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.

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