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.

Monday, 25 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are urged to be faithful and to be upright in all of our actions and dealings, so that we all truly may be called the children of God. This is what Jesus said, when He rebuked the Pharisees and the elders of the people, in what is known the seven woes of the Pharisees. It is because these people who had been entrusted with the care of the people of God have failed to do as they were expected to do.

Instead, the Pharisees, the scribes and the teachers of the Law abused their power and authority which had been given to them. They twisted the Law and its various applications to suit their own purposes and to give them advantages and goodness at the expense of others, namely those whom they have been entrusted with. Those leaders and elders grew fat and rich at the expense of their sheep and flock which suffered and groaned under their oppression.

This misuse and abuse of authority and power is what Jesus was truly angry about as He talked about the actions of the Pharisees and elders, whose hearts and minds were not on the Lord and things heavenly and holy, but in things and matters of the world, of worldly goods and temptations, as well as things corrupt and unworthy of the leaders of the faithful. In this, they have failed miserably to become role models for the faithful, and instead they brought many to their downfall and ruin with them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what Jesus was angry about was because those Pharisees and elders cared only for the substance and for the material rather than for the souls of the faithful, and rather than things necessary for the salvation of these souls. They asked people to swear by the treasure of the Temple and by the offering on the Altar, because they cared not for the holiness and for the Presence of God, but for the material wealth and goods around which they conduct their daily duties.

This is also the prelude to when Jesus cleared the Temple itself of all the corruptions and impurities which the Pharisees had allowed to grow and develop under their care. These corruptions were the merchants and money changers who were allowed to setup their stalls in the courtyard of the Temple, selling various animals for sacrifice, and also established money exchange services for those who came from other countries, including Jews who lived far away from Jerusalem.

These merchants were corrupt, and they charged the people much more than they should have. They earned much profit at the expense of the pilgrims and the common people who sincerely came to worship the Lord. The Pharisees and the elders of Israel did not take any action because they gained profits and income by their cooperations with those merchants and cheaters, and therefore they maintained the corruption of the Temple, for their own benefits.

Today we celebrate the feast of two great saints, whose life and examples would show us the wickedness and inappropriate nature of the actions of the Pharisees and the elders of Israel. The first is St. Louis, King of France, also known as King St. Louis IX, one of the greatest medieval kings and leaders of Christendom. The other saint is St. Joseph Calasanz, a Spanish priest of the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment eras.

St. Louis IX was a great king, and he reigned well and with justice. However, he did not just do well on the matters of the world, as he also cared greatly for the spiritual growth and development of his nation and his people. A very devoted servant of God, he implemented numerous changes and reforms in the laws of the land, that the people may lead a more righteous and just lives, in accordance with the will of God and according to the teachings of the Lord through the Church.

St. Louis IX also worked hard to bring the faith to all peoples, including to heretics, the Albigensians, also known as the Cathars, bringing to them a harsh judgment and brought them to see the light of truth in God. And in the end, out of the will to defend the faith and the faithful, as well as to bring glory to God, King St. Louis IX led a crusade of the faithful to liberate the Holy Land of God, but before he reached his destination, he died. Nevertheless, his actions remained a great inspiration to all of us.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a devoted Spanish priest, who dedicated his life in the service of the people of God, guiding, helping and loving them, and especially to the weakest and the poorest in the society, he gave them attention and care, and he helped established many schools and educational institutions run by the religious congregation he helped establish, the Piarists.

Even when he was called to move to Rome, the heart of Christendom, the works and dedication of St. Joseph Calasanz remained the same if not even greater than before. He helped victims of a flood, helped educate poor and young children, and he ministered faithfully to the people of God wherever he went to serve. He was truly exemplary, and together with St. Louis IX, he had indeed shown how we should live our faith life, pure and untainted by the greed and desires of this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples had shown clearly the contrasts we need to be aware of, and we ought to take these seriously, as we should not follow the examples of the Pharisees and the elders who were corrupt and were concerned about only how to bring the best for themselves and cared only for their prosperity and glory, while the saints whose lives we celebrate today, truly exemplified the virtues of the Lord and gave us the examples of how we should live our own lives.

May we all be able to rid ourselves of our selfishness and human desires, as the Pharisees had demonstrated, that these are great obstacles for us to reach the Lord. May Almighty God guide us and bless us on our way, that we may truly be able to follow in His footsteps and grow to be better and more dedicated people whom He loves dearly. God be with us all. Amen.

Monday, 25 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Matthew 23 : 13-22

Therefore, 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, nor do you allow others to do so.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ houses, even while for a pretense you make 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 win 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 treasure of the Temple is binding.” Blind fools! Which is 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, 25 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 4-5

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

How great is the Lord and worthy of praise! Above all gods He is to be feared. For all other gods are worthless idols, but YHVH is the One who made the heavens.

Monday, 25 August 2014 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Priests)

2 Thessalonians 1 : 1-5, 11b-12

From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians which is in God our Father and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May grace and peace be yours from God the Father and Christ Jesus, the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, we should give thanks to God at all times for you. It is fitting to do so, for your faith is growing and your love for one another increasing. We take pride in you among the churches of God because of your endurance and your faith in the midst of persecution and sufferings.

In this the just judgment of God may be seen; for you must show yourselves worthy of the kingdom of God for which you are now suffering. May He, by His power, fulfill your good purposes and your work prompted by faith. In that way, the Name of Jesus our Lord will be glorified through you, and you through Him, according to the loving plan of God and of Christ Jesus the Lord.