Wednesday, 24 May 2023 : 7th Week of Easter, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and Our Lady of Sheshan (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of Mary Help of Christians and also the Feast of Our Lady of Sheshan in China. On this day in particular therefore we remember all the faithful people of God all around the world who have been facing persecutions and oppressions, hardships and trials in remaining true to their faith in the Lord, in all that they have to endure as those who have embraced the salvation and the hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we ought to support one another such that we will not easily fall into despair and losing faith in God, and then falling into the wrong path in life. We must remind ourselves that none of us are ever alone in our journey and struggle of faith as Christians, because the Lord is ever always by our side, and He will never abandon us no matter what. We also have our fellow Christian brothers and sisters, some of whom may even have suffered more than us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the conclusion of the narrative of St. Paul the Apostle and his farewell to the faithful people of God in Ephesus, which we have heard for the past few weekdays. At that time, St. Paul and also many other missionaries had been facing a lot of successes as well as obstacles in their missionary and evangelisation efforts, as the early Church of God grew rapidly and gained many members and followers, and continued to spread further and further despite the many obstacles, trials and hardships that they had to endure, facing rejection and refusal from many among the authorities. Both the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin or the Jewish High Council, as well as local governors and authorities, and others who were opposed to the Christian faith, made it difficult for the Christian missionaries to carry out their work.

St. Paul the Apostle had laboured hard to establish the reach and the foundations of the Church in many places he had visited together with the other disciples and missionaries, and faced trouble from some of the Jewish authorities in the places he visited, and he was accused falsely of crimes and things that he did not commit, and was on his way to Jerusalem to face those allegations and accusations. St. Paul could very well have chosen to flee and to stay away from those who sought to oppose and crush him, but he chose to follow the Lord, Who called on him to trust in Him and to follow where He was leading him to go to. The Lord told St. Paul that he would be His witness and missionary in Rome, at the capital and very heart of the Roman Empire, to proclaim the Good News of God and where he would also face sufferings and martyrdom, for the greater glory of God.

Thus, St. Paul reassured all the faithful in Ephesus and others who knew of his story and works, the challenges that he had faced and encountered, that being a faithful disciple of the Lord, while it may indeed be difficult and challenging for them, but the Lord would guide them and protect them throughout their path and way. Those who placed their faith and trust in the Lord would never be disappointed, and everything that they did and carried out in their lives will be blessed by God, and God will remember and know everything that they had done for His sake, and everything that even perhaps we do not know or did not realise. God has provided for us everything, even not sparing from us His own most beloved Son, Who had come down into our midst, in the flesh, showing unto all of us, the full and perfect manifestation of His ever enduring love and kindness.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, praying to His heavenly Father asking Him to bless and guide His disciples and followers, and to be with them all throughout their journey. The Lord Himself also promised them all the coming of the Holy Spirit, Who indeed came to descend upon the world, upon the disciples and the Church, empowering all of them and strengthening them, giving them the courage and hope to proclaim the Good News of God. That was how the Church continued to grow rapidly and remained firm despite the many challenges and trials that it and many of the faithful had faced throughout time and history. The many inspiring examples of those who have suffered and remained firmly faithful to the Lord inspired many others who were therefore encouraged to keep steady in their faith as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that sufferings, hardships and persecutions of the Church still continue even right up to this day. There are still areas and places where being Christians is a difficult situation and condition, and not just that, but they even were actively persecuted and some even faced death threats and not few were martyred for being followers of Christ. One of such places is the region of Mainland China, which had endured for over seven decades of constant government intervention into their faith, belief and Church governance, and there had been a lot of hardships and challenges faced by the faithful people of God in that place, as they were torn between obedience to the Universal Church and its laws, with the ever increasing control from the officially Communist government that was hostile against the true expressions of the Christian faith.

That is why today, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, as we remember our brothers and sisters who are currently suffering and enduring hardships in China, who had to face difficulties and challenges in living their Christian lives and in being true to the full expression of their Christian faith. We pray for all of them and reminding ourselves that we are all part of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. All of us are part of this indivisible and united Church, that is truly Universal in nature, and that is why it is important that we should support and pray for our brethren in trouble whenever we can. We should remember those who are less fortunate than us, those who did not have it easy like us who may be having better days and moments in living our lives as Christians and in expressing ourselves in our faith.

Let us also remember all the others all around the world who are also perhaps facing hardships and challenges, difficulties and other things in life for being Christians, that is for believing in the Lord and His truth. Let us all support one another as parts and members of the one united Church of God, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. May the Lord continue to bless us all and guide us, and be with us all His Church, at all times. May He empower all of us to remain firm in our faith, despite the many trials, challenges and hardships facing us, so that our lives and actions, everything we say and do will always reflect our Christian faith and beliefs, that many others may also be inspired to follow after us in following God’s path as well. Amen.

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