Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memorial of Mary, Our Lady, Help of Christians, and the Lady of Sheshan, named after the famous Sheshan Basilica in Shanghai, China. On this day, in particular, we remember all those brothers and sisters of ours, who are currently facing intense persecution and difficult time, as they struggle to remain true to their faith in God.

That is why, the Church has designated this day, true to the memorial I just mentioned, as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. We are praying on behalf of our brethren in faith, who may be undergoing and are indeed, for many among them, facing persecution and challenges just because they identify themselves as Christians, that is as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and take Him as their Lord and Saviour.

In China today, especially in recent years, there had been increasing intolerance towards Christians in particular, and many of the faithful find it more and more difficult to remain true to their faith. I am sure many of us have heard news of how crosses were forcibly removed from churches, and restrictions put in place on Christian worship, and even, young children were barred from attending the Holy Mass or going to Church.

In all these, we can see how the persecution of Christians that once happened during its early days came back once again, especially in China, but in truth, is happening in many other parts of the world, such as in the Middle East, Africa, in the Western world, the Americas, and even recently in the Philippines, being a Christian, and especially for priests, it can be very challenging and a matter of life or death.

And when I speak about persecution and challenges, it is not just about persecution with lions and gladiators, or with swords and whips and lances, as how it was in the Ancient Roman times. Indeed, such kind of persecutions still exist, but nowadays, persecution exist in many more ways than what we think persecution is truly about. Persecution happened in many areas, in the political world, in the society and the community, through the attacks on Christian values and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we should spend some time, to think about these suffering brethren of ours, and pray for them, that God will protect them and defend them from their enemies, all the forces of darkness assembled against them. And then, we should also realise just how fortunate we may be, if we have not faced a similar kind of persecution and challenge as these brethren of ours had experienced.

Let us all do our best therefore, to live our lives as true Christians, dedicated and devoted to the Lord, that we show love and charity in our actions, towards all those who are around us. However, most importantly, in order to show our true faith, we cannot forget, that the most important virtue is indeed, love, and love that is unconditional and generous, as the Lord Himself had done.

It is easy for us to be angry at our enemies and to all those who hate us and persecute us. However, if we become angry at them, hate them and strike back at them, then are we not just as evil and wicked as our enemies had been wicked? If the Lord Jesus Himself had forgiven those who condemned Him to death and crucified Him from the cross, and prayed for them? Should we not do the same then?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all be exemplary in our faith, that we become inspiration for one another, and also even strength for those who are being persecuted for their faith, by standing up for the Lord’s sake and living our lives with faith. Let us all pray for our brethren, that God will be with them, and also with all of us, that together, we may in the end, enjoy forever the eternal grace and glory of heaven, having suffered for His sake. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Mark 9 : 41-50

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear His Name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.”

“If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell.”

“And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them.”

“Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Psalm 48 : 14-15ab, 15cde-16, 17-18, 19-20

This is the fate of people trusting themselves, the future of those who rely on their strength. Like sheep led to the grave, they have death, as their shepherd and ruler.

Quickly, their form will be consumed in the world of the dead, which is their home. But God will rescue my soul from the grave by receiving me unto Himself.

Fear not, when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great; for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

James 5 : 1-6

So, now, for what concerns the rich, cry and weep, for the misfortunes that are coming upon you. Your riches are rotting, and your clothes, eaten up by the moths. Your silver and gold have rusted, and their rust grows into a witness against you. It will consume your flesh, like fire, for having piled up riches, in these, the last days.

You deceived the workers who harvested your fields, but, now, their wages cry out to the heavens. The reapers’ complaints have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You lived in luxury and pleasure in this world, thus, fattening yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have easily condemned, and killed the innocent since they offered no resistance.

Saturday, 9 July 2016 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyr Saints of China, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the theme of today’s readings are clear, and they all spoke to us, encouraging us and empowering us to do more for the sake of the Lord and His Church, that is to fulfil our calling and mission as those whom God has chosen out of the people in the whole world as those called Christians.

We may think that being a Christian is easy, but we are in fact mistaken if we think in such a manner. If we think that being a Christian is easy and does not require much effort, that is because we ourselves have not done what is expected of us as Christians, as those who truly heard the call of God, understood His laws and precepts, and followed Him with all of our heart’s might.

As it was in Jesus’ time, opposition and challenges are likely to await all of us if we follow the path of the Lord faithfully. Many of the people to whom Jesus was sent to, was adamant in their refusal to obey and listen to the words which the Lord had revealed to them through Jesus His Son. And they persecuted Him and His followers, trying to undermine them and even harm them in all opportunities given to them. The same or more can be expected of us as well.

But should we all then be afraid or be hesitant in answering God’s call? Shall we all be passive and no longer respond to God’s call? No, that is exactly what we should not do at all. To reject God’s calling out of fear and indecisiveness, as well as the desire to preserve ourselves, avoiding danger and trouble is selfishness, and selfishness has no place before God.

In the first reading today, we heard how the prophet Isaiah was called by God to be His servant and to be His messenger to the people of the kingdom of Judah, preaching to them the truth of His anger at their sins, and what they should be doing to repent from their sins and their wickedness, that they might be saved. Such a task was not easy, and indeed, it would lead to persecution and many troubles for him, as it was not easy to turn the heart of the people who had been accustomed to their sinful ways.

But God calmed him down and gave him the courage to do so. In the vision that he saw, he saw the great glory of God which surpasses everything else. He saw the throne of God in heaven, and the glory of the Angels and all that essentially will be the promise of his salvation and faith in God. And God purified him and made him worthy to be His servant through the blazing fire of the Temple of God in heaven, and from that moment on, he spoke only the truth and the will of God.

And we knew how the prophet Isaiah spoke many things about God, and from him we knew the hope of our salvation, as he also spoke about Christ our Lord, the One Who was promised to bring us out of our sufferings and misery, to bring us into the eternal life which has been promised to all those who are faithful to God. And Isaiah spoke of all this, while berating the people for their sins, even the king of Judea, Ahaz, without fear for his life.

Jesus told His disciples in the Gospel passage today, that we must not be afraid of the one who is only able to harm the body, that is Satan, all of his allies and all of the forces of the world. Instead, we must be wary and fear the One Who is able to harm the eternal soul, that is the Lord our God, our great Judge, He Who will judge all the peoples without exception, on their eternal fate.

And if we are faithful to Him, God will take care of us all, as He loved us all as His beloved children. And Jesus represented this with how much God cared for even the animals and the plants we can find around us, and how much more He therefore would love us and care for us, as we are the most beloved of all His creations? Therefore we do not need to worry, since worry will only distract us from the true goal, that is to be with our God.

Let us all draw the example from the holy martyrs and saints whose feast we celebrate on this day. St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many fellow compatriots in faith all have tasted great sufferings and pains in their lives as Christians. They were all together beatified and later were canonised as saints, as the Holy Martyr Saints of China. They have endured challenges and persecution, torture and ridicule, and even had to bare their lives before their accusers, all those who resented and rejected the one true Faith.

The Faith has been brought to China by the brave and courageous missionaries who braved the long journey from Europe to Asia, the hostile conditions on the way and the opposition they faced during their journeys. And when they arrived in China, they found a sophisticated and cultured people who have not yet heard of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. And thus, they began to preach about Him to them, and slowly but gradually there were more and more who believed and the Church there steadily grew.

But the rulers and the officials viewed the Church and its activities in China with suspicion if not with open contempt and disdain. And they even openly tried to discourage the faith, just as how it had been under the early and middle years of the Roman Empire, when many of the faithful were persecuted and even killed for the reason of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Yet, despite all these, the courageous holy servants of God did not give up and persevered on, continuing to devote themselves to God and committing themselves to the mission which had been entrusted to them. And even when they were cornered and offers were made to them to abandon their faith and reject the Lord in exchange for safety and assurance that they would be treated well from then on, they did not do so.

They remained true to the Lord and continued to defend their faith and their Lord to the very end. And God rewarded them with the glory of Heaven, which He had promised to all those who remain true to Him and keep their faith even though they had been pressured to do otherwise. God does not abandon those who have been faithful to Him, but He gave them the joy of His presence and grace.

Let us all heed the examples of these holy saints, and commit ourselves anew to God. Let us no longer be hesitant but instead be filled with courage for all of us as Christians have been called as the prophet Isaiah had once been called, to be the beacons of light to all the nations, bringing forth the word, the will and the truth of God to all the nations. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 9 July 2016 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyr Saints of China, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 10 : 24-33

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

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered, and 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 only 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 no less worthy 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 2016 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyr Saints of China, Martyrs (Psalm)

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

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

The Lord reigns, robed in majesty; the Lord is girded with strength.

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

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