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.

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Isaiah 6 : 1-8

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him were Seraphs, each with six wings : two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another : “Holy, Holy, Holy is YHVH Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with His glory!”

At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, YHVH Sabaoth.”

Then one of the Seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the Altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?”

I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Friday, 8 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we all listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, in which we are reminded of just how full of love the Lord is for each and every one of us. He has always loved us, patiently, reaching out to us sinners, even though we have consistently and persistently refused His efforts and kindness, all of the compassion that He has shown to us. God still called us, reached out to us, and gave us the opportunities to repent and to turn away from our sins because in the end, His love for us is still greater than His disgust for our sins and wickedness.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Hosea the words of the Lord calling on all the Israelites to return to Him, calling on them to embrace once again His love and receive from Him the assurance of blessings and graces that had been lost by their disobedience and sins. Back then, the prophet Hosea was ministering to a people and a kingdom rampant with many sinful actions, disobedient and wicked attitudes in the people’s way of life, in disregarding the Law and the commandments, in their persecution of the prophets and the messengers sent to remind them of their errors and mistakes.

The prophet Hosea brought the people the words of the Lord’s warning to them on what they would soon endure and suffer from as a consequence of their repeated disobedience and evils, all that they had done to anger the Lord and in rejecting His patient and constant outreach to seek reconciliation between them and Himself. They would be defeated and humiliated, crushed and broken, and they would be brought away in exile to the far-off regions by their enemies, because they had disobeyed and abandoned the Lord. And yet, the Lord still loved them and wanted them all to know that He still desired for them to be reconciled with Him.

But this required them all to turn back towards the Lord with faith, to rediscover the love which they ought to have for Him, the One Who had truly loved them very much and Who had dedicated Himself to care for this race of mankind, despite all of their infidelities and stubborn attitudes. The Lord patiently called on the people to embrace His kindness, His willingness to heal them from their troubles and pains, to enter into the new life and path that He is calling them to follow, and He gave them all many opportunities and means to reach Him, sending His messengers and servants to help and guide them along the way.

That was what the Lord Himself told His disciples to do in our Gospel passage today, as He sent them forth to the world, in His own words, that He was sending them like ‘sheep among wolves’, that is to go to the people whom He willed to call, but who were often still stubborn to resist the call and those who were still attached to their sinful way of life. The Lord told His disciples to do His will and presented to them the reality of being His disciples and missionaries, that they would likely have to face rejection and hardships, even arrest and martyrdom in the process, in proclaiming the truth and love of God among His people.

However, at the same time, the Lord also reassured His disciples that He was not leaving them all alone in this. He would still be with them and He would guide them through their journey, and gave them the strength, the Wisdom and the means to do their mission, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit and more. The Lord has shown His great love and compassion to us, and He reminds us all that each and every one of us are called to a new life as Christian believers, to believe wholeheartedly in His truth and love. As Christians, we are all called to live our lives obeying the laws and commandments that God had given us, and to follow His path of righteousness and virtue.

Then, all of us as Christians are also partakers of the same mission which the Lord has entrusted to all of His disciples and followers. Through our faith, we are all called to live our lives with devotion, and to commit ourselves to be part of the Church’s mission and outreach to our various communities. And we do not have to think hard or to look far in our mission outreach, or to do great and marvellous things. In fact, it is by living our lives well and in accordance with our Christian faith that we shall be doing the will of God and be part of this missionary journey as one Church. Often, it is in doing all the small little things we can in each and every moments of our lives, in our small daily actions that we can inspire others and more people all around us to believe in God as well, through us and our own good examples.

May the Lord continue to inspire and strengthen us all each day, so that by our commitment, hard works and contributions, we may always be exemplary in faith, and we may grow ever closer to God, being more dedicated and faithful as Christians, at all times. May God be with us always and bless our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 8 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 16-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you.”

“Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Friday, 8 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 8-9, 12-13, 14 and 17

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

I know You desire truth in the heart; teach me wisdom in my inmost being. Cleanse me, with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Create in me, o God, a pure heart; give me a new and steadfast spirit. Do not cast me out of Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Give me again the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. O Lord, open my lips, and I will declare Your praise.

Friday, 8 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hosea 14 : 2-10

Return to your God YHVH, o Israel! Your sins have caused your downfall. Return to YHVH with humble words. Say to Him, “Oh You Who show compassion to the fatherless forgive our debt, be appeased. Instead of bulls and sacrifices, accept the praise from our lips. Assyria will not save us : no longer shall we look for horses nor ever again shall we say ‘Our gods’ to the work of our hands.”

I will heal their wavering and love them with all My heart for My anger has turned from them. I shall be like dew to Israel like the lily will he blossom. Like a cedar he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow and spread. His splendour will be like an olive tree. His fragrance, like a Lebanon cedar.

They will dwell in My shade again, they will flourish like the grain, they will blossom like a vine, and their fame will be like Lebanon wine. What would Ephraim do with idols, when it is I Who hear and make him prosper? I am like an ever-green cypress tree; all your fruitfulness comes from Me.

Who is wise enough to grasp all this? Who is discerning and will understand? Straight are the ways of YHVH : the just walk in them, but the sinners stumble.

Thursday, 7 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we all heard from the readings of the Scriptures the words of the Lord proclaiming yet again His love and generous compassion for each and every one of us. The Lord has shown us His generosity and kindness, even though we have often sinned against Him, disobeyed Him and refusing to listen to Him. He still loves us no matter what, but at the same time, is calling us to turn away from our path of sin and evil, and to embrace once again His ways, to return to Him with contrite heart filled with love for Him.

In our first reading today, we heard from the prophet Hosea, the words of the Lord reassuring His people of the love that He has always had for them, and how He would continue to love them and provide for them, as He had done in the past even though they had disobeyed and transgressed against Him. God highlighted the sins and wickedness that the people had done, in worshipping the pagan gods and idols, in persecuting the prophets and servants whom the Lord had sent to their midst to remind them and to guide them back to the right path. Despite all these, God still loved them and desired for them to be reconciled with Him.

However, as I mentioned earlier, the people’s sins and transgressions still had to be addressed and resolved. They could not continue to remain in sin, and as long as they still stubbornly remained on their path, they would have to suffer the consequences. If we remember what the prophet Hosea spoke in the other occasions throughout this week’s passages, in other parts of his book, then we should also remember that God also told His people of the consequences of their continued sins and transgressions, that they would be uprooted from the lands of their ancestors, their cities destroyed and them scattered throughout the nations.

Through what we have heard in our first reading today, we can see that God is indeed like a Father to all of us, His people. As as our Father, He certainly loves us all, just as He showed the Israelites through the words of the prophet Hosea and the actions He had done for their ancestors in the past. But at the same time, as a Father Who truly loves His children, He also does not want any of us His children to fall into the wrong path. Hence, as any fathers should rightly do, at times, there is a need for us to be disciplined and to understand and feel, to experience the consequences for our mistakes.

And God did not do so because He hated us. Instead, it was exactly because of that love He has for us that He has reached out to us with that same love. He loves us such that He wants us all to learn that in order for us to be truly worthy to be called His children and His people, then each and every one of us must do what we can, in our respective areas and capacities, in whatever callings and vocations we have in life, to be active in living up to our faith, and be exemplary in our every words, actions and deeds, in our interactions with one another so that everyone can indeed recognise God being present through us.

That is why all of us are called as we heard in our Gospel passage today, to be His faithful disciples and witnesses, like the ones whom the Lord Jesus Himself sent out before Him, to go forth to the many places that He Himself was to visit, and others, so that they might proclaim the Good News of truth to more and more of the people who have not yet known them. The Lord called on those disciples to do His will, and they went forth, dedicating themselves to their ministry. In the same manner, all of us are also called by God in the same way, to turn our backs against our old ways of sin, and to embrace wholeheartedly His path and righteousness.

The Lord has called on us all, His children and His people to follow Him and to reach out to others who have not yet known Him. And the best way for us to do it, is by living our lives faithfully to the best way we can do it. We have to lead good examples so that we may become inspiration for all others whom we encounter in life, or else, if we do not do so, or worse still, doing things that are contrary to our faith, then we may end up turning people away from God and preventing them from finding their way towards God’s salvation and grace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore strive to live good Christian lives from now on. Let us all no longer be swayed easily by the corruptions of sin, and by the many temptations of worldly desires. May God help us and strengthen us so that each and every one of us may draw ever closer to Him, and we may grow ever stronger in our faith, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 7 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Matthew 10 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

“And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.”