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.