Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the words of the Lord reminding us to do the will of God and not to fall into the path of sin and wickedness. Again and again we have constantly been reminded of the dangers of sin and the temptations to sin. Unless we are vigilant and put our conscious effort to reject sin and evil, more often than not we may find ourselves stumbling and falling yet again because we are unable to resist the strong pull and allure of sin which can drag us down the path towards damnation and downfall.
In our first reading today taken from the Book of Proverbs, we are all reminded that the Lord values our actions and obedience to His Law, commandments and will more than our sacrifices and offerings. The Lord honours and blesses the just and the righteous ones, all those who have obeyed His will, followed His ways and dedicated themselves to His cause by their real actions and works, instead of just merely paying lip service or making profession of faith. And yet in our way of life and actions, we are often full of actions that are contrary to God’s teachings and truth, as we often follow the whim of our desires, our pride and ego, the norms and ways of this world among others.
The Lord said that those who were haughty and wicked, who oppressed the poor and the weak, all those who were selfish and proud, and thinking only of fulfilling their own selfish and wicked desires, all of these will not flourish with Him, and will not have part in any of His inheritance and graces. The Lord made it clear that all of us as Christians are called to distance ourselves from wicked ways, and embrace wholeheartedly instead the path of righteousness and justice, of all the good things that the Lord Himself had taught us to do. God had taught us His ways, and showed us all how to live our lives in the right manner, and it is in the end, up to us whether we want to follow Him or to follow our own path.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord when the people told Him that His family members, His mother and other relatives were waiting for Him. The Lord then told them all that His brothers and sisters, His mother are all those who listen to the Lord and do His will. While at a glance it might seem that the Lord had been rude to His mother and family, but in truth, the intention behind those words uttered by the Lord Jesus is that, each and every one of us are equally beloved by God, and all of us who do His will, who are righteous and just, virtuous and good, upright and faithful, all of us will share the fullness of God’s love, grace and compassion. And we should look upon our glorious and holy predecessors how we ought to be just doing exactly that.
Today the Church celebrates the memory of the great martyrs and all those who had given their lives for their faith in the region of Korea, as part of the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Korea, namely St. Andreas Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chong Hasang among the many other local Christians of Korea who were persecuted for their faith, as well as foreign missionaries such as St. Laurent Imbert, the first Apostolic Vicar to Korea, St. Jacques Chastan and many others who had travelled far and wide, to come to the far peripheries of the world and spread the Good News of God to all those who have yet to hear of Him, and who suffered for His sake.
At that time, the state and the government of Korea was highly hostile and suspicious of Christian missionaries and the Christian faith, considering them all as unwanted foreign influences that could potentially bring harm to the state. To that extent, the state carried out intense official persecution much alike what happened during the time of the Roman Empire in the early Church. The Christian missionaries had to operate in secret, in fear of repercussions from the officials and the authorities, and many of the Christian faithful, both the missionaries and converts alike suffered because of their persistence and perseverance in remaining true to their faith in God despite the oppressions.
St. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first local convert Catholic priest in Korea, whose parents were themselves converts, and his father was martyred for his faith. St. Andrew Kim Taegon eventually chose priesthood as his path and finally returned to Korea after years of ministry and studies, during which time then he ministered and preached to his native Koreans about the Lord, having to deal with the intensifying persecution from the government authorities. He was martyred together with thousands of the other Christians who refused to abandon their faith, as he was tortured and beheaded, enduring glorious martyr’s death for the Lord.
Then, I would also like to share the story of St. Laurent Imbert, who was the first Apostolic Vicar to Korea, as the first bishop to establish the nascent hierarchy of the Church in that land. St. Laurent Imbert was a member of the Paris Foreign Missions society or the M.E.P., who together with the other missionary priests clandestinely ministered to the faithful and grew the Church during those difficult years. And it was told that when the officials demanded that he and the other priests surrendered themselves in exchange for the safety of his faithful flock, he willingly surrendered himself and asked his fellow two other priests to do the same as well, saying that ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep’, remembering what the Lord Himself, our Good Shepherd, had done for our sake.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the numerous stories of great wisdom and courage from the martyr saints of Korea should inspire us all to live our lives worthily and to do our best to glorify the Lord by our lives, actions and works. Each and every one of us should follow God’s will and obey His Law and commandments. Let us all no longer distance ourselves from Him or be ignorant of Him calling on us to follow Him in our hearts and minds. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen us all each day, now and always, forevermore. Amen.