Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scriptures, beginning with the vision of Ezekiel the prophet, who saw the glory of God and His Throne in heaven. He saw God enthroned in glory and all the Angels worshipping and adoring His majesty. This reading is chosen today, in tandem with the Gospel passage, to show us all that although we cannot see God directly now, but truly, He is the Lord and Master of all things, of the whole entire universe.

He is the One around Whom our lives should be revolving. He is the one true focus of our lives, and He should be at the very centre of our existence. But unfortunately, in our world today, as how it was during the time of the prophet Ezekiel and the time of our Lord’s coming, the Lord has often been forgotten and relegated to a less than important or prominent position in the hearts and minds of men.

At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, God has been so forgotten, after generations of people who refused to obey the Lord’s laws and commandments and who worshipped the pagan idols and heathen gods that they were scattered throughout the nations, carried into exile in the land of Babylon. The Temple of Jerusalem and the city were destroyed, and the kingdom of Israel and Judah were no more.

They were not able to commit themselves to the Covenant which God had made with their ancestors. They chose to find the easy way out, by looking for the idols of the people around them, which offered them worldly pleasures, prestige and all sorts of things they could not gain through the Lord, their God. Many of them wanted to be accepted by their pagan neighbours, and therefore, followed their customs and false beliefs.

At the time of the Lord Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were the ones entrusted to safeguard the Jewish customs and practices, that they zealously guarded against all sorts of perceived opposition or aberrations. To them, it was their interpretation of how the Law should be enacted and lived up to by the people that was right, and not any other versions or ways.

And they took great pride in this privileged position, to the point that they became boastful, arrogant and filled with ambition. This was what the Lord Jesus took issue with, as He rebuked them before the people, telling them not to follow their examples in how lived their faith lives. He rebuked them for their pride and their self-centredness, in wanting to be seen by others in their pious devotions and actions.

What is the problem here, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was the ego and pride that were in the hearts of man that were the problems. We were often so full of ourselves, thinking that we were the best, and we alone knew what was the best for us. Our selfish desires and wants for worldly comfort, happiness, pleasures, joys, all these temptations eventually overcome us, and fill us such that we are unable to realise how central is the Lord’s role in our lives and how insignificant our power and greatness are in the face of God’s own glory and power.

Now, the Lord Jesus Himself in the Gospel passage of this day told us of what we as Christians should do in order to prevent this from happening. First of all, as Christians we must be humble and not be proud. After all, everything that we are, our power, intellect, strength, material wealth and all else are in fact due to God’s grace and blessings. We would have nothing without God, and without Him, everything that we have, are meaningless.

For all the glory, the fame, the prestige, honour and wealth that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had gathered, all of them were merely fleeting and temporary. They were only gathering for themselves worldly treasures that could be easily destroyed at any time. And this came true when the Temple of Jerusalem itself, with the entire caste of the Pharisees and the elites of the Jewish society overthrown during a failed rebellion against the Romans just a few decades after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two holy man of God, saints whose life examples and actions can become inspiration for us to follow in how we live our own lives with faith. St. Louis was a famous King of France, as King Louis IX during the thirteenth century, who was remembered for his great reputation as a just and wise ruler, his commitment to the faith and the betterment of the Church, his participation in the Holy Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom.

Although he was a great king who possessed much power and amassed great prestige and honour from his many years as ruler of the great kingdom of France, with one of the mightiest and best-equipped armies of Christendom, but St. Louis remained humble and dedicated to the mission to which he was called as king, that is to serve his people with true dedication and love. He was remembered for his great acts of justice and chivalry, his care for the poor and the oppressed throughout his kingdom.

Essentially, St. Louis followed the examples set by Christ Himself, Our Lord and King. Even though Jesus was truly King above all kings and has all authority above all authority, but He remained humble in all things, and He showed it by example, serving even His disciples by washing their feet, a job which at that time customarily done by a slave. St. Louis showed the example of Christian leadership as first shown by the Lord Himself.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a Spanish priest and renowned educator, who was also the founder of the religious order known as the Piarists. He and his fellow religious was remembered for their loving care for the poor and the less fortunate, providing for their needs and giving free education for their children. He helped to establish the structures in place to provide care for these less fortunate among the community of the faithful.

The love which St. Joseph Calasanz and his fellow religious and his dedication to the less fortunate and the needy should be inspirations for us to follow, together with the faith and great commitment shown by St. Louis. Let us all therefore follow in their footsteps and turn towards the Lord, with great humility and desire to love Him more than anything else, even more than ourselves.

If we have been proud, arrogant or selfish, then perhaps it is indeed time for us to reorientate ourselves and become true Christians through which we can truly follow the Lord with all of our hearts. May the Lord continue to guide us all, as we grow in faith, in love for Him and for our brethren, and in our humility. Amen.

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Ezekiel 43 : 1-7a

The Man took me to the gate, facing east. Then I saw the glory of God of Israel approaching from the east, with a sound like the sound of the ocean; and the earth shone with His glory. The vision was like the one I had seen when He came for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen on the bank of the river Chebar. Then I threw myself to the ground.

The glory of YHVH arrived at the Temple by the east gate. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court : the glory of YHVH was filling the House. And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the Man stood beside me. The voice said, “Son of man, you have seen the place of My throne.”

Friday, 25 August 2017 : 20th 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, on this day all of us are reminded by what we have heard from the Book of Ruth, our first reading today, of the faith that Ruth, a woman hailing from the country of Moab, a foreigner, had in the Lord. Ruth stayed on at the side of Naomi, her mother-in-law despite the fact that her husband and all her other immediate family had passed away. She remained faithful to the Lord and followed her mother-in-law back to the land of Israel.

And eventually she was blessed by God for her faith, and she met her future husband, Boaz as she was working in his field. She bore a son whom she called Obed, who was the father of Jesse, and who in turn was the father of David, the famous king of Israel. All of these would not have been possible without the faith which Ruth had shown to God, her dedication and commitment to her newfound faith in Him.

In this we also see how God calls the people of all the nations to come to Him and worship Him, as even among the ancestors of the king of Israel existed the faithful foreigners and pagans who turned away from the path of their own ancestors and chose to follow God’s path instead. In this we see how God loves us all, and how each and every one of us also need to love God in the same manner. That is what God intended for us, that through His Laws, we may love Him just as He had loved us first.

That is what the Lord Jesus spoke of in the Gospel passage today, when the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law confronted Him and tried to argue with Him, presumably trying to trap Him in His own words, by asking Him which law is the most important one in the whole Laws and Commandments which Moses had received from God. But those people did not truly understand what God intended to do with His Law, and neither did they practice the Law in the manner He wanted them to do.

They did not understand that God’s laws are truly about love, loving God first and foremost before anything else, and then loving one another, loving our fellow men, our parents, our friends and all those whom we encounter in our lives in the same manner as we have loved God and just as how we love ourselves. Instead, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law became too preoccupied with the formalities and the less important aspects of the Law, focusing on the wrong things and mistaking the true purpose of those Laws.

They reinforced the strict commandment and observances of the Law, but all these were done to advance their own self-interests, that they might be praised for their supposed piety and obedience to the Law. They looked down on tax collectors and prostitutes, and closed the door of salvation to them, thinking that those people were sinners and were unworthy of God. Yet, the Lord Jesus rebuked them and showed them just how genuine and true is the love that those supposed sinners had shown to God.

Just like Ruth, those tax collectors, prostitutes and all those deemed as foreigners, pagans and sinners were able to show greater love, commitment and devotion to the Lord. In that, they have obeyed the Law of God to a far greater degree than what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. They have loved God, and desired the love of God, and as a result, God welcomed them, and forgave them their sins when they sincerely sought Him looking to be forgiven and committed to the change in their lives and actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to do the same as well? Are we able to change our lives in the same way? Are we able to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and love Him sincerely from our hearts? This is what we have been called to do, and what we have been reminded by the Word of God which we have heard in the Scripture passages today.

Let us all look at the examples of the holy saints, St. Louis, the holy King of France, and St. Joseph Calasanz, a holy priest and servant of God, whose feasts we celebrate today. Let us all look at the examples of these holy men who had gone before us, and see how they have dedicated their own lives to God, so that we too may be able to follow their footsteps and walk in the same path.

St. Louis, also known as King Louis IX of France, was a very famous and renowned King of France, known as a paragon of virtue and piety, devoted wholeheartedly to the service of God and to his people, being a model king and ruler, who cared greatly for the well-being of his people, both physically and spiritually. Unlike many other rulers of his time, before and after, he used his power with justice and righteousness, and did not succumb to the temptations of power to abuse that authority which God had granted him.

Instead, St. Louis devoted himself to the improvement of the lives of his subjects and people, building churches and helping to establish the institutions of the Church to bring his people closer to God, and seeking to make peace between the feuding factions among his people, to end the bitter rivalries and conflicts among them, that they might overcome their sinful past filled with wickedness, and turn wholeheartedly towards God.

In the same manner, St. Joseph Calasanz had also shown us how to become a better follower of God as St. Louis had done. St. Joseph Calasanz was remembered for his great works of charity among the poor, even establishing a congregation of the servants of God dedicated to help the poor and ministering to them in their needs. He showed his great devotion and charity to the people who were in need, and in that way, he also dedicated himself wholeheartedly to God.

He helped to establish institutions to care for homeless and neglected children, and offered places for the poor and the homeless to stay in. He helped them to get by with their worldly needs, and helped to provide jobs and work through which they were able to sustain themselves in their needs. He was also credited with bringing peace to feuding factions in the Church, just as St. Louis had done among his people.

In all these examples shown by these two holy saints, all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, are reminded that there are many things that each and every one of us can do as Christians to be good servants and followers of the Lord. We should follow their examples, and also the faith and dedication of Ruth and all those who have given themselves entirely to love and to serve the Lord.

Are we able to commit ourselves in this manner? Are we able to do more in order to serve Him? The one who decide this will be ourselves. We need to decide if we can give more to serve the Lord, to love Him with ever greater devotion and to have an ever greater and living faith in Him. Let us all therefore renew our commitment to Him, and renew our commitment to show the same love we show Him to our fellow men as well. May God bless all our endeavours. Amen.

Friday, 25 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Matthew 22 : 34-40

At that time, when the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned Him to test Him, “Teacher, which commandment of the Law is the greatest?”

Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. The whole Law and prophets are founded on these two commandments.”

Friday, 25 August 2017 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints and Priests)

Psalm 145 : 5-6ab, 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

Blessed are they whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in YHVH their God, Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and all they contain.

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

He sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!