Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great feast day of one of the faithful followers of Christ, one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists, that is St. Matthew, the writer of today’s Gospel passage. He was once a tax collector at the employ of the Roman authorities, tasked to collect the regular taxes from the people of Judea, as Levi, the tax collector.

But the Lord called Levi to a better and higher purpose in life, leaving behind his work as a tax collector, and followed Him for the rest of his life. He was thus called to the life of a disciple and servant of God, leaving behind his past profession. And in the Gospel passage today we can see clearly the kind of prejudice which the society at that time placed on people like tax collectors, especially that which was shown by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

The tax collectors at that time were seen as traitors to the nation and the people of Israel, as they were seen as collaborators to the Romans who ruled over Judea. The imposition and payment of taxes were the concrete symbols of Roman authority and dominance over the people, which was resented by the Jewish people and their authorities, many of whom desiring for the freedom and independence from the Romans.

But the Lord looked beyond these biases and prejudices, and called one of His closest assistants and followers from among the ranks of the tax collectors. In fact, if we scrutinise the event more closely, we should see just how the tax collectors, as well as prostitutes, another group often reviled by the society at that time, were actually willing to listen to the Lord and turn themselves over a new leaf, welcoming the Lord into their midst and listening to Him.

This is what the Lord has given to all those who were willing to listen to Him and to turn themselves to Him and trust in His providence and love. He gave them the gift of faith, the encouragement of hope and the wonders of love. He gave them the strength and courage to become His disciples and witnesses among the nations, which they ought to accept by willingly allowing the Lord to perform His works through them.

And by God’s grace and the wisdom which He imparted to St. Matthew, we now have the Gospel of St. Matthew, as one of the four Holy Gospels through which all of us Christians, many years after the actual events surrounding the life and works of Our Lord during His years walking on earth, can have an accurate and true account of what actually happened all those years ago, revealing to us God’s truth through His own words.

St. Matthew himself was also extensively involved in the field of evangelisation beyond his writing of the Holy Gospels, helping to spread the faith and establish the Church in various places, and it was told that according to the tradition of the Church, he died as a martyr like most of the other Apostles of Christ. His examples and dedication remains tangible to this day, in the flourishing and survival of the faith.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to follow in the footsteps of St. Matthew the Apostle, in his acceptance of what the Lord has called him to do, in his commitment to the calling of Apostleship and service. Are we able to respond positively and with commitment, when the Lord calls us, “Follow Me!”? Or are we going to find excuses and reasons for us not to answer to His call?

To each and every one of us, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle today, has been given various gifts and talents, as given by God. But are we making use of these gifts and talents as the Lord has taught us to do? St. Paul mentioned that we are called to different callings in life, to be Apostles, to be teachers, to be evangelisers, pastors, servants of God, and many more, but ultimately, all of us are called to work for the greater glory of God.

Therefore, in our various vocations in life, in our different capacities and areas of responsibility, be it as priests, ordained persons, or as the laity, as married couples and families, as those who have contributed to the Church in one way or another, let us continue to devote ourselves, our time, effort and attention, that we may do ever greater works, for the greater glory of God, and for the advancements of the good works of the Church, for the salvation of mankind.

May God be with us all, and may He continue to guide us in our way, that as we continue living in this world today, we may embrace the Lord’s call with confidence when He calls on us, just as St. Matthew had done with faith. Let us all turn towards Him with courage and hope, with zeal and determination, every single days of our life. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Friday, 21 September 2018 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 4 : 1-7, 11-13

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Thursday, 20 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Priest, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the reality of the persecution that has faced the Church and the faithful before, and what is indeed facing us this very moment. The first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth spoke of his early experiences among the faithful, after having converted from his old ways and embracing the Christian faith.

Even then, the reality of the persecutions and difficulties facing the Church was brought clearly before all of us, as St. Paul mentioned how some of the faithful disciples of Christ were no longer in their midst. These disciples were likely to have been martyred for their faith, under the persecutions by the Jewish authorities and the Roman governors alike.

And there was no better witness to all of those persecutions other than St. Paul himself, who as Saul was at the forefront of the persecution of the persecution of Christians under the Jewish authorities. St. Paul himself related to the Corinthians how he once persecuted the followers of Christ with great zeal and fanaticism, only to discover that whatever he had done, was against God’s will.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when a sinful woman, likely a prostitute, came towards Jesus while He was having a meal in the house of a Pharisee, among many Pharisees and teachers of the Law. The woman took an expensive jar of alabaster, filled with equally precious and expensive perfume, and used it to anoint the feet of the Lord Jesus.

Through this symbolic action, the woman did not just anoint the Lord, a custom often related to the death of a person, but she also showed the people gathered, how the Lord would go on to suffer and die, persecuted by His enemies, and yet, eventually, He would triumph over them all, over Satan, sin and death, and gain eternal victory. And that act by the sinful woman, who humbled herself so much, so as to bow down before the Lord and even weeping and drying the tears-wet feet of the Lord with her hairs, showed her sincere desire to be forgiven by God and to follow Him.

And all of these, happened regardless of the surely scathing and hostile comments and actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were gathered there. To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were very particular about themselves and their piety, their appearances before people, there could not have been someone more unworthy and unclean than the woman who came to anoint the Lord’s feet.

That was why they lobbed all sorts of criticism against the woman, as well as against the Lord, through their thoughts and probably even their gestures. But the Lord stood by His faithful follower and servant, who sought Him with all of her heart, and dedicated herself so thoroughly that she was willing to humble herself before Him and in the view of many others as such.

All of these are reminders for us, that, even though challenges and difficulties may follow us, wherever we go, if we are followers of Christ, but should we remain faithful in Him, then He will bless us and protect us, and our rewards in Him will truly be rich indeed. And not the rewards of worldly riches and wealth, but instead, the promise of everlasting glory and life with Him.

This is what the holy saints and martyrs hold fast onto, whose life and courage in faith we celebrate today as well. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Korean Martyrs, in which we remember the memory of the many martyrs of the Church, who has given their lives defending their faith as they were persecuted through many difficult years in the then Kingdom of Joseon or Korea.

Many of the missionaries who worked in Korea also faced great persecution, as the government then was fiercely hostile against the Church and the truth of Christianity. St. Laurent Imbert was one of them, a French missionary who became the first Vicar Apostolic of Korea. He was remembered for his great care for the flock entrusted to him, and for his courageous sacrifice for their sake.

St. Laurent Imbert gave himself up to the authorities and told another two priests to do the same, as the authorities were threatening to persecute even more of the faithful should the leaders of the Church community remained in hiding. He hoped that by doing so, he might be able to spare the Christian faithful from further suffering and persecution, and thus led the example of true Christian love and selflessness.

He followed in the example of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Himself, and laying down his life for his sheep. He and many other saints of the Korean martyrs have truly exhibited true Christian spirit and dedication. These are good examples that all of us should follow as well, in how we carry on living our lives. We have been called to give our best to serve the Lord in our daily living, and thus, we should give our best as well, as how the Holy Korean Martyrs have shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn towards the Lord with renewed zeal and love, and let us all devote ourselves from now on, filled with faith and commitment to live our lives in accordance with what the Lord had taught us. May all of us grow ever stronger in our love and in our desire to be with God, following the footsteps of the saints and martyrs. Holy Korean Martyrs, pray for us all. Amen.