the world, seeking pleasures and hedonistic pursuits in life, following the examples of his peers and friends.

Certainly, no mother would ever want her child to fall into the abyss, and no mother would ever want to lose her child to the darkness of sin. And as a Christian herself, we can simply imagine what kind of pain and sorrow existed in the heart and mind of St. Monica, who was faced with that great agony of seeing how both her husband, a pagan, and her son in particular, were slipping into the embrace of the devil and eternal damnation.

Then we have to note what St. Monica did ceaselessly without fear and without stop, that she prayed and hoped without end, knowing that God would answer her prayers, and rescue the soul of her beloved ones from the chasm of death. And God did answer her prayers and her charitable efforts, and touched by her loving care, first it was her husband who turned to the Lord, and then St. Augustine himself, as he felt that longing for something that he could not find in the debauchery of the world, that is God alone.

The perseverance and the love that St. Monica had shown us is truly exemplary, and she had shown us the love of a good and devoted Christian mother, as how a Christian is supposed to be like. Let us all learn from what she had done, and how she had devoted her life to God, to her husband, and more famously from these, is how she had loved her son and had not given him up to the darkness.

Therefore, shall we also do the same to our brethren around us? Shall we not show love, care and compassion for our brothers and sisters who are now struggling in the darkness? Let us endeavour to break free from our comfort zones and seek out to be the light and the bearers of God’s salvation to these brethren of ours.

May God help us in our work and efforts to bring each other closer to His presence, that all of us may be saved and may receive the glory of eternal life, just as what St. Monica had done, never ceasing to believe that her son, St. Augustine, could be saved from eternal death in sin. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 27 August 2016 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 25 : 14-30

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Imagine someone who, before going abroad, summoned his servants to entrust his property to them. He gave five talents of silver to one servant, two talents to another servant, and one talent to a third, to each according to his ability; and he went away.”

“He who received five talents went at once to do business with the money, and gained another five. The one who received two talents did the same, and gained another two. But the one who received one talent dug a hole, and hid his master’s money.”

“After a long time, the master of those servants returned and asked for a reckoning. The one who had received five talents came with another five talents, saying, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with five talents, but see, I have gained five more.’ The master answered, ‘Very well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in a few things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Then the one who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you entrusted me with two talents; with them I have gained two more.’ The master said, ‘Well, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in little things, I will entrust you with much more. Come and share the joy of your master.'”

“Finally, the one who had received one talent came and said, ‘Master, I know that you are a hard man. You reap what you have not sown, and gather what you have not scattered. I was afraid, so I hid your money in the ground. Here, take what is yours!'”

“But his master replied, ‘Wicked and worthless servant, you know that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered; so you should have deposited my money in the bank, and on my return you would have given it back to me with interest.'”

“‘Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to the one who has ten. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who are unproductive, even what they have will be taken from them. As for that useless servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

Saturday, 27 August 2016 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 32 : 12-13, 18-19, 20-21

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the whole race of mortals.

But the Lord’s eyes are upon those who fear Him, upon those who trust in His loving-kindness to deliver them from death and preserve them from famine.

In hope we wait for the Lord, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust in His holy Name.