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.

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