Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memorial of Mary, Our Lady, Help of Christians, and the Lady of Sheshan, named after the famous Sheshan Basilica in Shanghai, China. On this day, in particular, we remember all those brothers and sisters of ours, who are currently facing intense persecution and difficult time, as they struggle to remain true to their faith in God.

That is why, the Church has designated this day, true to the memorial I just mentioned, as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. We are praying on behalf of our brethren in faith, who may be undergoing and are indeed, for many among them, facing persecution and challenges just because they identify themselves as Christians, that is as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and take Him as their Lord and Saviour.

In China today, especially in recent years, there had been increasing intolerance towards Christians in particular, and many of the faithful find it more and more difficult to remain true to their faith. I am sure many of us have heard news of how crosses were forcibly removed from churches, and restrictions put in place on Christian worship, and even, young children were barred from attending the Holy Mass or going to Church.

In all these, we can see how the persecution of Christians that once happened during its early days came back once again, especially in China, but in truth, is happening in many other parts of the world, such as in the Middle East, Africa, in the Western world, the Americas, and even recently in the Philippines, being a Christian, and especially for priests, it can be very challenging and a matter of life or death.

And when I speak about persecution and challenges, it is not just about persecution with lions and gladiators, or with swords and whips and lances, as how it was in the Ancient Roman times. Indeed, such kind of persecutions still exist, but nowadays, persecution exist in many more ways than what we think persecution is truly about. Persecution happened in many areas, in the political world, in the society and the community, through the attacks on Christian values and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we should spend some time, to think about these suffering brethren of ours, and pray for them, that God will protect them and defend them from their enemies, all the forces of darkness assembled against them. And then, we should also realise just how fortunate we may be, if we have not faced a similar kind of persecution and challenge as these brethren of ours had experienced.

Let us all do our best therefore, to live our lives as true Christians, dedicated and devoted to the Lord, that we show love and charity in our actions, towards all those who are around us. However, most importantly, in order to show our true faith, we cannot forget, that the most important virtue is indeed, love, and love that is unconditional and generous, as the Lord Himself had done.

It is easy for us to be angry at our enemies and to all those who hate us and persecute us. However, if we become angry at them, hate them and strike back at them, then are we not just as evil and wicked as our enemies had been wicked? If the Lord Jesus Himself had forgiven those who condemned Him to death and crucified Him from the cross, and prayed for them? Should we not do the same then?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all be exemplary in our faith, that we become inspiration for one another, and also even strength for those who are being persecuted for their faith, by standing up for the Lord’s sake and living our lives with faith. Let us all pray for our brethren, that God will be with them, and also with all of us, that together, we may in the end, enjoy forever the eternal grace and glory of heaven, having suffered for His sake. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.