Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us heard of the exhortation for us to be holy, to be good and ever righteous in the presence of God, to be ready to welcome the Lord when He comes again as He has promised. And that is why we must dedicate our whole lives in His service and to be ever committed in our faith, not to be lax or complacent in living that faith, or else, we may regret it when the time of reckoning comes.

In our Gospel passage today, this is very well illustrated with the parable of the faithful servant and the bad servant, using the example of those servants to highlight what will happen to us should we take the Lord’s words seriously, or if we choose instead to ignore Him and continue to reject what He has called us to do in our lives. Unless we listen wholeheartedly to God’s words calling us and speaking to us in the depth of our hearts, we will be easily swayed and tempted to abandon His path.

The parable highlighted first of all, the two types of servants, one that is diligent and conscientious of all that he had been entrusted with, while the other servant was lazy and thought that the master would not come back so soon, and did not do as he had been tasked to, and instead abused his authority and treated his fellow workers and those under his authority badly for his own selfish desires.

The servants represent us, brothers and sisters in Christ, all the sons and daughters of man. All of us have been entrusted by God for our various tasks and callings in life. And this passage is a reminder that whatever we do in life, whatever we say and act, and how we interact with one another, all of these are significant and they will count on the moment of our reckoning, be it at the end of our lives or when the Lord finally comes again into this world.

The faithful and diligent servant represent those who have listened to the Lord, obeyed His commandments, and did everything as he or she had been told and taught through the teachings and laws of the Church. Meanwhile, the lazy and bad servant are those who ignored the teachings and laws of the Lord as held by His Church, and those who preferred to live their lives their own way, without regards for the path that the Lord had set before us.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard in our readings today, as St. Paul highlighted in our first reading today that, for all of us the faithful people of God, we have been assured of the glory of God and the eternal joy that will be ours. However, we need to trust in God and put our faith in Him, or else, because of our lack of faith, we are the ones who make ourselves stumble in rejecting the surety of the glory of God and instead, exchange it for the temporary pleasures and glory of the world.

Do we want to be like that lazy and bad servant who slacked and took it for granted that his master had granted him so much and so good a life, that he disobeyed and did things to satisfy his own selfish desires? We see how it all ends, when the master came back suddenly and the bad servant was caught unaware by it. Do we want to be caught unaware also in our vices and sins, and then be cast out into the eternal darkness, from where no regret can do anything for us anymore?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should follow the examples set by St. Monica, whose feast day we celebrate today. St. Monica was a pious and devout woman, who was remembered especially as the mother of St. Augustine of Hippo, the great bishop and Doctor of the Church, one of the finest saints of the early Church. And the role of St. Monica in making St. Augustine to be who he was cannot be underestimated, as it was her persistent faith and commitment, her love for her son and her refusal to give up on him that eventually led St. Augustine to return to the faith.

St. Augustine was born to St. Monica, a Christian woman, and Patricius, a Roman pagan, his father, who led a dissolute and wicked lifestyle, which would eventually also be followed by St. Augustine in his younger days. But despite being surrounded by all sorts of wickedness and vices of the world, St. Monica patiently and faithfully lived her life as a wife and mother, and she also acted with virtue, often giving alms and charities for the poor and the needy.

St. Monica definitely wanted her husband and son to be turned to the light, but the path would indeed be long, arduous and can be heartbreaking at times. Not just that she had to endure her husband, who although respected her, but lived wickedly, St. Monica also had to endure seeing her own son falling into sinful path, as he grew up and began to seek the truth, in a long journey, during which time, he would dwell into false ways like Manichaeism and also various hedonistic ways.

It was so bad that St. Augustine even caused a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock, meaning that he made the woman pregnant while not being married to her. This amongst others, such as his pursuit of pagan philosophical pursuits, must have hurt St. Monica badly, seeing her family like that. Yet, St. Monica patiently put her faith in God and dedicated herself to pray for her family’s conversion.

Eventually, by her patient faith and endurance, her care and concern for her loved ones, St. Monica managed to turn the heart first of her husband, who was said to have converted to the Christian faith and repented from all his sinful ways when he was dying. And when St. Augustine and St. Monica were divided by the former’s adoption of Manichaean heresy and his wicked way of life, St. Monica patiently endured and followed her son, eventually leading her to find St. Ambrose of Milan, the influential and charismatic man who eventually together, managed to turn St. Augustine back into the truth of Christ after many years of resistance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we see in St. Monica the example of a true and virtuous Christian, who remained committed to God despite the challenges and pains that she had to endure. St. Monica showed true Christian virtues and patiently persevered, continuing to pray and to do what she could, just as the faithful and diligent servant had done, in dedicating her efforts to the greater glory of God.

And you see just how much impact that had caused, as through St. Augustine and the many people whom he inspired and touched, countless peoples and souls had been saved thanks to the perseverance and faith of St. Monica, his loving mother. Are we able and willing to follow in her footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the sacrifices required at times to be faithful to God, in all things?

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us and encourage us to be always faithful despite the challenges, trials and tribulations we may encounter in life. May God bless us all, and may St. Monica pray and intercede for each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 24 : 42-51

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come. Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.”

“Imagine a faithful and prudent servant, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give them food at the proper time. Fortunate, indeed, is that servant, whom his master will find at work when he comes. Truly I say to you, his lord will entrust him with everything he has.”

“Not so with the bad servant, who thinks, ‘My master is delayed.’ And he begins to ill-treat his fellow servants, while eating and drinking with drunkards. But his master will come on the day he does not know, and at the hour he least expects. He will punish that servant severely; and place him with the hypocrites. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 144 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will praise You, day after day; and exalt Your Name forever. Great is YHVH, most worthy of praise; and His deeds are beyond measure.

Parents commend Your works to their children and tell them Your feats. They proclaim the splendour of Your majesty and recall Your wondrous works.

People will proclaim Your mighty deeds; and I will declare Your greatness. They will celebrate Your abundant kindness, and rejoice in singing of Your justice.

Thursday, 27 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Monica (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 1 : 1-9

From Paul, called to be an Apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, and from Sosthenes, our brother, to God’s Church which is in Corinth; to you, whom God has sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called, to be holy, together, with those, who, everywhere, call upon the Name of Our Lord Christ Jesus, their Lord and ours.

Receive grace, and peace from God, Our Father, and Christ Jesus, Our Lord. I give thanks, constantly, to my God, for you, and for the grace of God given to you, in Christ Jesus. For you have been fully enriched, in Him, with words, as well as with knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you. You do not lack any spiritual gift and only await the glorious coming of Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

He will keep you steadfast to the end, and you will be without reproach, on the day of the coming of Our Lord Jesus. The faithful God will not fail you, after calling you to this fellowship with His Son, Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

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, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Scripture readings we listened to the word of God speaking to us about the importance for us to stay true to our faith in the Lord, no matter what distractions or temptations that may come in our way. We should not be easily swayed by worldly desires and concerns, that we end up being corrupted by our greed and desires, by our ego and pride, and therefore end up falling into sin.

In the first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Thessalonica in Greece stated to them that they must not easily be alarmed or be discouraged by what some people might be hearing, especially if these ran contrary to the Gospel and the truth that the Apostles had brought into their midst. He reminded them to be strong and to remain true to the faith which they have received from the hands of the Apostles.

This would come to be important as in time to come, there were many heresies and false teachings that came among the people of God, which brought down many of the faithful, and including even priests and bishops who came to believe in all those falsehoods and wrong teachings. Heresies and syncretic teachings such as Arianism, Gnosticism, Monophysitism, Manichaeanism, and many others, including more recent examples, have caused many souls to be lost to the Lord.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in His series of condemnations for those who were entrusted with the care and guidance over the people of God. They were supposed to show care and concern for the fate of the Israelites, but they have failed to fulfil their obligation and supposed duty. Instead, they abused their power and influence for their own uses and selfish purposes.

They imposed harsh rules and regulations on the people, expecting them to follow their standard and practices of the Law, but they did all these, in order to be praised more by the people, to be respected and even feared, as the only authority that was available in teaching the people. Even though their interpretation of the Law and God’s commandments were wrong and misguided, but they refused to listen to the Lord Who came to right the wrongs they have committed.

Faced with such great challenges and difficulties, the Church and many of the faithful people of God struggled. Many people fell, and even from within the hierarchy of the Church itself fell into the heresies and became spreaders of the lies and terrible falsehoods instead. And yet, while many have fallen, but equally many have recovered from the fall and returned to the true faith in God.

And today we celebrate the feast of one great and renowned saint, whose life was the perfect example of that experience of falling into sin and to the lies of the devil, and returning back to the faith with a repentance and conversion of heart. St. Augustine of Hippo, also known as St. Augustine the Great is one of the most well-known and respected saints of Christendom, considered as one of the four original Doctors of the Church.

But early in his life, St. Augustine lived a life of debauchery, immorality and sin. He was not a Christian unlike his mother, St. Monica, whose feast we celebrated just yesterday. St. Monica prayed hard for the conversion of her son, who lived in a state of great sin and committing adultery, even to the point of having a son out of wedlock. But St. Monica did not give up on her son, and continued to pray for him, knowing that God would also never abandon His people.

St. Augustine turned to Manichaeanism following the examples of his peers and through the enticing nature of its worldly teachings. But in the end, he did not find true satisfaction and joy in the false ways of the Manichaeans, and through the works of St. Ambrose of Milan, another one of the four great Doctors of the Church and by St. Monica’s intercession, St. Augustine eventually repented his sinful ways and turned to the Lord.

It was through this long journey of repentance and faith, that many of the faithful living throughout the ages, even until this very day, benefitted through the many great works of St. Augustine of Hippo, who after turning away from his past, sinful ways, turned to be a great champion and protector of the true Christian faith or orthodoxy. He wrote extensively and preached in many occasions, inspiring many future generations of Christian leaders and teachers to continue keeping the fullness of truth as preserved in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now, all of us are called to follow in their footsteps, in the courage of the saints and all of our predecessors. Let us all remain true to the fullness of truth of God, found in the Church alone, that by its sacred traditions and the preservation of the rightful interpretation of the Holy Scriptures through the Holy Spirit, by the teachings of St. Augustine and the many other holy and committed teachers of the truth, we may remain ever faithful and remain true in our dedication to the Lord, despite all the challenge we may encounter in life.

May the Lord be with us always, that each and every one of us will find the courage like that shown St. Augustine, to acknowledge just how sinful we have been, and how we are in need of God’s healing and mercy. Let us all turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and live a renewed existence in faith. May God bless us all and our endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (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.”