Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 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 Scriptures, we are all reminded that no matter how challenging and difficult the obstacles, trials and persecutions we may have to face in being Christians, as those whom the Lord had called and those who had devoted themselves to Him, we must always have faith in God and in the fact that in the end, the Lord will be triumphant. And all of us who remain faithful to the Lord will be justified and share in the triumph and victory of He Who conquers sin, evil and death. That is something which all of us need to remember, as we continue to progress through our lives and activities daily, so that we do not end up losing sight on the true destination that we will reach through Christ.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Revelations, we heard of the details of the vision of St. John the Apostle seeing the great defeat of Babylon the great, the mighty enemy of all the faithful, and how the persecutions and oppressions against the people of God will finally cease and those who persecute them will face their just consequences and punishments. The Lord will not let those who are faithful to Him to suffer without good reason and without being avenged, and their blood and sufferings will be paid dearly by those who have inflicted hurt on their own brothers and sisters, and those will be thrown down and cast into the eternal darkness and annihilation together with the devil and all of the other forces of the wicked and evil, all the fallen angels, demonic spirits and more.

Some people back in the early days of the Church associated that Babylon with what is in fact a connotation to the time when the Babylonians under king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah and Jerusalem, a few centuries before the coming of Christ, and destroyed the city and its Temple, persecuting the people of God and bringing them into exile. That Babylon by the time of the Lord and afterwards would come to be associated then with Rome, and its bitter persecutions of Christians. That association became even stronger after the Romans, like the Babylonians in the past, destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple just less than four decades after the Lord Himself had predicted it, and there were many among the people of God who were killed or suffered because of that.

Hence, naturally Rome was seen as the great Babylon, and the Lord’s retribution and victory would be won against it. Indeed, later on after almost three centuries of persecutions, the Christian faith and Church was finally tolerated and the persecutions were mostly gone, and eventually the Roman Emperors themselves and the whole entire Empire would adopt the Christian faith as their faith. However, it also means that the vision of St. John the Apostle have not yet taken place yet, unlike some early Christians who would have believed that the events as recorded in the Book of Revelations to be happening immediately, or very soon afterwards. But only the Lord Himself knows the exact moment when all of that will happen.

The Gospel passage today essentially spoke of what I had mentioned just earlier, about the Lord Himself proclaiming to the people how the city of Jerusalem, its Temple and all the people inside it, will face destruction because of the forces arrayed against them in the coming years, which would indeed come true during the first Roman-Jewish war that came about because of the rebellions from a certain segment of the Jewish people against the Roman rule which eventually led to the great and bitter conflict culminating in the siege and downfall of Jerusalem, and how the magnificent Temple built just a few decades earlier by King Herod the Great was thrown down and destroyed right to its very foundations. Everything happened as the Lord had proclaimed, and He warned His followers of the signs of what would happen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the lesson we then ought to learn from our Scripture passages today is that, while we may face daunting moments and trials, hardships and persecutions in our journey towards the Lord, but we must not give up our faith in God and we must not give in to the temptations, coercions and pressures to follow in the flow of the world, all the demands of those who seek to subvert the truth of God, and all those forces seeking our downfall and destruction. We should stand firm in our commitment to the path that God has shown and led us into, and follow the good examples set by our faithful and dedicated predecessors, all the saints and martyrs who had given their all to glorify God by their lives and examples.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, consisting of both the Christian missionaries who came to Vietnam to proclaim the Lord’s Good News and the local Christian converts and communities of the faithful. Like that of in the early days of the Church, the then Vietnamese government and authorities persecuted the Christians and the Church as they were highly suspicious of them because the missionaries came from foreign countries whom might be seen back then as attempting to sow dissent and act as agents to the foreign powers which back then had begun to interfere in the political and societal establishment of Vietnam and its neighbours.

To that end, the authorities persecuted Christians all throughout Vietnam, as people like St. Andrew Dung-Lac, who was one of the first local Vietnamese ordained to the priesthood, as well as the foreign missionaries, other leaders of the Church and more of the general Christian population, were gathered up, arrested and eventually put to death. Yet, despite the great challenges that they had to endure, most of those Christian faithful remained firm in their faith and chose to suffer and die rather than to betray their Lord and Master. Their courage and piety, their great dedication to God became inspiration for so many other people who are encouraged to remain firmly faithful to the Lord despite the challenges and trials facing them. Therefore, we too should be inspired and encouraged in the same way as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed zeal and conviction, with the strength, courage and spirit to dedicate ourselves, our every actions and deeds, our every energy for the sake of the Lord, for His Church and for His people. May the Lord continue to guide us all through this journey of faith, and may He empower us all to be ever stronger in faith and to draw ever closer to His grace and love, like that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, now and always. Amen.