Tuesday, 21 September 2021 : 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 Feast of one of great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve and also one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels, also known as the Evangelists. He was once a tax collector whose task was likely to gather taxes on behalf of the local rulers and the Roman overlords of the then region of Judea, Galilee and the other territories where the Jewish people lived in. He was known as Levi, and heeded the Lord’s call when He came over His place, left everything behind and followed Him, becoming known as Matthew from that moment onwards.

He was one of the several Apostles who have had a change of name upon their calling by the Lord, adopting a new identity upon his conversion, just like St. Peter and St. Paul, who were previously known as Simon and Saul respectively. The Lord called on Levi to follow Him, and he listened, and not only that but he even gathered his fellow tax collectors, who also wanted to know the Lord and speak with Him, and had a dinner in his place, before he was to follow Him fully. While not written or recorded in the Gospel account, it is probable that even there might have been even more among the tax collectors who later on chose to follow the Lord.

Back then, tax collectors were often prejudiced against, hated and reviled by the general society, and especially so by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who saw them in the same light as the prostitutes and those others deemed as great sinners, like those who were possessed by demons and those suffering from debilitating diseases, seen as being cursed and punished by God for their sins. For the tax collectors were often seen as traitors to the country and the people for their collaboration with the Romans who were hated by most of the people.

To that extent, the tax collectors were often ridiculed and dismissed as sinners and unworthy by the Pharisees, who did not even hesitate to mention it bluntly before the Lord’s disciples, when they asked them why their Lord and Master would spend the time in the company and have a meal with sinners. Yet, they all failed to realise one thing, which is that they themselves, were sinners as well. By looking down on the sins of others, they had become blind to their own shortcomings and faults.

And by embracing the Lord and answering His call, Levi who chose the Lord over the glory and wealth, the power and the satisfaction of the world has shown us that, even great sinners can be sanctified and turned into great saints, and that there is no one truly beyond redemption and salvation in God, unless the person himself or herself had rejected the Lord’s most generous offer of mercy and forgiveness. As long as one is willing to listen to the Lord and to repent from their sins, the path to Heaven and everlasting life will be open to them.

St. Matthew for example was credited with his efforts among the Jewish people themselves in Judea and Galilee, and his Gospel in particular was noted for its use of contexts and explanations familiar to the Jews, which served to explain the truth of God to his audience, which were mainly the Jewish people in the region. St. Matthew also went to other places and countries to spread the word of God, before eventually was martyred just like most of the other Apostles in the midst of his missionary works.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we heard today from the examples shown by St. Matthew, the story of his conversion and later on his contributions and efforts, his works as an Apostle and Evangelist, served as an important reminder to each and every one of us, God’s beloved children and disciples whom He Himself had called and gathered from the world to be His own. We have to ask ourselves this question, whether we have genuinely loved the Lord and had faith in Him, or whether our faith is still being superficial in nature.

We are also called to turn away from the path of sin, and to embrace God’s ever generous offering of mercy and forgiveness. God has always sought sinners and all those who need His help, as He Himself made it clear in our Gospel passage today. Like Levi, who welcomed the Lord and answered His call, we too should follow in his footsteps, and allow the Lord to transform us from the sinners we are, to be great disciples and even perhaps to be future saints, just as Levi the tax collector has been transformed in his life into St. Matthew, a great Apostle and Evangelist.

Let us all therefore discern carefully how we can be ever more dedicated as Christians, in doing the will of God and in committing ourselves to His cause. Let us all seek the Lord and His love, His compassion and kindness, and strive to do our best to glorify Him by our lives and actions. Let us also never be prejudiced anymore against any of our fellow brothers and sisters, and rather than being jealous against the achievements of others or in being proud over own achievements and efforts, while looking down on others, instead let us reflect on how fortunate we have been that God has chosen to forgive us our many sins, and how He has called on us all to be His followers and disciples.

Let us all realise that in each and every one of us there is that potential for greatness and holiness, as we are all called to holiness and to be like the saints. Even great saints were once also great sinners. What matters is that all of them have experienced a change in their hearts and embraced the Lord’s mercy and compassion, turning over a new leaf in their lives, becoming great role models and sources of inspiration themselves for the others who witnessed their works and lives. St. Matthew is one of these great inspiration and role model which we can also aspire to achieve.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew our faith in the Lord, and put our trust in Him, devoting our time, effort and attention to Him, and seeking Him with a contrite heart, with a new spirit of faith and obedience, and doing whatever we can to glorify the Lord by our lives. May all of us be true and dedicated disciples of the Lord from now on, doing whatever we can to lead more and more souls towards salvation and eternal life in God. May God bless us all and our efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021 : 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.”

Tuesday, 21 September 2021 : 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.

Tuesday, 21 September 2021 : 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.

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to reflect on the vocation that each one of us have received from God, to be ever faithful and committed to Him as His true and genuine disciples, living virtuously and doing what we should to be role models in faith so that by our actions and deeds, even in the smallest things, we may proclaim the truth and love of God to all, so that all who see us and witness our efforts may come to believe in the Lord as well.

One of these faithful that we should emulate was that of King Cyrus of Persia, the great and legendary first ruler of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, who although was not counted directly amongst God’s followers and people at that time, but was widely and even universally accepted by the descendants of Israel as being one of the righteous among the nations for his actions. He conquered the Babylonians who have kept many of the people of Judah and Israel in captivity for many decades, in exile from their homeland. Then King Cyrus made a proclamation that he is still being remembered for to this day.

He proclaimed the Emancipation or the freedom of the people of Israel from their exile in Babylon, allowing them all to return back to their homeland after such a long period in exile. He also allowed them to bring back their properties and authorised even the rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. In doing so, he had reversed the many sorrows and setbacks of the Israelites, and brought God’s promised liberation and succour for His people to them.

King Cyrus of Persia might not have belonged to the nation of the Israelites, but in his attitudes, behaviour and also in his governance of his country, as attested by numerous other historical records, he was a great and exemplary leader and ruler, known as being caring and compassionate, merciful and wise, and as the lawgiver, who helped to establish the strong foundation of the rule of the Achaemenids which would last for over two hundred years from the reign of Cyrus. He showed all of us what it means for one to be a righteous and virtuous man, a man of God in actions, words and deeds.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which the Lord Jesus spoke of to His disciples, regarding the lamp placed on a lampstand, and how no one would hide the light that ought to be put on the lampstand, but instead, that light should have been shown in its full brightness for all to see its light. God has given us this parable as a strong reminder that to each and every one of us, He has given the many talents, gifts, abilities and opportunities. We have to keep in mind that we should not underestimate the impact we may have on those who are around us, even in the smallest and seemingly most insignificant things.

We have to lead a life that is exemplary, virtuous and just, and we have to be good role models for one another that in our every actions and dealings, we may always be inspiration for our fellow brothers and sisters, to all those whom we encounter in our journey of life. And today, we also have the example of the faithful saints whose life and dedication to the Lord should become a great source of inspiration for us to follow in how we live our lives in our world today. They are the Holy Martyr Saints of Korea, those who have shed their blood in the persecution of the Faith in Korea across many decades.

We have these virtuous saints who gave their lives for the sake of the Lord and for their faith, as well as for their fellow brothers and sisters. At that time, Christians were heavily persecuted by the government of the Joseon-era Korea, as the foreign missionaries, the Christian faith and the local converts were seen as treasonous and undesirable elements of the society which needed to be rooted out, and which led to a bitter campaign of intense persecution of Christians much like what happened during the first centuries of the Church.

There were many courageous missionaries, both foreign and local Koreans alike who dedicated themselves to the Lord and preached the truth of God without fear despite the very difficult situation of that time. St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first Korean Catholic priest who was baptised as a Christian at the young age of fifteen, whose parents were also converts, and his own father killed as a martyr of the faith. He was ordained a priest after a period of formation in Macau before returning to Korea during the height of the persecutions. He was arrested, tortured and eventually beheaded for refusing to abandon his faith in the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Laurent Imbert was the first bishop of Korea as a foreign missionary priest, as the first Vicar Apostolic of Korea, newly established then by the Holy See. St. Laurent Imbert was remembered for his courageous leadership of the faithful during those most difficult and turbulent periods, and was particularly honoured for his decision to surrender himself and in persuading other priests to surrender themselves when the government threatened to persecute the faithful if they did not surrender themselves.

St. Laurent Imbert hoped that by surrendering himself and others, they might spare many other Christians from great sufferings, that in the same words that the Lord Jesus had spoken, and repeated by this saint, that ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep’ and thus, following the good examples of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, St. Laurent Imbert as the shepherd of the Lord’s flock in Korea chose to give his life in exchange for that of his flock.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall the virtuous examples by these faithful brothers and sisters of ours, who gave their life to the Lord and dedicated themselves so selflessly and tirelessly for the sake of the Lord and His people, let us all challenge ourselves to do the same as well, even in the smallest things we do so that we may truly glorify the Lord by our deeds and by all that we say and do. Let us all inspire one another to remain faithful to God and to be exemplary in our action and faith. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to be courageous with our Christian living, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 8 : 16-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather, he puts it on a lamp stand, so that people coming in may see the light.”

“In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret, that shall not be known clearly. Now, pay attention and listen well, for whoever produces, will be given more; but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.”

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH has done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ezra 1 : 1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, YHVH willed to fulfil the word He had said through the prophet Jeremiah. So He moved the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his kingdom : “Thus speaks Cyrus, king of Persia : YHVH, the God of heavens, Who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has ordered me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, in the land of Judah.”

“To everyone belonging to His people, may his God be with him! Let them go up to Jerusalem with the help of their God and, there, build the House of YHVH, the God of Israel; the God Who is in Jerusalem. In every place where the rest of the people of YHVH live, let the people of those places help them for their journey with silver, gold and all kinds of goods and livestock. Let them also give them voluntary offerings for the House of YHVH which is in Jerusalem.”

Then they rose up – the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, and all those whose spirit God had stirred up – and they decided to go and build the House of YHVH. And all their neighbours gave them all kinds of help : gold, silver, livestock and precious objects in great quantity, besides every kind of voluntary offering.

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened and remembered the words of the Sacred Scripture passages on this Sunday, we are all called to reflect on what it means for us to be a Christian, as one who believe in the Lord and in His truth, and as one who are called to walk on the path that He has revealed and shown to us, following Christ’s example in obedience and love. As we remember those words of the Scripture, let us all ponder carefully how we should move forward in life and how we can better live our lives in the way according to the Lord and His will.

In our first reading today we heard from the Book of Wisdom the account of the words of the people who plotted against the faithful servants of God. The Book of Wisdom was often known as the Wisdom of Solomon, but was in fact written in Alexandria in Egypt during the period just around the time of Christ in the first century before or after His birth. Thus, as we heard from today’s passage, we heard how there were influences and information contained from the prophets, such as the prophet Isaiah, that detailed in one of his prophecies, the prophecy of the Suffering Messiah and servant of God.

This, coupled with the historical experience of how the prophets of God were treated during their years of ministry, rejected and ridiculed by the people they had been sent to minister to, makes understanding the context of our first reading today very important for us to appreciate just how much mankind had made it difficult for the Lord and all the messengers and servants He had sent to them. They were stubborn in their sinful ways and in refusing to listen to the truth or in embracing the forgiveness that God has offered freely to them.

In our Gospel passage today, which we listened from the Gospel of St. Mark, we heard of the time when the Lord was speaking to His disciples regarding His mission and also what it means for them to be His followers. The Lord spoke plainly before them that He, the Son of Man, would be delivered into the hands of men, to be persecuted and then killed. Then on the third day, He would rise again from the dead. This is a premonition that the Lord made on His eventual Passion, suffering and death on the Cross, and His eventual glorious Resurrection by which He would save all mankind.

Just as the prophets in the earlier times, the Lord Himself would not be spared the same fate of being made to suffer and to be rejected by the people. But why is that, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Lord has offered His people so many good things, blessed them and sent His messengers one after another to remind them of His love and patient mercy, and yet, why did they refuse to listen to Him and follow Him? Why did our ancestors persecute the prophets and messengers of God? And why did they persecute and crucify our Lord? That is because of our pride, our ego and desire, and our refusal to admit our sinfulness and our vulnerabilities.

Let us first look at what happened then in the Gospel passage, as the Lord spoke to His disciples regarding the debate that they, especially the Twelve, the Lord’s own inner circle just had before they had the conversation with the Lord. They were arguing among themselves who among them were the greatest among them, wondering who among them was the one whom the Lord cherished the most or who was the most favourite disciple among them. In another occasion in the Gospels, we even had two of the Twelve, St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee, who went along with their mother before the Lord asking for special favours and honoured positions from Him.

The Lord then made it very clear before all of them, and made His point by bringing a child before them, pointing out to them how if they want to be His true followers, then they had to welcome the child, and in saying this, He meant that they should learn to be small, insignificant and humble like that of a child. Adults often exclude children from their talks, debates and arguments, dismissing the latter as being immature, unknowledgeable and for other reasons. Yet, a young child is pure in his beliefs and ideals, not yet being tainted by the corruptions of worldly desires and evils.

The Lord also said to the Twelve that all those who sought to be first would be last, while those who were last would be first. This means that the more they argued among them who was the greatest, most superior and honoured among them, and the more they strived and attempted to be the first, in fact, the further away they would end up in the path towards the kingdom of God. As Christians, all of them are expected to be humble in all things, and to put God first and foremost in their lives, and not their personal desires and ambitions.

God has reminded them to do this and He also showed it by His own example. Referring to what He Himself would do for the salvation of mankind, even though He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Master of the whole Universe, the Almighty God, but He willingly humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory, prestige, power and honour, by first assuming the humble appearance of a Man, born into this world not even of the powerful and mighty, but to a poor carpenter living in a small village on the periphery of the Jewish world back then.

He also humbled Himself and not wanting to make Himself prominent and known in the manner of how some others who claimed to be the Messiah at that time boasted of themselves as the Chosen One of God, only to falter and fail miserably because God was not with them. He has shown the perfect obedience to the will of His Father, to endure for our sake, the burdens of our sins, even though they must have been incredibly heavy, as the weight of the Cross bore down heavily on His shoulders. He obeyed and in His fervent prayers for our sake, He has been heard and through His sacrifice, we have received the assurance of salvation and eternal life.

St. James in his Epistle, part of which is our second reading today, reminded us the faithful of exactly the same thing, as he spoke of how those who follow the Lord ought to have God’s wisdom and truth in them, and that jealousy, discord and hatred all came ultimately from our own desires and wants, from the corrupt temptations of this world and others. And if we allow these things to affect and influence us, then we will end up being divided among ourselves and indulging in our desires, in maintaining our ego and pride, and in being stubborn in refusing to listen to God and to the words of His truth.

This was exactly why the people persecuted the prophets and the messengers of God in the times past, as they refused to admit that they could have been wrong or mistaken in their ways or in their thoughts. They would not admit that they were sinners and in need of help because their pride and ego would not let them to do that. They dwelled in their desires and pride, and they allowed those things to mislead them into the path of sin, in refusing the generous offer of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Let us all reflect on our own lives and how we have lived them thus far. Let us remember each and every moments when we look down on others just because we feel that we are better than them, and at every moments when we refused to admit our faults and ended up in quarrelling and being divided against each other, in our own families and among our relatives and friends, in our schools and workplaces among others. How often has it been that we prioritise our own desires and wants, our ambitions and pride first over that of God and His truth?

We often seek the glory of the world, the pleasure and satisfaction of our bodies, the comfort that we can enjoy from all these temptations in life. The issue is not so much so on the things that tempt us but rather more of our unhealthy attachment to them, or unbridled desire in wanting to gain more and more of those things that ended up causing us to be more and more distant away from God. This is something that as Christians we must consider and discern very carefully, that we do not end up falling into those same temptations and into the wrong path.

Let us all turn ourselves to the Lord, brothers and sisters, with a new heart filled with genuine love for Him, committing ourselves to Him with ever greater devotion from now on. Let us cast out from ourselves the excesses of our human pride and worldly desires, the desire for wealth, fame, glory, power and any other things that are truly impermanent and do not give us true happiness and joy. Instead, let us all seek the true happiness and satisfaction that we can find in the Lord, our God alone.

May the Lord be with us always and may He continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may find our way to Him and learn to commit ourselves more wholeheartedly from now on. Let us all devote more of our time and effort, our attention and focus on Him, and inspire one another to do the same as well. May God bless us in our every good efforts and endeavours, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

Sunday, 19 September 2021 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He cast out evil spirit from a deaf and dumb boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee, but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples. And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.”

The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest.

Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One Who sent Me.”