Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 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) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder of how precious and beloved each and every one of us are by God. And we are also reminded of Who God truly is, the Almighty and all-powerful King and Lord over all the Universe, the Lord of all the Heaven and the Earth, the One Who rules over all. He is the One Who should be our focus in life, to Whom we should spend our efforts in redirecting our attention and lives towards. God is calling on us to put our trust in Him, and to follow Him wholeheartedly, and not to be swayed easily by the temptations found in this world.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, during the reign of king Uzziah or Azariah of Judah, in which we heard of the calling of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was called by God through a great vision of Heaven, and all of the glory of God. Isaiah saw God on His great Throne in Heaven, seated on His Throne attended by the Seraphim and surrounded by innumerable Angels, the Cherubim, Thrones and other spiritual beings. The Lord had shown Isaiah Who He was, and showed Him His great glory and might, and called on Him to do His will and to be His mouthpiece among the people of Israel and Judah.

Thus was how Isaiah was called and he responded with faith, and the Lord Himself reassured Isaiah that He would provide for him and strengthen him, and he would have no need to be afraid or to worry about what he ought to say before the people, for God Himself would inspire him and tell him what to say to the people. The prophet Isaiah henceforth went on to proclaim the words of the Lord, His will and the many prophecies entrusted to him, to the people of God, through which God called His people to repent from their sinful ways and to embrace once again His path of righteousness and truth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers regarding the matter of how God truly loved all of His people, and how no one should be afraid of God, and how the disciples and followers of the Lord should not fear persecution and hardships from the world, all because of the fact that the Lord would provide for them and protect them from harm. God treated all of us, His beloved children, with great love and kindness, with compassion and generosity, far more precious than anything else. We can be assured of this after remembering all that He had done all across the generations and throughout our human history.

The Lord told His disciples, and through them to all of us, that each and every one of us, though sinners, are truly important and precious to Him. No one is truly beyond the generous love and compassion of God. God has shown His kindness to us, and He has called on each and every one of us to be His disciples and followers, calling on us to His presence, to enjoy the fullness of His bountiful love and grace. Like the people of God of old, all of us are called to turn away from our sinful paths and from the darkness of this world, in order to embrace the path of righteousness and hope, which we can find in the Lord alone.

As Christians, that means as all those who profess to believe in the Lord, each and every one of us are called by God to follow Him, as He had called Isaiah and His disciples, the many Apostles, saints and martyrs, as well as other servants and messengers whom He had called earlier on. Each one of us should respond to the Lord with faith, and embrace the calling He had made upon us, committing ourselves to go and proclaim His truth and love to the nations. Through our lives, our examples, actions, deeds and words all of us should do whatever we can to glorify God, and to bring more and more people to come to believe in God as well.

Today, we should be inspired by the examples of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions in faith and martyrdom, the victims of the intense persecution and oppression of Christians by the Chinese authorities and all other forces that were hostile against Christian believers at that time. St. Augustine Zhao Rong himself was one of the first clergyman ordained from the native population of China, amidst the rapidly growing Church there at the time, as missionaries came from afar and risked their lives in proclaiming God’s truth to the people. Many became believers, and then many also equally became martyrs and victims of persecutions by the officials and the state which were against Christians and the teachings of Christ.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and many other Christians, both the laity and the clergy alike were arrested, tortured and forced to abandon their faith or to face death. Many of them had to endure bitter sufferings and painful deaths, but they chose to be faithful to the very end. Many of them became inspirations for other Christians, not only in China but also elsewhere throughout the world. They inspired many more to follow Christ, and to persevere in the challenges and trials that they had to face throughout their journey. Each one of us should also be similarly inspired by their examples, that we may be inspired to take up our crosses too, and follow the Lord with zeal.

May the Lord continue to strengthen and inspire us, together with the inspiration from the lives of the saints and martyrs, from St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions in holy martyrdom, and many other inspirations, that we may always ever be faithful to God, and we may grow ever closer to God, and in our every actions, be ever exemplary and worthy of Him. May God bless us all and every actions and works we do, at all times. Amen.

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