Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Daniel 3 : 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74

Dew and frost, praise and exalt Him forever.

Ice and cold, praise and exalt Him forever.

Frost and snow, praise and exalt Him forever.

Days and nights, praise and exalt Him forever.

Light and darkness, praise and exalt Him forever.

Lightning and clouds, praise and exalt Him forever.

Earth, praise and exalt Him forever.

Thursday, 25 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Daniel 6 : 12-28

So the administrators and satraps went to the king and reminded him about the prohibition, “O king, did you not publish a decree that anyone who prays or makes petition to any god or man except to you would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “Yes, and the decree stands, in accordance with Medo-Persian laws which cannot be altered or annulled.” Then they said, “But the Jewish exile Daniel pays no attention to you and to your decree. Three times a day he still prays to some God other than you.”

Greatly aggrieved at what he heard, the king decided to help Daniel. He made every effort till sundown to save him. But the men kept coming to him and insisting, “Remember, o king, that under the Medo-Persian laws every decree or prohibition issued by the king is irrevocable.” The king, therefore, could not help giving the order that Daniel be brought and thrown into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, Whom you serve faithfully, save you.”

A stone was placed at the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with that of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might remain unchanged. Then the king returned to his palace and spent a sleepless night, refusing food and entertainment. Very early next morning, he rose and hurried to the lions’ den. As he came near, he called in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the Living God, did your God, Whom you serve faithfully, save you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “Live forever, o king! My God sent His Angel, who closed the lions’ mouths, so that they did not hurt me. God did that because I am innocent in His sight. Neither have I wronged you, o king.”

The king felt very glad and ordered Daniel released from the lions’ den. No wound was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. At the king’s order, the men who had accused Daniel were thrown into the lions’ den, together with their wives and children. No sooner had they reached the floor of the den than the lions lunged at them and tore them to pieces.

King Darius wrote to the nations, to peoples of every language, “Peace to you all! I decree that throughout my kingdom people should reverence and fear the God of Daniel. For He is the Living God, and forever He endures; His Kingdom will not be crushed, His dominion will never cease. He rescues and He delivers; He performs signs and wonders both in heaven and on earth. And He came to Daniel’s rescue saving him from the lions’ tooth and claw.”

Daniel greatly prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, 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 all reminded of the challenges, trials and persecutions that we may have to endure as God’s faithful people, as those who call ourselves as Christians. This is the reality of our faith that we should keep in mind as we live in our world today. As Christians we cannot be idle in how we live our faith and we cannot be passive and be easily swayed by the currents of events and the pressures around us to follow the ways of the world, but instead we have to stand our ground and remain committed wholeheartedly to God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Daniel we heard of the account of the final days of the Kingdom of Babylon, also known as the Neo-Babylonian Empire, built and made great by King Nebuchadnezzar as we have heard in the readings of these past few days. At that time, decades after the destruction of Jerusalem and many decades after Daniel had been brought into exile in Babylon, King Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon was having a great feast with his nobles and guests using the vessels captured and looted from the Temple of Jerusalem.

That was an absolutely horrible and sacrilegious act by the king, a great blasphemy against God, using those vessels consecrated as sacred to God for profane purposes. It was such that God immediately sent a great warning to the blasphemous and arrogant king, as His hands wrote on the wall, the words MENE, TEKEL, PHARSIN, which terrified the king and all the guests gathered in the party. The king called for Daniel whom he recognised as one of the exiles of Judah and the wisest man of his court.

If we remember what Daniel said before the king, he must have really been so courageous and brave in uttering such words before the king. Indeed, the king had promised him wonderful things, riches, power, favour and all if he could explain the meaning of those words to him, but to say that the king’s kingdom would be destroyed and for his dominion to be ended and passed on over to the Medes and the Persians under Cyrus the Great as how it historically happened would have been treasonous and punishable by death.

Yet, Daniel feared nothing and spoke everything as the Lord guided him to. He did not hide any details and did not change the words of the Lord, in full truth before the king. He spoke everything entrusting his fate to the Lord, believing that whatever it is that would happen, God would be by His side, and He surrendered everything to God’s will. As such, Daniel spoke the truth and hid nothing, and in the end, everything happened as spoken, and the king himself, immediately after hearing Daniel’s words, did not punish him, likely treating it as a mere joke and not taking it seriously, before it was too late for him.

This is the same thing as what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, from the Gospel of St. Luke as we heard the Lord telling His disciples that trials and persecutions would likely happen to them, but they should not be afraid because God Himself would be with them, and He would send them the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide them in their path. The Lord will always be with His faithful ones, protecting them and caring for them and their needs. And even in their sufferings, they will be triumphant at the very end, together with God.

This is what we need to take note of, brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to realise that God is always by our side and we should not allow fear or doubt to influence our actions, whenever trials and challenges are in our way. Today, all of us should also heed the great examples and inspirations shown by St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his numerous companions, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, who coincidentally, in accordance with today’s Scripture readings, had suffered and died for their faith in God.

At that time, Christian missionaries began gaining many converts in Vietnam, and many of the Vietnamese began embracing the new faith in God. Some of those converts themselves became priests and members of the clergy, and they were all persecuted by the government who were intensely anti-Christian. Persecutions were intensified against the converts and the missionaries alike, and many were forced to choose between abandoning their faith and death.

Many of the Christian converts refused to abandon their faith and therefore suffered grievously under the harsh official persecution, with many dying as martyrs. Their Christian missionaries also suffered the same if not more painful sufferings, with many of them becoming martyrs, and yet, they courageously faced the persecution with faith, and not being afraid to stand up for their faith just as Daniel once stood before the king of Babylon delivering the truth of God with great honesty.

Are we able to follow in their footsteps, brothers and sisters in Christ? Many of us may not have suffered of being a Christian, and we have a relatively good life in this world, but let us not forget that in this world, many of our fellow brothers and sisters are suffering daily in being persecuted and oppressed because they are followers of Christ. And if trials and troubles do come for us, will we have the courage to stand up for our faith as well?

Let us all pray for one another, for courage and strong faith to remain firm in our dedication to God so that we will not easily be swayed by the temptations of this world, and ask the Lord for His guidance and strength at all times. May the Lord be with us all, and may He strengthen each one of us with faith, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 12-19

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Before all these things happen, people will lay their hands on you and persecute you; you will be delivered to the synagogues and put in prison, and for My sake you will be brought before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to bear witness.”

“So keep this in mind : do not worry in advance about what to say, for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. But even though, because of My Name, you will be hated by everyone, not a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance you will save your souls.”

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Daniel 3 : 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67

Sun and moon, praise and exalt Him forever.

Stars of heaven, praise and exalt Him forever.

Rain and dew, praise and exalt Him forever.

All winds, praise and exalt Him forever.

Fire and heat, praise and exalt Him forever.

Cold and heat, praise and exalt Him forever.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Daniel 5 : 1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his nobles; a thousand of them attended; and he drank wine with them. Under the influence of wine, he ordered that the gold and silver vessels his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem be brought in, so that he and his nobles, his wives and concubines might drink from them.

The gold and silver vessels taken from God’s Temple were brought in; and the king and his nobles, his wives and concubines drank from them. While they drank wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone. Suddenly a man’s fingers appeared opposite the lamp stand and wrote on the plastered wall of the king’s palace.

Watching the hand as it wrote, the king turned pale. So terrified was he that his knees knocked and his legs gave way. Daniel was brought in and questioned by the king, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father brought from Judah? I have heard that you have the spirit of the gods, that you have insight and extraordinary wisdom. I have heard that you can interpret dreams and solve problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple, wear a gold chain around your neck, and be appointed third in rank in my kingdom.”

Daniel replied, “You may keep your gifts or give them to someone else. Just the same, I will read and interpret the writing for you. You have defied the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels from His Temple brought to you, and, together with your nobles, your wives and concubines, you drank wine from them. You praised the idols made of silver and gold, of bronze, iron and stones, which neither see, nor hear, nor understand; but you never glorified God Who has power over your life and all your fortunes.”

“So He sent the hand that wrote the inscription which read MENE, TEKEL, PHARSIN. And these words mean : MENE, God has numbered the days of your reign and put an end to it; TEKEL, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; PHARSIN, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”

Tuesday, 23 November 2021 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures we are all reminded of just how small we are before God, and everything happens by God’s grace and will. Although we may not know it yet, but all things will happen as God willed and ordained it to be. And through what we have heard today, we are free to choose our course of action, in living our lives and whether we want to follow the Lord or not.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Daniel we heard of the dream that king Nebuchadnezzar received from God. He saw in that dream a great statue made from different parts and materials, and then a very large boulder, a massive stone that came down upon the great statue and crushed it all to rubble. The king was anxious to find out the meaning of his dream, and eventually asked Daniel, the exiled Israelite for the explanation of his dream.

In Daniel’s detailed explanation that we heard in our first reading today, essentially he told Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of the Babylonian Empire and the conqueror of many nations that his kingdom, dynasty and dominion would not last very long and would soon fall and replaced by other kingdoms and rulers. And this was not just a mere false illusion or dream, as it would soon become a reality.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a very proud and vain ruler, as well as highly ambitious in his actions, desiring to subjugate more and more people and nations. He once built a great golden statue in his own image and demanded all of his numerous subjects to bow down, kneel and worship that golden statue, as if he made himself divine and like that of a god. Although this was not uncommon at that time, but the manner with which Nebuchadnezzar carried it out stood out from the others.

Hence, that vision was a clear reminder from the Lord to the proud Nebuchadnezzar, the very same one who destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of God built by King Solomon there, that his power and authority were not without bounds and limits. As haughty, prideful, arrogant and great he was, in the end, he was just a mortal man like any other. His time and his kingdom, no matter how glorious it was, would eventually be eclipsed by others.

In the end then there was that great boulder, a giant rock that destroyed everything. What was that? It was in fact reminiscent of what the Lord Himself told His disciples in our Gospel passage today. In that occasion, the Lord foretold the coming destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. That Temple was built by the returning exiles of Babylon, that returned after the destruction of the same Babylonian Empire that was established by King Nebuchadnezzar. It was enlarged and expanded by King Herod the Great, which building still happened during the ministry of the Lord, after many decades of construction.

And it would come to pass, all that the Lord had predicted. That Temple had become a symbol of pride for the Jewish leaders and in the end, became significant source of oppression and persecution for the true believers of Christ. The Temple authorities often made it very difficult for the disciples and the early Christian missionaries to do their work. However, their dominion and power did not last, and in the end, the Lord’s will and works prevailed.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is therefore a reminder for us that in the end, God has control over everything in this world and He has dominion over all things. We must not be haughty and prideful, thinking that we can do whatever we want without any need for concern and discernment. All that we say and do, we must understand that God is always around us, guiding us and leading us to do His will. But mankind often tried to do their own way, and many if not most of them eventually ended up being disappointed and failed.

Today, we should reflect on the lives of today’s saints, namely Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot whose lives can be inspiration for us to live a worthy and God-centric Christian lives. We should be inspired by their faith and dedication, and do not allow our wicked and selfish desires to drive us to selfish and immoral actions that are against the will and teachings of God. Let us discern carefully our actions based on their examples.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the early successors of St. Peter the Apostle as the Pope and Vicar of Christ, as the Bishop of Rome and leader of the entire Universal Church. He was remembered for his great role in advancing the cause of the Church and in establishing solid foundations for the Church in various communities, by his numerous works and letters to the various Church communities all over Christendom. And he also died as a great martyr defending his faith under persecution from the Roman Emperors and government.

Meanwhile, St. Columban the Abbot was a renowned saint who was an Irish missionary credited with the foundation of several monasteries in mainland Europe among the Germanic successor kingdoms of the Western Roman Empire during the chaotic early years of the so-called Dark Ages. He worked hard among the people preaching about the Lord and building religious communities that quickly became popular and many joined those communities he established to seek God and His peace, and dedicating themselves and their lives to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these two saints in their own way have shown us how we ought to be living our lives as Christians, filled with love for the Lord and focus on Him, and not on our own selfish desires and ambitions. Let us all therefore discern carefully how we are going to proceed in our lives from now on, and seek to glorify the Lord by our lives to the best of our abilities. May God be with us all and may He strengthen each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.