Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the love and mercy which God shows us all, His people, whom He had created out of love. This is one fact which all of us should not forget, especially as we live our Christian life modelling ourselves on Our God Himself, Who has loved all, despite everyone having betrayed Him, disobeyed Him and He was filled with love and compassion for us.

In the first reading today, we heard about the prophet Elijah chastising king Ahab of Israel for his very wicked act in disposing of Naboth, the owner of a vineyard, whose land was desired by the king. Both the king and his queen, Jezebel, plotted to frame Naboth wrongly of blasphemy against God, and had him stoned. The king was then free to seize the belongings of Naboth, especially his vineyard.

This action, including Ahab and Jezebel’s many other wicked acts, and especially their persecution of the faithful people of God and promotion of the worship of Baal and other pagan gods that led Israel to sin, made God very angry against Ahab and his whole family, that the prophet Elijah pronounced today, the judgment of God on his family. Ahab and his whole family would perish in a tragic manner.

The moment Ahab heard this, as the Scripture mentioned, he immediately tore his royal robes, took it off and wore sackcloth as a sign of mourning and repentance. And God told Elijah that He saw his sincerity at wanting to be forgiven, and He withdrew some of His anger against him and his family. However, He would still mete out the punishment against them despite being postponed to a later time.

In this, as we heard from the Psalm 50 being sung today, we heard of God’s loving mercy and desire to forgive us our sins should we desire to be reconciled with Him. That psalm was the psalm composed by David when he sinned against God and regretted of his sin, and indeed, he repented and turned himself wholeheartedly to God. He was forgiven, and indeed, God’s promise to him was held.

What is the difference between Ahab and David? In David’s case, he was truly repentant, and made every effort to turn himself back to God. However, in Ahab’s case, although he was repentant, but it was likely that he did so out of fear for God’s anger and punishment, as he had experienced before through the prophet Elijah. Yet, Ahab and his family continued to sin and refused to fully repent their wickedness.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people whom He taught, that it is important that as His followers, we must be loving and forgiving just as He has loved us. He taught us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute and hate us. This is true Christian love, and one that we should be imitating from the Lord, Who Himself forgave His enemies and those who persecuted Him right from the cross.

But of course repentance is important for one to be forgiven, just as we have seen earlier with the contrasting examples of king Ahab and king David. Yet, it is indeed, right for us as Christians, to be generous in our mercy and forgiveness, for the Lord, Our God, Himself generously give us His mercy, and always extends out His hand to welcome us back into His embrace.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Minh and his companions, the holy martyrs of Vietnam, who were persecuted over two centuries by the authorities, similar to how the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. They were hated, made to suffer, arrested, and forced to abandon their faith on the pain of death. However, the Christians and the missionaries, both foreign and local ones persevered in their faith and continued to spread the Good News despite the dangers involved.

The actions of the missionaries and their love for everyone, including even those who persecuted them became exemplary among many, and in truth, even more people turn to the faith and became Christians, even among those who used to persecute the faithful. Despite the growing persecution against the faithful at that time, local clergy including St. Philip Minh and foreign missionaries alike stood together with the faithful flock entrusted to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the courage and zeal, and the love shown by the holy martyrs of Vietnam should become inspiration to all of us, to live more and more faithfully day after day, and to turn ourselves to God and put Him at the centre of our lives. Let us all be forgiving and merciful, be compassionate in all of our actions and dealings with one another, that God’s love be truly shown in us, and many more would come to believe through us.

May the Lord bless us all, and may the holy martyrs of Vietnam intercede for us always, that all of us sinners still living in this world, may come to the loving embrace of God, and receive the fullness of God’s inheritance and grace. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 11 and 16

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences. Deliver me, o God, from the guilt of blood; and of Your justice, I shall sing aloud.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 21 : 17-29

Then YHVH spoke to Elijah of Tishbe, “Go down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, in Samaria. He is taking possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Say to him : ‘Have you killed and have taken possession at the same time?’ Then give him this word of Mine : ‘Dogs shall lick your blood in the very place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth.’”

Ahab then said to Elijah, “Who better than my enemy, could find me here and now!” Elijah answered, “I have come to you because you have done what YHVH abhors. This is YHVH’s word : ‘I will bring disgrace on you. I will sweep you away and cut off every male of your family, from the lowliest to the greatest. Your family will disappear like the families of Jeroboam and Baasa, because you have offended Me and have dragged Israel into sin.’”

“There is another word of YHVH to Jezebel : ‘The dogs shall devour Jezebel within the territory of Jezreel.’ If anyone of Ahab’s line dies in the city, he shall be devoured by dogs; if in the green country, the birds of the air shall feed on him.”

There was no one like Ahab, urged by his wife, Jezebel, in doing what YHVH abhorred. He did horrible things and ran after unclean idols just as the Amorites had done, from whom YHVH had taken the land to give it to Israel. On hearing these words, Ahab tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. He fasted as he lay in sackcloth and moved around despondently.

Then YHVH said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you see how Ahab has humbled himself? Because of this I will not bring about the disaster during his reign; during his son’s reign disgrace will fall on his family.”

Monday, 18 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages, beginning with the story of king Ahab and Naboth, as told from the Book of Kings. King Ahab was the king of Israel, who did not follow the way of the Lord, and instead, worshipped pagan idols and committed all sorts of sins and wickedness before God and man alike.

In the story today, Naboth was a vineyard owner, whose land was pleasing to the king of Israel. Ahab tried to persuade Naboth to sell him the vineyard so that he might be able to use the vineyard for his own purposes. But Naboth refused to do so, because the vineyard belonged to his ancestral land, and Naboth would not want to sell what his ancestors had passed down to him as inheritance.

The king was angry and felt dejected after his desire was not fulfilled. But his wife, Jezebel, made use of the opportunity to goad Ahab and persuade him to attain the vineyard even using wicked and underhanded means. As we have heard from the Book of Kings, false witnesses were set up, and they accused Naboth wrongly of blasphemy against God, and he was stoned to death.

King Ahab seized the vineyard for his own and later on, he was severely chastised by the prophet Elijah for this sinful action. Ahab was hurt by Naboth’s refusal to accede to his desire, and he was determined, under the influence of his wife, to inflict pain and vengeance against him. But as we can see, it caused him to fall further into sin and away from God’s grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what we mankind often like to do, to keep grudges, to be filled with anger, hatred and vengeance. That is because first and foremost, we have too much pride in us, so much so that we could not admit that we have erred or made a mistake. We are filled with greed and desire, again because of our pride, that led us to sin further against God.

That is why we sin, because we put our selfishness and ego ahead of everything else, and we place ourselves as the most important of all things in this world. And when we are given power, we do not know how to make use of it responsibly, and it corrupts us, just as it corrupted king Ahab. But today’s Scripture passage reminds us that as Christians, we must not let this happen to us.

Instead, the Lord has taught us that, for those who follow Him and become His disciples, whoever is greater and more powerful must become the servants of those who are weaker and placed under the authority and responsibility of those more powerful. And He Himself showed the example, when He, at the Last Supper, took His outer garments off and wore the garment of a slave, and washed the feet of His disciples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow the example of Our Lord? Are we able to throw away our ego, pride, greed and desire, all the things that keep us away from truly being able to follow God. If we are so full of ourselves, how can we put God at the centre of our lives? And that is why we lack faith, because we have not been humble enough to acknowledge that we need God in our lives.

And as long as we continue to cause hurt to others, or step on them on our path to attain good things for ourselves and satisfy our wishes, we cannot be true Christians. Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we make a difference in our lives from now on, by turning to God with all of our hearts? Let us all not seek worldly glory and desires, all of which cannot truly satisfy us.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He continue to watch over us day after day, that we will not succumb to the temptations of power, wealth, glory, fame and all sorts of things that keep us away from God and His path. Let us all turn wholeheartedly towards Him, and devote ourselves from now on, as true and devout Christians. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 18 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 5 : 38-42

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “You have heard, that it was said : An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you this : do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other. If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give him your coat as well.”

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give when asked, and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.”

Monday, 18 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 5 : 2-3, 5-6, 7

O YHVH, listen to my words and hear my complaint, give heed to my sighs, my King and my God.

You are not a God Who delights in wickedness; evil has no place in You. The arrogant cannot stand before You. You hate all who do evil.

You destroy all who speak falsehood, who thirst for blood and live on lies; all of them YHVH detests.