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.

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