Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the matter of prayer and fasting, two of the practices of our faith which we constantly do all the time and at the prescribed times of the year. And He reminded all of us to pray and fast with the right attitude and intention, or else we are not doing what is right for us to do as Christians.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? First we must understand the context of what the Lord had said to His disciples at that time, as He compared the practices that the Pharisees at that time did, in showing of their piety and prayers in public, not with the intention to glorify God but glorifying themselves and seeking for attention and human praise. And that is exactly what the Lord does not want His disciples and all of us to do.

The Pharisees were influential group of people who were intelligent and educated at that time, who held sway over a lot of the people, highly respected and honoured because of their role in safeguarding and keeping the customs and practices of the Jewish people, which they came to guard zealously and strongly against anyone or anything that might threaten those practices and customs, and all the privileges that they had earned by safeguarding those customs and laws.

But at that time, their preoccupation and excessive focus on maintaining the customs and the practices of the Jewish people ended up on them focusing on the external appearances and the superficial obedience to those laws and customs, rather than truly appreciating the significance and the real substance and intention of the Law of God. They ended up practicing those customs and laws not because they truly had God in their mind, but a lot of time because they had to do them.

As Christians, all of us are reminded by today’s Scripture readings not to follow the examples of many of the Pharisees who have forgotten the true importance of the Law and the customs they practiced, doing it all for appearances and praise rather than for the true purpose that is to worship, glorify and communicate with God. We must remember that as we live through our faith life, we must practice our faith with sincerity and commitment, not just by paying lip service.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us of the gifts that God has given us, His blessings and wonders, and consequently, as those whom the Lord has blessed, all of us should make good use of the gifts He has given to us, that we may truly be fruitful and bountiful in God. He said, those who have sowed meagrely will reap meagrely, and those who sowed generously will reap generously as well.

Therefore, in our lives we should be exemplary in our faith, and in our actions, in how we pray, in what we do in our daily lives we must reflect our faith and dedication to the Lord. We should put God as the focus and attention of our whole lives, and do our best to glorify Him and not ourselves. And today, we also can follow the examples showed by St. Philip Minh and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs.

At that time, the authorities in Vietnam were very hostile to the Christian faith and the missionaries who worked among the people proclaiming the truth of Christ. They were viewed with suspicion of collaboration with the French and other colonial powers. St. Philip Minh was among the first of the local Vietnamese to be ordained a priest and ministered among his own people before he and many others throughout those difficult years were arrested and made to suffer for their faith.

Yet, these courageous saints did not give up their faith despite the many temptations, persuasions, pressures and coercions to do so. They remained firm in their faith and dedication to the Lord. Had they placed their own safety, well-being and glory before that of the Lord, they would have abandoned God to gain the safety and acceptance of the world. But they showed all of us what it means to be true disciples and followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day let us all be inspired by the examples of the holy saints of God, especially St. Philip Minh and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs. Let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as they have done and do our best to be true disciples of the Lord. May the Lord bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

At that time, “Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father Who is with you in secret; and your Father Who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already.”

“When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, Who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.”

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family; there, his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness; he is kind, merciful and upright.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-11

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly, as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything, at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : He distributed, he gave to the poor, his good works last forever. God, Who provides the sower with seed, will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interest on your good works. Become rich in every way, and give abundantly. What you give will become, through us, a thanksgiving to God.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019 : 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 words of the Scripture speaking to us about the need for all of us to be truly faithful in all the things we do, in being genuinely faithful through our dedication and love for the Lord. And being true in our faith requires us all to be filled with love, and not just any love, but love that is selfless and generous, to all people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus saying that we all should love everyone, including even our enemies and all those who have persecuted us and rejected us. He called on us all to bring love to our fellow brethren, regardless of who they are and give our very best in love for others not counting for the love to be returned or reciprocated. This is indeed something that is easier said than done.

Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because loving an enemy is something that is not easily done, as when we love, we commonly love with the intention of being reciprocated and appreciated, to be loved back in the same way if not more than how we have loved another person. But to love an enemy seems to be like a folly, a giving of one’s love to someone whom in our minds may be unworthy and undeserving.

But that is where we really need to change our mentality and mindset, to redirect our thoughts and change our prejudices about others. For we must understand that love is not a transaction or something where we expect to gain things for our own benefit. If we think of love in that manner, then perhaps it is time for us to change our mindset and how we see love in our daily interactions and lives.

Love in truth is not of receiving but in fact of giving, the giving of oneself and even making sacrifices for another. That is in essence, what true love is all about. True love does not lead to jealousy, and neither does it lead to selfishness and desire, but rather, it leads to happiness in knowing that we have given of ourselves for the sake of another, and the other person is better because of the love which we have given.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not have to go far to see the example, other than what the Lord Jesus Himself had shown us all. The Lord Jesus had shown us all what it means by true love, love that is selfless, self-giving, in all that He had done for our sake, even to us all who have disobeyed and not listened to Him all these while. St. Paul himself said of how wonderful God’s love for us is, that even if it is possible for someone to love and to be willing to die for the sake of a very good person and friend, God did so for all of us who are wicked and sinners.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, each and every one of us are called to follow the examples of Our Lord in the generous and true love that He has shown to each and every one of us. He has loved us all so greatly that we should love Him in the same way as is only right for us to do so. It is indeed not easy for us to love everyone, especially those who have hurt us and caused us harm and pain.

May the Lord help us all to be more loving and to be more forgiving, to all our brothers and sisters just as He Himself has done it. May He strengthen in us this love that we have so that each and every moments in our lives we may draw ever closer to Him and be more faithful with every passing moment. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.