Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded to be truly faithful to the Lord in all things, and not just having an empty and meaningless faith, or merely being superficial in our love and dedication to God. We should not allow ourselves to be swayed by worldly temptations for power, glory, fame and wealth, for influence and prestige, among many other things. We must not allow all these to cloud our judgment, and we have to keep ourselves well attuned to the Lord.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Gospel according to St. Matthew on the matter of the Pharisees and their religious practices, which the Lord spoke before those assembled and gathered to listen to Him. The Lord rebuked the Pharisees and also the teachers of the Law because many among them, the religious and intellectual elites of the Jewish community, did things that were unbecoming of their trusted position as the guardians of the Law of God as well as the leaders of the people.

They made it difficult for the people of God to come towards their Lord and Master, imposing very strict practices and rules, customs and obligations to follow, which were mainly due to their mistaken interpretation and understanding of the Law of God. As such, they did not bring the people closer to God as they had been entrusted to do, but instead, they were driving more and more people away from God in their misguided zeal and lack of proper understanding of the Law and its true intentions.

That was why the Lord rebuked them, and spoke out against them, to remind all of them and the people included, of what it truly means to be the believers and followers of the Lord. It means that we cannot be merely superficial in our faith, focusing on our own appearances and vanity, by appearing outwardly religious and good, and yet rotten and wicked in our hearts and minds. We should not be like those who made loud and widely publicised prayers and acts of faith, and yet, at the same time, being prejudiced against the poor and sinners, hating and disliking them.

Instead, all of us are called to reflect more deeply on the true intention and meaning of the Law of God, so that all of us may understand and appreciate it better, and that we may be better and more genuine Christians in all things, and not just in name only. We cannot be those who only profess the faith in the Lord in our lips only, and then act in a manner contrary to our faith. Those who did so have not only been lacking in faith, but in fact, may also scandalise their faith and the Lord’s Name, by making others to misunderstand God and His truth.

That is why all of us are challenged to live our lives in the way that is aligned with the Lord, and to do whatever we can in order to proclaim Him in our own communities, by our own words, actions and deeds. We cannot be idle in our faith, and neither can we act in ways that brought scandal to the Lord and to our Christian faith and Church. And that is why, we should strive to do what we can, to obey the Lord more wholeheartedly from now on, and to give of ourselves to Him with ever greater sincerity.

Today we can also follow the good examples and inspiration from St. Rose of Lima, one of the famous saints of the Church, who is the first saint canonised from the New World, the Americas. She is remembered for her great love and true piety for the Lord, in all of her actions and deeds, dedicating her whole life to the Lord. She was born into a noble family, and later on would dedicate herself to a life of holy virginity and total dedication to God, as a lay member of the Dominican Order.

St. Rose of Lima had led a most virtuous and pious lifestyle since very early age, that since her youth, it was told that she had observed fasting and abstinence regularly, leading a prayerful life and a holy life. She was renowned for her great beauty, and many suitors tried to get her attention, and even her own family tried to force her to marry. In the face of all these efforts and oppositions, St. Rose of Lima cut her hair and made herself look ugly to deter the suitors and steadfastly refused any attempts to force her to marry.

Throughout the rest of her life, St. Rose of Lima dedicated herself to the Lord and poured out her love to others, especially those who were poor and needy, those who were sick and troubled. She spent a lot of time ministering to them and taking care of them, while spending other times in prayers and devotions, doing whatever she could to commit herself wholly to God. Her exemplary faith and life had inspired so many others to follow in her footsteps.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we also able to do the same with our own lives? Are we able to love God and our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way as St. Rose of Lima had done with hers? Let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord and do whatever we can to glorify God by our lives, and be faithful witnesses of His truth in all things. May the Lord be with us all and may He bless us in everything we say and do, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Matthew 23 : 13-22

At that time, Jesus said to the people and to His disciples, “But 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 it, nor do you allow others to do so.”

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You devour widows’ property; and as a show, you pray 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 make 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 gold of the temple is binding. Foolish men! Blind men! Which is of 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, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to YHVH a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name; and make music for Him with harp and timbrel. For YHVH delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night, on their couches, let the praise of God be on their lips. This is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!

Monday, 23 August 2021 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

1 Thessalonians 1 : 1-5, 8b-10

From Paul, Sylvanus and Timothy, to the church of Thessalonica, which is in God, the Father, and in Christ Jesus, the Lord. May the peace and grace of God be with you.

We give thanks to God, at all times for you, and remember you in our prayers. We constantly recall, before God, our Father, the work of your faith, the labours of your love, and your endurance, in waiting for Christ Jesus our Lord.

We remember, brothers and sisters, the circumstances of your being called. The Gospel we brought you was such, not only in words. Miracles, the Holy Spirit, and plenty of everything, were given to you. You, also, know how we dealt with you, for your sake.

The faith you have in God has become news in so many places, that we need say no more about it. Others tell, of how you welcomed us, and turned from idols, to the Lord. For you serve the living and true God, and you wait for His Son, from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, Jesus, Who frees us from impending trial.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of God speaking to us through the Scriptures first of all through the story of Ruth, one of the ancestors of David, the king of Israel and therefore also the ancestor of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth was actually not counted among the people of Israel, but was a Moabite, one of the people considered as pagans by the Israelite.

At that time, and as it was up to the time of Jesus, the Moabites and many of the Canaanites were often looked down by the Israelites, as the latter took great pride in themselves being the chosen people of God. They considered the other people and races and nations to be unworthy of God and that they were superior to those other races and nations. And yet, we have heard from the Book of Ruth, how Ruth loved God and dedicated herself to Him through her dedication to her mother-in-law, Naomi.

Ruth did all these even though she was not related at all by blood to Naomi, and her husband, the son of Naomi had died without leaving any child behind. Technically and legally at that time, Ruth could have freely left her mother-in-law and return to her homeland, which even Naomi, her mother-in-law insisted her of doing. Yet, Ruth stayed with her and committed herself to God and to the people of Israel.

This is how this wonderful woman came to become the one through whom the great king of Israel would be born eventually, by the grace of God in which Ruth bore her husband, Boaz, a son Obed who was the grandfather of king David, the king of Israel. It was the love, faith and dedication of Ruth which made everything possible. She was faithful and dedicated to her newfound faith, and her examples are exactly what God wants us to emulate in our own lives.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the Lord Who was confronted by the Pharisees who wanted to test Him using the Law and the commandments of God, trying to trap Him in His words and responses. They asked what the most important Law in the commandments was, and the Lord spoke it plainly and clearly, summing up the entirety of the Law into two main facets, namely, loving God with all of our strength, might and effort, and also loving our fellow brothers and sisters around us in the same way.

The context of this passage was that at that time, the Pharisees and the Lord has plenty of disagreements with regards to the matter of obeying God and following His laws and commandments. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law believed in a very strict interpretation of the laws and rules of Moses, and they enforced this way on the rest of the people of God, causing a lot of difficulty and also misunderstanding of the true meaning of the Law.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law professed to believe in God and even took great pride in being so observant and particular in their way of following the rules and rigour of the laws of Moses, but for many of them, truly their hearts and minds were not centred on God. They did what they have done out of pride and desire for worldly recognition and power.

But for the example which we have discussed earlier, Ruth, who was a foreigner and an alien in the land of Israel, had more faith and true dedication to God than all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law, because she truly loved God with all of her heart, with all of her mind and with all of her strength, and she also loved her fellow men in the same manner. She was devoted to her aging mother-in-law who would have been left all alone to fend for herself should Ruth had decided to leave her. Instead, she took care of her mother-in-law and dutifully did all that she could to help her.

And during the time of Jesus, although not mentioned in today’s Gospel passage, yet another woman and foreigner put all those Pharisees and teachers of the Law to shame, because she had greater faith than all of them. While the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law doubted the Lord and refused to believe in His truth and message, a Syro-Phoenician woman who came to the Lord with great faith did not even mind being humiliated and had so much faith in Him that she trusted Him so much.

Today, we also celebrate yet another servant of God whose life has been similar to what we have heard about Ruth and the Syro-Phoenician woman. St. Rose of Lima was known as the first of the New World saints, meaning that she was the first saint hailing from the continent now known as the Americas. In what is today modern day Peru, St. Rose of Lima was a lay member of the Dominican Order, who was renowned for her great piety and charity for the poor and the needy in her society.

St. Rose of Lima had led a very virtuous life from her youth and she has always desired to join a religious order, dedicating her life to God, meeting opposition from her family. In the end, she joined as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic, but persevered in her commitment to a life of purity and chastity dedicated solely to God. She was known for wearing a heavy silver crown with small spikes inside on her head, emulating the crown of thorns worn by the Lord at His crucifixion.

St. Rose of Lima has shown her great love and dedication for the Lord, devoting herself wholeheartedly towards Him. Are we able to do the same as well, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to commit ourselves like what all those people we have mentioned today had done? We are all called to follow the Lord with faith, and in order to do so, we must truly put God at the very centre of our lives.

Let us all make God the very reason why we live, and the very focus of our every efforts and works. Let us all turn towards Him with all of our strength and from now on, let us all walk faithfully in His presence. May God be with us always and may He strengthen us all in faith. Amen.

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

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, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

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!

Friday, 23 August 2019 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Ruth 1 : 1, 3-6, 14b-16, 22

There was a famine in the land during the time of the Judges, and a man from Bethlehem in Judah departed with his wife and two sons, to sojourn in the country of Moab. Naomi’s husband Elimelech died. She was left with her two sons, who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth.

After living in Moab for about ten years, Mahlon and Chilion also died; and Naomi was left bereft of husband and two sons. Having heard that YHVH had come to help His people by giving them food, Naomi prepared to return home.

But Ruth clung to her. Naomi said, “Look, your sister-in-law returns to her people and her gods. You too, must return. Go after her.” Ruth replied, “Do not ask me to leave you. For I will go where you go and stay where you stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God.”

Thus it was that Naomi returned from Moab with her Moabite daughter-in-law and arrived in Bethlehem as the barley harvest began.

Thursday, 23 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the Scriptures, with the beautiful and very meaningful passages that are bringing us to contemplate on the importance of our proper internal disposition, in how we believe in God and in how we truly have that genuine faith in Him and not just merely a superficial and illusory commitment.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard God calling upon His people, the Israelites who have been cast away from their ancestors’ land and went to exile in faraway lands. God wanted to love them again and gather them from their scattered places all around the world. He wanted them to once again become His people and that He become their God.

And this is through a change of attitude and conversion of hearts, that all those whom God called into their midst would have new hearts in them. This change of heart would result in a people whose hearts and minds were hardened and stubborn, always disobedient against God and His will, to be filled with a new love for God, and to be transformed into new beings of light, God’s own beloved ones.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord alluded to the same intention through the parable which He related to His disciples and to the people listening to Him. He was using the example of a king who invited guests to his feast and yet, many of the people who were invited refused to come to his banquet. This represents those in the past, whom God had called to be with Him and to obey Him, and yet, they refused to believe and chose to rebel instead through sin.

All of them have received their just rewards, and they have been condemned by their own actions. But God is so filled with love for us all, that He desired for us to have the chance fo repent and to turn away from our sins. And that was why, in the parable the Lord used, He compared this with the king who asked his servants to go out and gather all those whom they were able to gather, to be in the banquet that he had prepared.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us have been called by God to be His followers, that is to be partakers in the heavenly banquet He has prepared for each one of us. But are we willing to come and be in the banquet of the Lord? Are we indeed ready to be in the heavenly banquet, to be at the presence of God Himself? Let us all now heed the last part of today’s Gospel passage to remind us that we need to be constantly ready for the Lord.

In the Gospel passage, the king came to one man who was not dressed in the proper garment for the feast, and asked him how he came into the venue. The man was sent out by the king and made to suffer because of his lack of preparation and ignorance of what needed to be done to be present at the banquet. Through this, the Lord reminded each one of us that while the Lord has called us to be part of His heavenly inheritance, but we must be prepared to meet Him and to be with Him.

And that means, all of us must have a genuine and committed faith in God, and we must do our very best to love God and to do our best in our every words and actions, to be worthy of God and to bring greater glory to Him. This is what the Lord wants from us, that is for us to be thoroughly changed and converted in heart, mind, soul and our whole being.

Therefore, we need to be wholly attuned to God and turning ourselves to Him, and in order to do so, we must begin from ourselves, from our actions, resisting the temptations to sin, and doing what is just and righteous in all of the things we say and do. And perhaps, we should model ourselves based on the examples and inspiration of St. Rose of Lima, the holy woman and saint whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Rose of Lima was known as the first saint of the New World, the American continent. St. Rose of Lima was remembered for her great piety, even from a very young age. She spent much time devoting herself through prayer and asceticism, committing herself to prayer and to merciful act of charity towards her brethren. She cared for others and loved God much more than she even loved or cared about herself.

St. Rose of Lima was such an inspiring example of faith that many people throughout the ages modelled themselves after her faith and dedication to the Lord. She has shown us what it means for us to be transformed in the heart, mind and soul, to be those whom the Lord had called to be His disciples. St. Rose of Lima reminds us that a life dedicated to God is our calling in life, and we have to strive our best, each and every day to be ever more faithful to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all no longer harden our hearts or minds, and allow God to enter into our lives, and transform us from our old ways of sin and disobedience to a new way of life. We are called to love God just as God has loved us all, and for us to devote ourselves just as his holy saints, including St. Rose of Lima had done. May the Lord be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in the way of truth. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 23 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Virgins)

Matthew 22 : 1-14

At that time, Jesus continued speaking to the people in parables : “This story throws light on the kingdom of heaven : A king gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to call the invited guests to the banquet, but the guests refused to come.”

“Again, He sent other servants, instructing them to say to the invited guests, ‘I have prepared a banquet, slaughtered my fattened calves and other animals, and now, everything is ready. Come to the wedding!’ But they paid no attention and went away, some to their farms, and some to their work. Others seized the servants of the king, insulted them and killed them.”

“The king was furious. He sent his troops to destroy those murderers and burn their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is prepared, but the invited guests were not worthy. Go instead to the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding feast.'”

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, so that the hall was filled with guests. The king came in to see the wedding guests, and he noticed a man not wearing a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in without the wedding clothes?'”

“But the man remained silent. So the king said to his servants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and throw him into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”