Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture the difficulties and challenges that we all will encounter on our way as we live out our lives in faith in the Lord. It is important for us to take note that to have faith in the Lord, it is likely for us to encounter challenges, opposition, ridicule, rejection and bad treatment, even from those whom we considered to be good friends and relatives.

It will not be an easy life for us if we decide to walk the Lord’s path and follow Him to His salvation. Those who think that becoming the disciples of the Lord Jesus is easy will find that they are mistaken. This is because to become a member of God’s Church, as His disciples and children, it is necessary for us to make sacrifices and to let go of certain things that prevent us from achieving what God seeks from us to be saved

And this is the attitude of rejecting oneself, one’s own ego, needs, desires and all the temptations of the flesh, the temptation of worldly glory and fame, and the temptation to be ignorant and exclusive towards the sufferings of the world around us, our brethren who need our help. If we are able to accomplish all these, then we are indeed one step closer to be good and devoted disciples of our Lord.

God Himself mentioned through the parable of the dishonest and wicked steward, who cheated his master of his possessions, and when he was discovered and fired from his position, he used his power to safeguard himself, by using his trickery to cheat out of his master’s debts owned by several people, where he gained favour by reducing those debts and so, while he lost his job, he hoped that those whom he had helped would help him in return.

That is the way of the world, the way of the wicked, the way of those who serve themselves and are servants of money and possessions, and not servants and followers of the Lord. This is what the Lord mentioned, when He said that those who follow one master will not be able to obey another master, for either he will despise one and love the other, or vice versa.

In that way therefore, to reinforce what I have mentioned earlier on, that all those who want to follow the Lord faithfully shall suffer and face numerous and various challenges and obstacles on their way, that is their lives. There are many differences between the way and customs of this world as compared to the ways taught to us by our Lord, that is faith, righteousness, justice and love. The world on the other hand, prioritises selfish desires, money and pleasures of the flesh.

It is not necessary that the two ways should clash with each other, but what is to be expected is that it is inevitable that conflicts between the two will arise in time, as we will be made to choose between our Lord and His ways, and with the world and its ways. There will be moment when the difficult choice will be presented to us, or it might even have happened to us in the past, when we have no choice but to choose between appeasing the world and displeasing the Lord, or appeasing the Lord but displeasing the world.

Do not be surprised that one day people will scold us, rebuke us, reject us and ostracise us because we decide to do what is right for the Lord but considered wrong in the eyes and perception of the world. For example, if we have been aware of the state of the world so far, we would already know how far the culture of death is spreading throughout the world and into all echelons of society. And it is worrying indeed how our faith and the Church are under increasing pressure to give up our struggle and fight in the defence of the faith.

For instance, many people around the world, and even regretfully even counting among those who are in the Church, who believe that committing something as heinous and unthinkable as abortion and euthanasia, and many other actions that trample on the sanctity and dignity of life is not wrong or considered morally acceptable to do so. And there are many of those who pushed and lobbied for the acceptance of such sinful things, and claim that they are representing and defending our human rights to be able to do as we please with our bodies and with ourselves.

But they did not realise that such abominations are wicked and evil in the sight of not only men, but in the sight of God as well. Life is sacred and holy, no matter under what circumstances it is. Instead of honouring and protecting life in all the means they are able to contribute, we mankind instead strive to destroy them, whenever we think of them as obstacles to our own selfish desires and wants.

Indeed, the pressure is great for many of us to accept and acknowledge the legality of such vileness, but as those who truly believe in the Lord, if we really are faithful to the Lord, then all of us should persist in our resistance against such injustice and wickedness committed against innocent lives. Let us all not ignore or shy away or be afraid from standing up for our faith, as it is better for us to suffer and be rejected, and yet receive God’s approval and salvation, rather than to be accepted by the world but we lose the grace and favour of our Lord.

Let us all then reflect on the lives of the holy saints and martyrs whose feast we are celebrating today, the martyr saints of Korea. There were many of them, and all of them had had different lives and came from different periods of time spanning about two centuries, but they all share one thing in common, that is they gave their lives up in the defence of their faith, or that they were martyred and killed on the frontline of their works as the servants of the Lord and His Church.

Today there are many Christians, our brethren in faith in Korea, and the numbers are continuing to increase rapidly over the years. But if we look at the current situation, in comparison with how it was in the past and what it meant to evangelise to the people of Korea about the Lord Jesus, then we certainly will find it difficult to understand the kind of challenges and sufferings these faithful servants of the Lord and the faithful encountered there.

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first indigenous Korean who was ordained a priest of the Church, and he and many of his other Korean brethren who have believed in the Lord encountered great persecutions by the government of Korea at the time, which was intensely against the Faith and persecuted these people whom they considered as traitors to their nation.

And counted among these martyrs were also the missionaries from different countries, but many came from France as part of the missionaries to Asia. Among them were St. Laurent Imbert, the Vicar Apostolic of Korea, one of the first bishops of Korea, and St. Jacques Chastan with many other priests and missionaries who braved rejection, cultural and linguistic barriers, and even the threat and real risk of death to bring the Lord Jesus and His truth to the people who have yet to hear of Him.

And they did their works faithfully, carrying out all the missions which had been entrusted to them without worry or fear. And when many of the faithful were under the threat of death and suffering, and the government was offering an exchange, allowing the faithful to live and to go unpunished if the missionaries and the leaders gave themselves up, St. Laurent Imbert as the bishop of the faithful gave himself up willingly, saying in his now famous words, which he took from the words of Jesus, that ‘the good shepherd lay down his life for his sheep.’

He and the other missionaries could have continued to hide themselves or to run away and abandon their mission, and in the process saving their lives, but they did not do so, because they know that if they try to preserve themselves and to put themselves first before the needs of others, as the world advocated them to do, then they would not preserve their lives in the world that is to come.

Remember that Jesus Himself said that those who tried to preserve their lives on earth would lose them, and those who lost their lives for God’s sake, in the defence of their faith would gain eternal life? This is precisely what it meant, and all of us ought to heed it as well and learn our lesson from what we have talked about on this day, or else we risk falling into sin and darkness yet again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that suffering is a part of our faith, and rather than fearing it or running away from it, why not we embrace it with full faith and full trust in the Lord, that He will be with us through it all? Running away from the problem does not resolve it, and indeed made the matter even worse. Instead, we really should face it with faith and trust in the Lord, and make a solid stand for our faith and for what we truly believe in.

May Almighty God bless us all and keep us always in His grace, and may we all learn to put our trust in Him and know that He will be with us as long as we are faithful to Him, and He will not let harm that lasts to come to us. Let us all realise that at the end of the difficulties and the sufferings we are to endure as the followers of our God are our crosses that we carry together with us, that in the end, just as our Lord is risen in glory, we too may rise with Him together into the glory of eternal life. God bless us all. Amen.

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