Friday, 9 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all reminded of the reassurances of the Lord to all of us, that all who are faithful to Him shall never be left alone, and God will always take good care of those who are beloved and precious to Him. God will be with those who are faithful to Him and will not leave them wanting or in need. This is just as we heard the story of Jacob as he was about to go to Egypt from the Book of Genesis, and the Lord’s words reassuring His disciples regarding the mission they would be taking on.

In our first reading today from the Book of Genesis, we heard about Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, who in his old age was embarking on the journey to the land of Egypt, as he had just heard the unbelievable news that Joseph, his second youngest son, whom he thought to be long dead, was in fact still alive and was the Regent of all Egypt, the second most powerful person there after the Egyptian Pharaoh himself. Jacob heard all of these from his other sons, who had once told him that Joseph was seized by wild beasts and was killed, a plot they did due to their jealousy to Joseph’s preferential treatment by Jacob.

After all those years, Jacob who had grieved over the loss of one of his beloved sons, heard again the message of hope, and he wanted to see his long-lost son. Yet, at the same time, he was unsure and worried of the journey to come. Joseph had called his father and the rest of the extended family of Israel to move to Egypt, as that time it was still in the midst of the great famine engulfing the whole world, and many years remained in that long famine, while Egypt had plenty of food storage thanks to Joseph and his insight from God.

The Lord therefore spoke to Jacob as we heard in our first reading today, reassuring him that he had nothing to fear from the journey, and that God Himself would accompany him and his family, and continue to bless him and all of his descendants in the land of Egypt. He reassured Jacob that He would always be by his side, no matter what, and provide for the Israelites, as He would prove again and again. Then we heard how Jacob finally encountered Joseph again, and was indeed overcome with great joy of seeing his beloved son.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when the Lord told His disciples that their commitment to Him and the mission which He has entrusted to them would see them facing plenty of obstacles and trials, as they might encounter severe persecutions, oppressions and challenges from the powerful, from the state and the authorities, and all those who were opposed to the Lord and His truth and works. This is the reality which the Lord did not hide but instead, reveal plainly before all of His disciples.

But at the same time, the Lord also reassured them all that they had nothing to be worried about, as they embark on their missionary journey and works, echoing what the Lord had told Jacob many centuries previously. He would be with all of His disciples, followers and all who have professed their faith in Him, and He would journey together with them, suffering with them and helping them to endure all the persecutions and trials that they would face in the midst of their ministry.

These therefore are reminders for all of us that the Lord is always ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us, and He will always stand by us no matter what, and He will not abandon us, and we truly have nothing to fear even if we are facing the worst of oppositions and troubles. As Christians, we have to embrace our calling and respective mission in life with faith, and trust the Lord with our lives, at all times. We have to believe in Him and put our faith in Him, and be strengthened with courage and faith.

Today, we remember the glorious memory of the holy saints, St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of China. Today we recall these multitudes of people, our holy predecessors, who have suffered for their faith in the great country of China. Many of them were converts to the faith who had embraced the Lord and remained firm in their faith despite the persecutions they faced from the local authorities and the challenges they had in various forms, and when forced to abandon their faith, they remained faithful to the Lord and suffered martyrdom as a result.

Many of them suffered grievously and faced great tribulations, prison and torture, death in most painful ways, for their dedication and commitment. But they remained steadfast, all because they believed in the Lord and His faithfulness, that no matter what, they trusted in Him and the love that they had received from Him. To the very end, they persevered and remained true to the Lord. They are our inspirations in life, in how we ourselves can devote ourselves to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way. Let us entrust ourselves to the Lord and give ourselves in the best way possible, that each and every one of us shall be more and more faithful, closer and worthy of the Lord, with each and every passing moments in our lives. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us with resolve and courage to follow Him wholeheartedly in all things. Amen.

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