Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 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, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture which we heard about the suffering of the faithful and the resurrection from the dead into eternal glory of heaven. And this is apt considering that today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs who perished during the harsh persecutions against Christians in Vietnam.

In the first reading today, we heard about the moment from the Book of the Revelations of St. John the Apostle, when at the end of time, holy witnesses of God came into the world to preach the truth about God, and many would not listen to the words that they said in their midst. Those witnesses were given power and authority to oppose those who were against them until the time when the great enemy, the devil is to rise up and destroy those faithful servants of God at the end of their ministries.

The wicked people rejoiced at the death of the two servants of God, and continued to walk in sin, not repenting from those sins that they have committed. But God will not abandon those who have been faithful to Him, and after three days, in the same manner as He Himself has risen from the dead, He raised the dead servants into glory, and they rose to heaven at the plain sight of those who had rejected and persecuted them.

This is related to what has happened throughout the history of the Church, of the challenges and persecutions that occur in various parts of the world, and at different periods and times in the history of the Church, when the faithful were subjected to varying persecutions and oppressions, be it from individuals, or from state governments and holders of power and authority.

Many missionaries and followers of Christ have encountered difficulties and challenges, rejections and oppositions throughout their ministries in the attempt and effort to preach the truth and the word of God among the people who have not yet heard of them. They had to suffer prison, torture, indignation, and even death just because of their determination and commitment to remain faithful to the Lord.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs as mentioned, celebrating the memory of those who have perished through the many years of persecution of Christians in the land of Vietnam. There are both missionaries and local Christians amidst these martyrs, whose life and stories spanned over a century of the history of the early years of Christian faith in Vietnam.

At that time, the state government of Vietnam viewed the Christian faith with great suspicion, and suspected the missionaries to be agents of Western influence and of their effort to colonise their country. As a result, they placed strict regulations and restrictions on the propagation of the Christian faith among the local population, and persecuted the Christian communities harshly.

Yet, the Christian communities continued to grow, and many more local populace converted to the faith despite the strong oppression and persecution by the government. That is because the Christian faithful held fast to the promise that God has made in today’s Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus reiterated what He meant by the resurrection of the dead, when those faithful departed will be raised once again to life, to enjoy forever the eternal glory with God.

The saints and martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions resisted the sufferings and the many temptations through which the enemies of the Lord wanted to lead the Christian faithful to abandon their faith. Putting their trust completely in God, they did not fear the pain of death and chose rather suffering and death rather than to abandon their hard-won faith and commitment to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to reflect on our own lives, on our actions in life thus far on whether we have been truly faithful to God in everything, or whether we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and to be intimidated to give up our faith and the Christian way of living. We need to reflect on this, so that we may be able to find our way to the Lord, and follow in the footsteps of the holy martyrs.

Let us all ask for the intercessions of the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, that we may continue to strive to reach righteousness in God, to be able to courageously stand up for our faith amidst trials and tribulations we face. May the Lord be with us always, and may He be our guide in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

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