Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the love and mercy which God shows us all, His people, whom He had created out of love. This is one fact which all of us should not forget, especially as we live our Christian life modelling ourselves on Our God Himself, Who has loved all, despite everyone having betrayed Him, disobeyed Him and He was filled with love and compassion for us.

In the first reading today, we heard about the prophet Elijah chastising king Ahab of Israel for his very wicked act in disposing of Naboth, the owner of a vineyard, whose land was desired by the king. Both the king and his queen, Jezebel, plotted to frame Naboth wrongly of blasphemy against God, and had him stoned. The king was then free to seize the belongings of Naboth, especially his vineyard.

This action, including Ahab and Jezebel’s many other wicked acts, and especially their persecution of the faithful people of God and promotion of the worship of Baal and other pagan gods that led Israel to sin, made God very angry against Ahab and his whole family, that the prophet Elijah pronounced today, the judgment of God on his family. Ahab and his whole family would perish in a tragic manner.

The moment Ahab heard this, as the Scripture mentioned, he immediately tore his royal robes, took it off and wore sackcloth as a sign of mourning and repentance. And God told Elijah that He saw his sincerity at wanting to be forgiven, and He withdrew some of His anger against him and his family. However, He would still mete out the punishment against them despite being postponed to a later time.

In this, as we heard from the Psalm 50 being sung today, we heard of God’s loving mercy and desire to forgive us our sins should we desire to be reconciled with Him. That psalm was the psalm composed by David when he sinned against God and regretted of his sin, and indeed, he repented and turned himself wholeheartedly to God. He was forgiven, and indeed, God’s promise to him was held.

What is the difference between Ahab and David? In David’s case, he was truly repentant, and made every effort to turn himself back to God. However, in Ahab’s case, although he was repentant, but it was likely that he did so out of fear for God’s anger and punishment, as he had experienced before through the prophet Elijah. Yet, Ahab and his family continued to sin and refused to fully repent their wickedness.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people whom He taught, that it is important that as His followers, we must be loving and forgiving just as He has loved us. He taught us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute and hate us. This is true Christian love, and one that we should be imitating from the Lord, Who Himself forgave His enemies and those who persecuted Him right from the cross.

But of course repentance is important for one to be forgiven, just as we have seen earlier with the contrasting examples of king Ahab and king David. Yet, it is indeed, right for us as Christians, to be generous in our mercy and forgiveness, for the Lord, Our God, Himself generously give us His mercy, and always extends out His hand to welcome us back into His embrace.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Minh and his companions, the holy martyrs of Vietnam, who were persecuted over two centuries by the authorities, similar to how the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. They were hated, made to suffer, arrested, and forced to abandon their faith on the pain of death. However, the Christians and the missionaries, both foreign and local ones persevered in their faith and continued to spread the Good News despite the dangers involved.

The actions of the missionaries and their love for everyone, including even those who persecuted them became exemplary among many, and in truth, even more people turn to the faith and became Christians, even among those who used to persecute the faithful. Despite the growing persecution against the faithful at that time, local clergy including St. Philip Minh and foreign missionaries alike stood together with the faithful flock entrusted to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the courage and zeal, and the love shown by the holy martyrs of Vietnam should become inspiration to all of us, to live more and more faithfully day after day, and to turn ourselves to God and put Him at the centre of our lives. Let us all be forgiving and merciful, be compassionate in all of our actions and dealings with one another, that God’s love be truly shown in us, and many more would come to believe through us.

May the Lord bless us all, and may the holy martyrs of Vietnam intercede for us always, that all of us sinners still living in this world, may come to the loving embrace of God, and receive the fullness of God’s inheritance and grace. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 11 and 16

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.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences. Deliver me, o God, from the guilt of blood; and of Your justice, I shall sing aloud.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 21 : 17-29

Then YHVH spoke to Elijah of Tishbe, “Go down to meet Ahab, king of Israel, in Samaria. He is taking possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Say to him : ‘Have you killed and have taken possession at the same time?’ Then give him this word of Mine : ‘Dogs shall lick your blood in the very place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth.’”

Ahab then said to Elijah, “Who better than my enemy, could find me here and now!” Elijah answered, “I have come to you because you have done what YHVH abhors. This is YHVH’s word : ‘I will bring disgrace on you. I will sweep you away and cut off every male of your family, from the lowliest to the greatest. Your family will disappear like the families of Jeroboam and Baasa, because you have offended Me and have dragged Israel into sin.’”

“There is another word of YHVH to Jezebel : ‘The dogs shall devour Jezebel within the territory of Jezreel.’ If anyone of Ahab’s line dies in the city, he shall be devoured by dogs; if in the green country, the birds of the air shall feed on him.”

There was no one like Ahab, urged by his wife, Jezebel, in doing what YHVH abhorred. He did horrible things and ran after unclean idols just as the Amorites had done, from whom YHVH had taken the land to give it to Israel. On hearing these words, Ahab tore his clothes and put on sackcloth. He fasted as he lay in sackcloth and moved around despondently.

Then YHVH said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you see how Ahab has humbled himself? Because of this I will not bring about the disaster during his reign; during his son’s reign disgrace will fall on his family.”