Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue with the exhortation of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, as he tackled on the issue of the resurrection from the dead, both of the Lord’s own glorious Resurrection and also the belief that all the faithful would share in this resurrection after their death. Some segments of the community of believers disagreed with this and found it hard to believe in the resurrection.

That was why St. Paul went into great detail and with effort trying to explain the significance of resurrection and how it will truly happen for all the faithful, as the consequences of Christ’s sacrifice and death on the Cross, and through the revelation of the words of truth and the Holy Spirit that had been passed down to them and to the Church. This was made particularly against those who argued that there was no life after death.

Regardless of the reason why they did not believe in the resurrection after death, or any life after death, this refusal to believe in such a fact usually leads to the attitude of excesses and overindulging in life, as one would then believe that the earthly life was the only thing they had and nothing else, and this led one to sin and to be tempted away from the path of righteousness and into wickedness and evil, excesses and indulgence in life and in worldly pleasures.

The Lord has called us all to believe in Him and to reject these false ways and the desire to seek worldly pleasures in life. That is why He has called those Apostles and disciples through whom He has revealed His truth, and sowed the seeds of faith among innumerable people throughout history, through the Church. And this is aptly summarised in our Gospel passage today by the parable of the sower, in which the Lord sowed in the hearts of His faithful, the seeds of His faith.

This very well-known parable tells us of the seeds that is sowed by the sower, representing the Lord Himself, that fell on different places and had completely different outcomes depending on where they had landed, mainly because of the varying conditions experienced by the seeds in those places. The Lord used this parable to explain and convey His intentions because many among the people of the time were farmers, and many others would have also understood the terms used.

The seeds represent God’s truth and words, the faith which He has sowed, into the world, and which we have received. But we see how the seeds that fell on the roadside did not even have a chance to germinate and grow, as they were snatched and eaten up by the birds of the air. And this is how those who have rejected the words of God and His truth, and all these were snatched away from them, and they had nothing in them, no faith and no salvation.

Meanwhile, as we heard, those seeds that fell on the rocky ground germinated and grew, but was unable to grow deep and strong roots to keep themselves alive and in good health. This represents those who have indeed received the word of God, but put it aside and did not take it seriously, treating it without honour and are instead being busy with other things in life, and hence, the truth of God failed to take root in their lives, and did not remain in them.

And those seeds that fell on the soil where there were lots of thorns and bushes, weeds and other competitor plants, while the seeds did germinate and grow well, but they failed to grow properly and eventually perished because the budding plants were choked by those weeds and rivals that grew all around them. These represent those who did receive the truth of God, and believed, and yet, allowed temptations to get the better of them, and failed in their faith.

Only those seeds that fell on the rich soil which can germinate and grow well, healthy and good that they bore very rich fruits, many times fold of what had been planted in the first place. Those seeds were the only ones that were successful, and thus, that is what is the fate of those who have received the word of God, His truth, embraced them, believed wholeheartedly, and did what they could to provide the best and most optimum condition for the growth of their faith.

And how do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by practicing our faith sincerely, walking with faith and devotion, by showing love in each and every moments of our lives following the examples that the Lord Himself had shown us, and which His disciples had also showed in their own lives and in their dedication in service to Him. The Lord had revealed to us His love, and His truth, and all of these are things that we should keep in mind as we progress forward in life.

As long as we allow ourselves be tempted and swayed by worldly pleasures and all sorts of temptations in life, it is likely going to be difficult for us to grow in faith and to grow in our love and devotion for God, just as those seeds that fell on the wrong places failed to grow and perish, because they did not have the right and optimum conditions to grow well in. This is also why, we should look upon the life and examples set by St. Januarius, the holy martyr and Bishop of Beneventum or Benevento in southern Italy and the patron saint of the Italian city of Naples, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Januarius, also known in Italian as San Gennaro, was a popular saint who was remembered chiefly for the miraculous occasion of the liquefaction of the relic of his blood which happens on his feast days and on some special occasions. He was born into an influential noble family and eventually rose to become Bishop of Naples and in some accounts also the Bishop of Benevento, both in southern parts of Italy.

This happened during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous as the Emperor during whose reign the last great systematic persecutions against Christians were carried out, causing many martyrs and countless members of the faithful to suffer from those persecutions. It was told that St. Januarius was a dedicated bishop, who committed himself to the care of his flock, and despite the terrible persecutions that grew worse each day, he hid many of his flock from their persecutors during those dark years.

It was not long that St. Januarius himself was arrested, while in the midst of his visit to the Christian convicts in prison, and he together with some other Christians were martyred, in some accounts by beheading. Thus, this faithful bishop and committed servant of God, who loved both God and his fellow brothers and sisters, chose to remain faithful to the very end, and even suffer rather than to betray his faith in God.

And the actions showed by St. Januarius ought to inspire us, for despite the obvious risks that he had to take in reaching out to his suffering flock, he did so nonetheless, caring for their needs, visiting those in prison and endangering himself while doing so, as a sign of his genuine love and therefore, authentic and genuine Christian faith. This is what we are also called to do, brothers and sisters, to be genuine as Christians in our way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the memory of St. Januarius today, let us all discern carefully what it is that we can do in our daily lives in loving God, through our dedication and faith, through our righteous life, and in our love for our fellow brethren, that each and every one of us truly provide the best condition for our faith to grow, that these seeds of faith we have received from God may grow well, and bear rich and bountiful fruits in the end, that is the crown of glory and eternal life with God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives with faith from now on. May He give us the courage to walk in His presence day by day, with ever greater devotion and commitment, to be true to our faith in all things. St. Januarius, holy servant of God and martyr of the faith, pray for us all! Amen.

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 8 : 4-15

At that time, as a great crowd gathered, and people came to Jesus from every town, He began teaching them with a story : “The sower went out to sow the seed. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along the way, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate it up.”

“Some seed fell on rocky ground; and no sooner had it come up than it withered, because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it. But some seed fell on good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundred times as much!” And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, if you have ears to hear!”

The disciples asked Him, “What does this story mean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to others it is given in the form of stories, or parables, so that, seeing, they may not perceive; and hearing, they may not understand.”

“Now, this is the point of the parable : The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are people who hear it; but immediately, the devil comes and takes the word from their minds, for he does not want them to believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are people who receive the word with joy; but they have no root; they believe for a while, and give way in time of trial.”

“Among the thorns are people who hear the word, but, as they go their way, they are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures of life; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil, instead, are people who receive the word, and keep it, in a gentle and generous mind, and, persevering patiently, they bear fruit.”

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 55 : 10, 11-12, 13-14

My enemies turn back when I call on You for help; now I know, that God is for me.

In God, Whose word I praise; in God I trust, without fear. What can mortals do against me?

I am bound to You by vows, o God; I shall offer my thanksgiving. For You have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling; that I might walk in God’s presence, in the light of the living.

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

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

1 Corinthians 15 : 35-37, 42-49

Some of you will ask : How will the dead be raised? With what kind of body will they come? You fools! What you sow cannot sprout unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body of the future plant, but a bare grain of wheat or any other seed.

It is the same with the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in decomposition; it will be raised never more to die. It is sown in humiliation, and it will be raised for glory. It is buried in weakness, but the resurrection shall be with power. When buried, it is a natural body, but it will be raised as a spiritual body. For there shall be a spiritual body, as there is, at present, a living body. Scripture says that Adam, the first man, became a living being; but the last Adam has become a life-giving Spirit.

The Spirit does not appear first, but the natural life, and afterward comes the Spirit. The first man comes from the earth and is earthly, while the second One comes from heaven. As it was with the earthly one, so is it with the earthly people. As it is with Christ, so with the heavenly. This is why, after bearing the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the Heavenly One.

Thursday, 19 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Lord through the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of the need for us all to imitate Him in just how forgiving and merciful He is towards each and every one of us. For despite all of our sins and disobedience, our wickedness and rebelliousness, God still loves all of us very dearly ever since He created us. And as a loving Father, He will always stand by us and provide for us.

God will always be merciful and be ready to welcome us back to His presence, but all of these time, it is us who often make things difficult by being stubborn and refusing to accept God’s love and mercy because we are so proud and filled with ego, thinking that we know it better and that we could not have been wrong or mistaken. We often accuse others instead of being wrong or less perfect than we are and we blame them before we blame ourselves.

That is what we have heard especially in our Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus during a dinner in the house of a Pharisee named Simon, was anointed by a woman who was known in the town for her sinful reputation. When that woman knelt before the Lord and humbled herself before everyone, pouring expensive perfume over His feet and anointed it, and wiped it dry with her tears and hair, the Pharisees who were there looked down on her and criticised both the Lord and the woman.

They looked down on the woman and condemned her as a sinner while failing to realise just how they themselves were sinners much like her. And while they thought that the woman was immoral, sinful and less worthy than them in the eyes of God, they did not realise that their own actions and attitudes towards their own faith and their responsibility as those who have been entrusted with the guardianship of the people of God were equally if not more lacking than that of the woman.

It is this attitude that is always preventing us all from finding God’s forgiveness and mercy. The stubbornness in our hearts and minds, our ego and pride close the doors of our heart to the truth, and this causes us all to continue to live in sin and refusing God’s forgiveness. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law often insisted on their superior position and piety as compared to others, when in reality they were themselves still struggling with sin.

It often takes a lot of effort to be like the woman, being looked down upon, humiliated, losing one’s pride and ego, face and status totally, and yet, receiving the fullness of God’s forgiveness, mercy and ultimately love and grace. That was what the Lord made clear before all those who heard and saw Him and the sinful woman, that the woman’s faith and dedication have saved her and her sins have been forgiven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day therefore each and every one of us are reminded to look deep within ourselves and reflect, whether we have been like that of the sinful woman or like that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Have we opened our hearts and minds to God or have we instead closed them tight up against Him because of our ego and pride? We need to examine our hearts and minds and think how we should go forward in life from this.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Januarius, a renowned bishop and martyr venerated especially in the region of Benevento in southern Italy, where he was bishop during the years of terrible persecution of Christians. He was also venerated in Naples and the relic of his blood miraculously liquefies every time his feast day is celebrated annually, that is this day. St. Januarius was remembered especially for his dedication to God and to the flock entrusted to his care.

St. Januarius remained strong in his faith and in his dedication even amidst the great persecution which eventually led to his arrest, suffering and finally martyrdom. And this is just possible if St. Januarius truly had great and genuine faith in God, a heart that is centred and focused on God, and by not letting the ego and pride in his heart and mind to be distractions that kept him from God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Januarius, and be ever better disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ from now on? Are we able to humble ourselves enough like that of the sinful woman, knowing just how sinful we are, no matter who have more or less sins, but that all of us need God to forgive us and to heal us from this terrible affliction of sin?

Let us all reflect on this and think of how we can better live our lives from now on, with renewed faith and commitment towards God, and with hearts that are contrite before God, always constantly seeking forgiveness for the multitudes of our sins and with the desire to sin no more and live righteously before God. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 19 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 7 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 19 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 110 : 7-8, 9, 10

The works of His hands are faithful and just, trustworthy are all His precepts, ordained to last forever, bearers of truth and uprightness.

He has sent His people deliverance and made with them a Covenant forever. His Holy Name is to be revered!

The fear of YHVH is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are those who live by His precepts. To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Thursday, 19 September 2019 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

1 Timothy 4 : 12-16

Let no one reproach you on account of your youth. Be a model to the believers, in the way you speak and act, in your love, your faith and purity of life. Devote yourself to reading, preaching and teaching, until I come.

Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on you with prophetic words, when the elders laid their hands upon you. Think about it, and practice it, so that your progress may be seen by all. Take heed of yourself, and attend to your teaching. Be steadfast in doing this, and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture the difficulties and challenges that we all will encounter on our way as we live out our lives in faith in the Lord. It is important for us to take note that to have faith in the Lord, it is likely for us to encounter challenges, opposition, ridicule, rejection and bad treatment, even from those whom we considered to be good friends and relatives.

It will not be an easy life for us if we decide to walk the Lord’s path and follow Him to His salvation. Those who think that becoming the disciples of the Lord Jesus is easy will find that they are mistaken. This is because to become a member of God’s Church, as His disciples and children, it is necessary for us to make sacrifices and to let go of certain things that prevent us from achieving what God seeks from us to be saved

And this is the attitude of rejecting oneself, one’s own ego, needs, desires and all the temptations of the flesh, the temptation of worldly glory and fame, and the temptation to be ignorant and exclusive towards the sufferings of the world around us, our brethren who need our help. If we are able to accomplish all these, then we are indeed one step closer to be good and devoted disciples of our Lord.

God Himself mentioned through the parable of the dishonest and wicked steward, who cheated his master of his possessions, and when he was discovered and fired from his position, he used his power to safeguard himself, by using his trickery to cheat out of his master’s debts owned by several people, where he gained favour by reducing those debts and so, while he lost his job, he hoped that those whom he had helped would help him in return.

That is the way of the world, the way of the wicked, the way of those who serve themselves and are servants of money and possessions, and not servants and followers of the Lord. This is what the Lord mentioned, when He said that those who follow one master will not be able to obey another master, for either he will despise one and love the other, or vice versa.

In that way therefore, to reinforce what I have mentioned earlier on, that all those who want to follow the Lord faithfully shall suffer and face numerous and various challenges and obstacles on their way, that is their lives. There are many differences between the way and customs of this world as compared to the ways taught to us by our Lord, that is faith, righteousness, justice and love. The world on the other hand, prioritises selfish desires, money and pleasures of the flesh.

It is not necessary that the two ways should clash with each other, but what is to be expected is that it is inevitable that conflicts between the two will arise in time, as we will be made to choose between our Lord and His ways, and with the world and its ways. There will be moment when the difficult choice will be presented to us, or it might even have happened to us in the past, when we have no choice but to choose between appeasing the world and displeasing the Lord, or appeasing the Lord but displeasing the world.

Do not be surprised that one day people will scold us, rebuke us, reject us and ostracise us because we decide to do what is right for the Lord but considered wrong in the eyes and perception of the world. For example, if we have been aware of the state of the world so far, we would already know how far the culture of death is spreading throughout the world and into all echelons of society. And it is worrying indeed how our faith and the Church are under increasing pressure to give up our struggle and fight in the defence of the faith.

For instance, many people around the world, and even regretfully even counting among those who are in the Church, who believe that committing something as heinous and unthinkable as abortion and euthanasia, and many other actions that trample on the sanctity and dignity of life is not wrong or considered morally acceptable to do so. And there are many of those who pushed and lobbied for the acceptance of such sinful things, and claim that they are representing and defending our human rights to be able to do as we please with our bodies and with ourselves.

But they did not realise that such abominations are wicked and evil in the sight of not only men, but in the sight of God as well. Life is sacred and holy, no matter under what circumstances it is. Instead of honouring and protecting life in all the means they are able to contribute, we mankind instead strive to destroy them, whenever we think of them as obstacles to our own selfish desires and wants.

Indeed, the pressure is great for many of us to accept and acknowledge the legality of such vileness, but as those who truly believe in the Lord, if we really are faithful to the Lord, then all of us should persist in our resistance against such injustice and wickedness committed against innocent lives. Let us all not ignore or shy away or be afraid from standing up for our faith, as it is better for us to suffer and be rejected, and yet receive God’s approval and salvation, rather than to be accepted by the world but we lose the grace and favour of our Lord.

Let us all then reflect on the lives of the holy saints and martyrs whose feast we are celebrating today, the martyr saints of Korea. There were many of them, and all of them had had different lives and came from different periods of time spanning about two centuries, but they all share one thing in common, that is they gave their lives up in the defence of their faith, or that they were martyred and killed on the frontline of their works as the servants of the Lord and His Church.

Today there are many Christians, our brethren in faith in Korea, and the numbers are continuing to increase rapidly over the years. But if we look at the current situation, in comparison with how it was in the past and what it meant to evangelise to the people of Korea about the Lord Jesus, then we certainly will find it difficult to understand the kind of challenges and sufferings these faithful servants of the Lord and the faithful encountered there.

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first indigenous Korean who was ordained a priest of the Church, and he and many of his other Korean brethren who have believed in the Lord encountered great persecutions by the government of Korea at the time, which was intensely against the Faith and persecuted these people whom they considered as traitors to their nation.

And counted among these martyrs were also the missionaries from different countries, but many came from France as part of the missionaries to Asia. Among them were St. Laurent Imbert, the Vicar Apostolic of Korea, one of the first bishops of Korea, and St. Jacques Chastan with many other priests and missionaries who braved rejection, cultural and linguistic barriers, and even the threat and real risk of death to bring the Lord Jesus and His truth to the people who have yet to hear of Him.

And they did their works faithfully, carrying out all the missions which had been entrusted to them without worry or fear. And when many of the faithful were under the threat of death and suffering, and the government was offering an exchange, allowing the faithful to live and to go unpunished if the missionaries and the leaders gave themselves up, St. Laurent Imbert as the bishop of the faithful gave himself up willingly, saying in his now famous words, which he took from the words of Jesus, that ‘the good shepherd lay down his life for his sheep.’

He and the other missionaries could have continued to hide themselves or to run away and abandon their mission, and in the process saving their lives, but they did not do so, because they know that if they try to preserve themselves and to put themselves first before the needs of others, as the world advocated them to do, then they would not preserve their lives in the world that is to come.

Remember that Jesus Himself said that those who tried to preserve their lives on earth would lose them, and those who lost their lives for God’s sake, in the defence of their faith would gain eternal life? This is precisely what it meant, and all of us ought to heed it as well and learn our lesson from what we have talked about on this day, or else we risk falling into sin and darkness yet again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that suffering is a part of our faith, and rather than fearing it or running away from it, why not we embrace it with full faith and full trust in the Lord, that He will be with us through it all? Running away from the problem does not resolve it, and indeed made the matter even worse. Instead, we really should face it with faith and trust in the Lord, and make a solid stand for our faith and for what we truly believe in.

May Almighty God bless us all and keep us always in His grace, and may we all learn to put our trust in Him and know that He will be with us as long as we are faithful to Him, and He will not let harm that lasts to come to us. Let us all realise that at the end of the difficulties and the sufferings we are to endure as the followers of our God are our crosses that we carry together with us, that in the end, just as our Lord is risen in glory, we too may rise with Him together into the glory of eternal life. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He drove out demons from a young boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee; but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples.

And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.”

Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One who sent Me.”