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.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 99 : 2, 3, 4, 5

Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God; He created us and we are His people, the sheep of His fold.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and bless His Name.

For the Lord is good; His love lasts forever and His faithfulness through all generations.

Thursday, 24 November 2022 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 18 : 1-2, 21-23 and Revelations 19 : 1-3, 9a

After this I saw another Angel coming down from heaven. So great was his authority that the whole earth was lit up with his glory. In a strong voice he cried out : “Fallen is Babylon the great! Fallen! She has become a haunt of demons, a lodge for every unclean spirit, a nest for any filthy and disgusting bird.”

A powerful Angel picked up a boulder the size od a large millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “With such violence will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down, never again to be seen. Never again will tunes of harpists, minstrels, trumpeters and flutists be heard in you. Never again will an artisan of any trade be found in you. Never again will the noise of the mill be heard.”

“Never again will the light of a lamp shine in you. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never again be heard in you. Because your traders were the world’s great and you led the nations astray by your magic spell.”

After this I heard what sounded like the loud singing of a great assembly in heaven : “Alleluia! Salvation, glory and might belong to our God, for His judgments are true and just. He has condemned the great harlot who corrupted the world with her adultery. He has avenged His servants’ blood shed by her hand in harlotry.” Once more they sang : “Alleluia! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever!”

Then the Angel told me, “Write : Happy are those invited to the wedding of the Lamb.”

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture which we heard about the suffering of the faithful and the resurrection from the dead into eternal glory of heaven. And this is apt considering that today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs who perished during the harsh persecutions against Christians in Vietnam.

In the first reading today, we heard about the moment from the Book of the Revelations of St. John the Apostle, when at the end of time, holy witnesses of God came into the world to preach the truth about God, and many would not listen to the words that they said in their midst. Those witnesses were given power and authority to oppose those who were against them until the time when the great enemy, the devil is to rise up and destroy those faithful servants of God at the end of their ministries.

The wicked people rejoiced at the death of the two servants of God, and continued to walk in sin, not repenting from those sins that they have committed. But God will not abandon those who have been faithful to Him, and after three days, in the same manner as He Himself has risen from the dead, He raised the dead servants into glory, and they rose to heaven at the plain sight of those who had rejected and persecuted them.

This is related to what has happened throughout the history of the Church, of the challenges and persecutions that occur in various parts of the world, and at different periods and times in the history of the Church, when the faithful were subjected to varying persecutions and oppressions, be it from individuals, or from state governments and holders of power and authority.

Many missionaries and followers of Christ have encountered difficulties and challenges, rejections and oppositions throughout their ministries in the attempt and effort to preach the truth and the word of God among the people who have not yet heard of them. They had to suffer prison, torture, indignation, and even death just because of their determination and commitment to remain faithful to the Lord.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs as mentioned, celebrating the memory of those who have perished through the many years of persecution of Christians in the land of Vietnam. There are both missionaries and local Christians amidst these martyrs, whose life and stories spanned over a century of the history of the early years of Christian faith in Vietnam.

At that time, the state government of Vietnam viewed the Christian faith with great suspicion, and suspected the missionaries to be agents of Western influence and of their effort to colonise their country. As a result, they placed strict regulations and restrictions on the propagation of the Christian faith among the local population, and persecuted the Christian communities harshly.

Yet, the Christian communities continued to grow, and many more local populace converted to the faith despite the strong oppression and persecution by the government. That is because the Christian faithful held fast to the promise that God has made in today’s Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus reiterated what He meant by the resurrection of the dead, when those faithful departed will be raised once again to life, to enjoy forever the eternal glory with God.

The saints and martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions resisted the sufferings and the many temptations through which the enemies of the Lord wanted to lead the Christian faithful to abandon their faith. Putting their trust completely in God, they did not fear the pain of death and chose rather suffering and death rather than to abandon their hard-won faith and commitment to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to reflect on our own lives, on our actions in life thus far on whether we have been truly faithful to God in everything, or whether we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and to be intimidated to give up our faith and the Christian way of living. We need to reflect on this, so that we may be able to find our way to the Lord, and follow in the footsteps of the holy martyrs.

Let us all ask for the intercessions of the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, that we may continue to strive to reach righteousness in God, to be able to courageously stand up for our faith amidst trials and tribulations we face. May the Lord be with us always, and may He be our guide in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.'”

“Now, there were seven brothers; the first married a wife, but he died without children; and the second and the third took the wife; in fact, all seven died leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when He called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare to ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 143 : 1, 2, 9-10

Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.

My loving God, my Fortress; my Protector and Deliverer, my Shield where I take refuge, Who conquers nations and subjects them to my rule.

I will sing a new song to You, o God, I will make music on the ten-stringed harp, for You Who give victory to kings and deliver David, Your servant.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 11 : 4-12

These are the two olive trees and the two lamps which are before the Lord of the earth. If anyone intends to harm them, fire will come out of their mouths to devour their enemies : this is how whoever intends to harm them will perish. They have the power to close the sky and hold back the rain during the time of their prophetic mission; they also have the power to change water into blood, and punish the earth with a thousand plagues, any time they wish.

But when My witnesses have fulfilled their mission, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war upon them, and will conquer and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie in the square of the Great City which the believers figuratively call Sodom or Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. And their dead bodies will be exposed for three days and a half to people of all tribes, races, languages and nations who will be ordered not to have them buried.

Then the inhabitants of the earth will rejoice, congratulate one another and exchange gifts among themselves because these two prophets were a torment to them. But after those three and a half days, a Spirit of life coming from God entered them. They them stood up, and those who looked at them were seized with great fear. A loud voice from heaven called them, “Come up here.” So they went up to heaven in the midst of the clouds in the sight of their enemies.

Thursday, 24 November 2016 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of the faithful servants of God who worked hard to spread the Good News and the faith in the region now known as Vietnam. One of them was St. Andrew Dung-Lac, one the first local Vietnamese priests who with many of his fellow Christians, missionaries and priests were put to death and endured great sufferings for their faith in God.

At that time, the regime of the Vietnamese Empire was led by staunchly anti-Christian party, who viewed the faith with an extreme suspicion and dislike, and they were mistakenly seen as collaborators to the foreign forces, and therefore gained the instant opposition from those who were in power. The missionaries and those who helped them were facing great difficulties and were threatened with suffering and even death.

Yet, they did not fear and neither did they back down from the mission which had been presented to them, which is the conversion of souls and redemption of sinners, by the means of evangelisation. And by their hard work and dedication, they had gained many converts to the faith, who themselves had to endure great persecutions and difficulties, as the authorities tried very hard to stamp out the growing Christian community.

And from the local communities rose even more devoted people who took up the cross and the calling of the Lord, joining the sacred order of priesthood as St. Andrew Dung-Lac had done. Many others helped the work of evangelisation in various ways, as priests or religious or the laity. The faith grew and spread quickly, and many more souls were saved, but this brought even greater persecution against them.

And thus that was how many of these faithful were forced to choose between life and death, in either continuing to serve the Lord faithfully and die or to recant their faith and reject their Lord and be allowed to live. Many of the faithful chose to be faithful and remained true to their Lord and Master despite all the threats made against them. And thus they met their end with courage and joy in martyrdom, knowing that their reward in God is great at the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the examples of the Vietnamese Martyrs of the Faith, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in faith, the religious, priests and missionaries and even the faithful among the laity should become inspiration for each and every one of us Christians living today, as the reality of persecution and opposition by the world and all those opposed to our salvation in God is indeed true and real.

Yes, even today many of our brethren in faith still suffer the daily effects of rejection, ridicule and persecution by the world, by worldly authorities and all those who do not seek to see us be saved by the Lord Jesus, and many even had to risk their lives in practicing their faith, and often have to practice their faith secretly under the pain of death, and yet they often face the challenges with courage and commitment to God.

We should help one another, brethren, supporting those who are in need of our help. We should pray for one another, and ask the Lord to help and guide us through these turbulent and uncertain times. We should not fear or give in to the demands from those whose intent is our destruction, as we have to hold fast to the promise God made to all those who remain true and faithful to Him, that to them, He will grant the true joy of having everlasting life with Him.

And God is forever faithful and completely trustworthy, brothers and sisters in Christ, unlike us mankind who can be unreliable and untrustworthy. We can put our trust in God without fear or doubt. Now, what we need to do is, look at our own respective lives, look at our actions and deeds, and then think of what we can do and contribute in order to bring ourselves closer to God, fulfilling His will and desires.

May the Lord help and guide us, and may through the intercessions of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, the holy Vietnamese martyrs, we may grow ever more committed in living our lives filled with faith, and thus in the end of the days, we are worthy to share with them the eternal kingship and the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He comes again as King to rule over us forevermore. May God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 24 November 2016 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Luke 21 : 20-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that the time has come when it will be reduced to a wasteland. If you are in Judea, flee to the mountains! If you are in Jerusalem, leave! If you are outside the city, do not enter it!”

“For these will be the days of its punishment, and all that was announced in the Scriptures will be fulfilled. How hard will it be for pregnant women, and for mothers with babies at the breast! For a great calamity will come upon the land, and wrath upon this people. They will be put to death by the sword, or taken as slaves to other nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled upon by the pagans, until the time of the pagans is fulfilled.”

“Then there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, perplexed when they hear the roaring of the sea and its waves. People will faint with fear at the mere thought of what is to come upon the world, for the forces of the universe will be shaken. Then, at that time, they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

“So, when you see things begin to happen, stand erect and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is drawing near.”