Saturday, 25 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, then some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.’”

“Now, there were seven brothers : the first married, but died without children. The second married the woman, but also died childless. And then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 25 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 4 and 6, 16b and 19

Let my heart give thanks to YHVH, I yearn to proclaim Your marvellous deeds, and rejoice and exult in You; and sing praise to Your Name, o Most High.

For my enemies fell back in retreat, they stumbled and perished before You. You have turned back the nations; You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their names forever.

The feet of the pagans were ensnared by the trap they laid. For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.

Saturday, 25 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

1 Maccabees 6 : 1-13

When king Antiochus was making his way through the upper regions of Persia, he received news about Elymais, a city renowned for its wealth in silver and gold. They kept in the wealthy temple of their city golden armour, breastplates and weapons, left there by the Macedonian king, Alexander, the son of Philip, the first sovereign of the Greeks.

So Antiochus went there. But the inhabitants came out armed against him when they learnt of his intention, so his attempt to take the city failed. He had to turn back; and he returned much embittered to Babylon. While he was still in Persia, it was reported to him that the armies sent to Judea had been defeated. They told him that although Lysias had gone with a strong army, he had to flee before the Jews, who had been strengthened with the weapons and the abundant booty taken from the neighbouring armies.

He heard, too, that the Jews had destroyed the abominable idol he had erected on the altar in Jerusalem; and had rebuilt the Temple walls to the same height as before; and had also fortified the city of Beth-zur. When he received this news, he was terrified and deeply upset. He fell sick and became greatly depressed because things had not turned out the way he had planned.

So he remained overcome by this terrible anguish for many days. He felt he was dying, so he called his friends and said to them, “Sleep has fled from my eyes and I am greatly crushed by my anxieties. And I keep on asking why such grief has come upon me – I who was generous and well-loved when in power – and now I am so discouraged.”

“Now I remember the evils I did in Jerusalem, the vessels of gold and silver that I stole, the inhabitants of Judea I ordered to be killed for no reason at all. I now know, that because of this, these misfortunes have come upon me; and I am dying of grief in a strange land.”

Friday, 24 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings, we see a common theme between what we have heard from the Book of the Maccabees and from the Gospel passage according to St. Luke. In the first reading from the Maccabees, we heard an account of how the forces of the Israelites triumphed against their enemies, the Seleucids, and seized a very important place in Jerusalem, none other than the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

On that day, the victorious Jewish forces under the leadership of Judas Maccabees overthrew all that the Greek invaders had imposed on the Temple, the defilement and all the wickedness, all the pagan idols, altars and corruption which have been placed there by king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had wanted to eradicate the faith of the Jewish people by imposing on them the worship of the Greek pagan gods.

The old altar that had been defiled were corrupted, and it had to be removed and destroyed, to be replaced with a new altar, free from defilement of the pagan idols. That was what the victorious Jews did, and after the necessary preparations, they rededicated the Temple of God through great festivities and celebrations, which were highly symbolic as the sign of the overthrowing of the great oppression and persecution imposed on them by the Seleucid king.

Then, in the Gospel passage today, we listened to the well known passage, of how Jesus became angry at the state in which the Temple of God, the House of God His Father, has become, because it was filled with many merchants and money changers, with people plying their trade and worse still, cheating their customers by overcharging them and tricking them as they changed their money and purchased the sacrificial animals.

Thus, Jesus chased all of them out of the Temple courtyard with a whip, in His righteous wrath, and rebuked all those who had defiled His Father’s house, which ought to be a house of prayer and instead had been made into a den of robbers and wicked people. This act surely surprised even His followers, as if we see throughout the Scriptures, Jesus mostly used non-violence and peaceful means to spread His teachings.

But the Lord was rightful and just to be angry, as those people had desecrated the sanctity of His holy place by their actions, just as the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had done with the pagan idols and wickedness placed on the altars of the Temple during the time of the Maccabees. It was in fact merely only less than two centuries before the time of Jesus, and the Jewish people had forgotten how they fought hard to reclaim their Temple and House of God, and toiled to rededicate it to God.

What is the significance of all these to us, brothers and sisters? Each and every one of us are God’s Temple, where God resides in this world. He Himself has given us all His own Precious Body to eat and Precious Blood to drink. As a result, God Himself in His real and holy Presence is present fully in each and every one of us, and we are in charge of each of these Temples, that is our Body and our whole Being.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of our bodies, our hearts and minds, and our whole being as the Temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, we ought to maintain their sanctity and holiness. We must not do things that compromise the sanctity of these Houses of God, ourselves or else, what the Lord’s anger had done to those wicked merchants and also the wicked forces of the Seleucids will befall us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not easy for us all to maintain this sanctity, as there are many temptations and challenges in life, which we will surely encounter on our way, and many of these will weaken our resolve to live a faithful life, that many of us failing to reach God’s salvation. But we should then heed the examples of our holy and dedicated predecessors in faith, especially those who we commemorate today, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in faith, martyrs of the Lord and His Church in Vietnam.

During those years, around two to three centuries ago, there were great works of evangelisation among the peoples in areas such as Vietnam and Korea. However, the government and the authorities were suspicious against the missionaries who were sent to preach the Gospel to the people, and eventually, persecution against Christians began, both towards the missionaries and to the people they converted.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac was among the first priests to be ordained from the local community, and he and his many companions had to endure great difficulties as they had to practice their faith in secret to avoid the authorities, and at the same time, they still had to minister to the faithful in many places. They persevered through, and when they were arrested and tortured, demanded to abandon their faith or die, they refused to do so.

To the very end, these saints and martyrs are our examples of how we should live our lives in accordance with our faith. We should not be lukewarm with our faith, but instead should try our best to be faithful, keeping ourselves obedient to the Law and commandments of God. There will indeed be trials and tribulations, but we should not give up to the demands of those who want us to abandon our faith and corrupt ourselves with sin.

Let us all therefore renew our commitment to the Lord and draw ourselves ever closer to Him. Let us put our trust in Him, for it is He alone Who is worthy of all trust, and through our steadfast faith in Him, God will reward each and every one of us bountifully at the end. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 24 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Friday, 24 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11abc, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours. Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH.

You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.

Friday, 24 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37, 52-59

Then Judas and his brothers said : “Our enemies are defeated, so let us go up and purify the Holy Place and consecrate it again.” And all the army assembled and went up to Mount Zion.

On the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev, in the year one hundred and forty-eight (in the year 164 B.C.) they arose at dawn and offered the sacrifice prescribed by the Law on the new altar of holocausts which they had built. It was precisely at that same time and date that the pagans had profaned it before; but now they consecrated it with songs, accompanied by zithers, harps and cymbals. All the people fell prostrate and blessed Heaven that had given them happiness and success.

They celebrated the consecration of the altar for eight days, joyfully offering holocausts and celebrating sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. The front of the Temple was adorned with crowns of gold and shields; and the gates and the rooms had been restored and fitted with doors. There was no end to the celebration among the people; and so profanation of the Temple by the pagans was forgotten.

Finally, Judas, his brothers and the whole assembly of Israel agreed to celebrate the anniversary of the consecration of the altar annually for eight days, from the twenty-fifth of the month of Chislev, in high festivity.

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continued with the discourse of the Maccabees rebellion in our first reading today, this time, we heard of how the representatives of the Greek Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to Modein, where the Maccabees family resided, and we heard how the family patriarch, Mattathias, firmly stood his ground and refused to obey the commands of the king, for them to abandon their faith in God and give sacrifices to the Greek gods.

As I mentioned in the previous days, the Jewish people were persecuted and were in a great danger because of their faith, which the Greek king wanted to eradicate, and it resulted in many sorrowful cases of those who were martyred, including yesterday’s story of a mother and her seven sons who refused to listen to the king’s commands and persuasions, and they were martyred one by one.

They would rather suffer for a while and then be worthy of God’s everlasting glory, rather than submitting to the king and enjoying a merely temporary respite of false happiness. That was why they resisted the pressure and the temptations to abandon their faith. All of those things however were not easily done. There were many during the time of the Maccabees who apostasised and abandoned their faith, in exchange of worldly safety and pleasures.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the lamentation that the Lord Jesus made about the city of Jerusalem, because He predicted what would happen to that city under the Roman rule just a few decades after Our Lord’s crucifixion. The city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in the year 70 A.D., by the Roman legions who were sent there to put down rebellion by Jewish zealots and hardliners who rose up against the Romans. The Temple of Jerusalem and the entire city were ransacked and toppled.

All of these, ultimately came about because those people believed not in the power of God, but in their own power, and trusted in worldly matters more than their faith in God. If many of the Jews at the time of the Maccabees surrendered to temptation and abandoned their faith in God, then during the time of Jesus, as Our Lord Himself mentioned, the people refused to believe in Him or listen to Him, and they rejected Him.

What is the lesson that all of us should take note of today? It is that we should expect if we remain faithful to the Lord and are active in living our faith as we should be, we may encounter difficulties and challenges from those who do not agree with our faith, just as what happened in the Scripture passages that we heard today.

Now we have to ask ourselves the question, are we willing to suffer and be persecuted for the sake of Our Lord, that for temporary suffering and pain, and yet, because of our faith, we merit the eternal glory and happiness with God? Or do we rather seek temporary respite and happiness, because we are accepted by the world through our rejection and abandonment of our faith?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Clement I, one of the first Popes of the Church, as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Bishop of Rome and therefore, as the most preeminent bishop and leader of the entire Church. Pope St. Clement I lived and reigned as Pope just a few decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord. He was known to be the first of the Apostolic Fathers, whose writings were highly significant for our faith even though they were not included in the Bible.

Pope St. Clement I wrote extensively and several of his letters and works survived until this very day. He was a very important leader of the early Church, guiding it through the difficult years that alternate between toleration of the Christian faith by the Roman authorities and persecution by the same authorities. He helped to guide the Church through those difficult times, and remained firmly anchored in his faith.

To this very end, he persevered in faith, and remained resolute in standing up to the truth, even amidst difficult times. He of course had the choice to abandon his hard work and enjoy respite from the world, all the persecutions he had to face. Yet, he chose to be with God. This is an example which all of us as Christians should also follow as well. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment to God, in all the things we do.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our endeavours. And may all of us draw ever closer to Him, that we will always endure whatever persecution and difficulty that we may encounter on our way to Him. Amen.