Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that each and every one of us are going to have to answer for every one of our actions and deeds, as well as our lack of action and work in life, at the end of time, when the Lord will judge each and every one of us. All of us must remember this so that we may always be careful and vigilant in how we live our lives each day, so that we do not end up walking down the wrong path, and that we may continue to be faithful to God in all things, refusing the temptations to disobey God and to sin against Him.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the words of the Lord calling on all of His people to repent from their sins, telling them to turn away from the path of wickedness and evil, as He told all of them of what they were all expected to do as His people, in doing what is right and just according to the Law and the commandments which He had bestowed to them. The people had not been faithful to those Law and commandments, and they often neglected their obligation to fulfil the precepts and expectations of the Covenant which God had made with them and their ancestors.

That is why they had fallen on the wayside in the path towards God, and by their sins they had brought upon themselves the sufferings which they then suffered. During the time of the prophet Ezekiel, many of the people of God had been forced off into exile, brought away from their homeland, had their cities, towns and homes destroyed, and had to endure the humiliation of seeing themselves under the dominion of the Babylonians. The prophet Ezekiel was sent to this exiles in Babylon, to proclaim God’s words to them and to remind them that while their folly and stubbornness had led them to such a state, but God still loved them nonetheless and wanted them to return to Him with contrite hearts.

As the prophet Ezekiel highlighted in the words of God we heard today, that each and every man are responsible for their own sins and faults. He used the example of how a righteous man might have a sinful son, and while the man will be judged well by his righteousness and good deeds, the son will have to answer for his own crimes and wickedness. That is a reminder to all the Israelites in exile, that despite the sins of their forefathers which eventually led them to be in such a terrible state, if they were to return to God and shun the path of sin, then God will forgive them and embrace them all once again by the virtue of their repentance and their good deeds.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard a short encounter between the Lord and little children, who came to Him and were stopped by the disciples. The Lord rebuked His disciples for their actions and welcomed the young children into His presence. He also mentioned how the young children should be welcomed, and how the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble like those young children. Essentially what we heard today is a reminder for all of us to imitate the young children in their faith and in how they believed in God with such sincerity and commitment, with joy and energy that others often lacked.

That is because a child’s faith and belief are still pure, unadulterated and not affected by the numerous temptations and desires that many adults and older people often have. All those things became hindrances and obstacles in the path of one’s journey towards God and can end up distracting us from the path towards God’s grace and salvation. And unless we follow the examples of those children, we are likely to end up falling into those temptations and enter into the slippery slope of sin and evil. Our pride, ego, desires and greed often become our undoing as those lead us down the path to ruin, by closing ourselves up from God and His love.

Today, all of us should be inspired to live in the manner of the saints, our holy predecessors, namely that of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus whose feasts we are celebrating this day. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus were in fact rivals to the seat of the Bishop of Rome and successor to St. Peter the Apostle as the Pope. While Pope St. Pontian was legitimately elected as Pope, a segment of the Church chose to side with St. Hippolytus instead and chose him as a rival Pope or Antipope. This development had arisen after several years of divisions and disagreements within the Christian community, out of the disagreement with regards to the acceptance of new converts and the penitential rigour required of them.

While the disagreements and conflicts between the supporters of Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus could often become rather strong, but eventually, they were reconciled to each other, and in the face of intense persecution against the Church and the people of God by the Roman authorities, Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus both chose to leave their offices behind, so that a new Papal election could take place and reunite the divided community of the faithful. Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus themselves were arrested during the persecution, exiled and eventually died as martyrs during their exile.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, from the examples and lives set by Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus, we can see how each one of us as Christians should behave in our own lives, and how we should live our lives virtuously in God’s path. We must be willing to listen to God and to follow His will instead of following our own whim and desires. Like Pope St. Pontian and St. Hippolytus who resolved their differences and did things for the good of the Church, we too are called to leave behind the taints of worldly desire and the allures of sin, and embrace wholeheartedly God and His truth, His love and grace, from now on and onwards.

May God be with us always and may He continue to strengthen each one of us in our journey of faith in life, that we may draw ever closer to Him and become sources of inspiration ourselves to one another. May God bless our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 19 : 13-15

At that time, little children were brought to Jesus, that He might lay His hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. Jesus then said, “Let the children be! Do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are humble, like these children.”

Jesus laid His hands on them and went away.

Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (Psalm)

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

Psalm 50 : 12-13, 14-15, 18-19

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. Then I will show wrongdoers Your ways and sinners will return to You.

You take no pleasure in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, You would not delight in it. O God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise.

Saturday, 13 August 2022 : 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Pontian, Pope and Martyr, and St. Hippolytus, Priest and Martyr (First Reading)

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

Ezekiel 18 : 1-10, 13b, 30-32

The word of YHVH came to me in these terms, “Why are you applying this proverb to the land of Israel : ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live, word of YHVH, this proverb will no longer be quoted in Israel. All life is in My hands, the life of the parent and the life of the child are Mine. The lives of both are in My hands; so, the one who sins will die.”

“Imagine a man who is righteous and practices what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines, or look towards the filthy idols of Israel, does not defile his neighbour’s wife, or have intercourse with a woman during her period; he molests no one, pays what he owes, does not steal, gives food to the hungry and clothes to the naked, demands no interest on a loan and does not lend for interest, refrains from injustice, practices true justice, man to man, follows My decrees and obeys My laws in acting loyally. Because such a man is truly righteous, he will live, word of YHVH.”

“But perhaps this man has a son, who steals and sheds blood, committing crimes which his father never did. Will such a man live? No, he will not! Because he has committed all these abominations he will die : his guilt will fall upon him. That is why I will judge you, Israel, each one according to his ways, word of YHVH. Come back, turn away from your offences, that you may not deserve punishment.”

“Free yourselves from all the offences you have committed and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, Israel? I do not want the death of anyone, word of YHVH, but that you be converted and live!”

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang 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 Scripture, we are called to reflect on the vocation that each one of us have received from God, to be ever faithful and committed to Him as His true and genuine disciples, living virtuously and doing what we should to be role models in faith so that by our actions and deeds, even in the smallest things, we may proclaim the truth and love of God to all, so that all who see us and witness our efforts may come to believe in the Lord as well.

One of these faithful that we should emulate was that of King Cyrus of Persia, the great and legendary first ruler of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, who although was not counted directly amongst God’s followers and people at that time, but was widely and even universally accepted by the descendants of Israel as being one of the righteous among the nations for his actions. He conquered the Babylonians who have kept many of the people of Judah and Israel in captivity for many decades, in exile from their homeland. Then King Cyrus made a proclamation that he is still being remembered for to this day.

He proclaimed the Emancipation or the freedom of the people of Israel from their exile in Babylon, allowing them all to return back to their homeland after such a long period in exile. He also allowed them to bring back their properties and authorised even the rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians. In doing so, he had reversed the many sorrows and setbacks of the Israelites, and brought God’s promised liberation and succour for His people to them.

King Cyrus of Persia might not have belonged to the nation of the Israelites, but in his attitudes, behaviour and also in his governance of his country, as attested by numerous other historical records, he was a great and exemplary leader and ruler, known as being caring and compassionate, merciful and wise, and as the lawgiver, who helped to establish the strong foundation of the rule of the Achaemenids which would last for over two hundred years from the reign of Cyrus. He showed all of us what it means for one to be a righteous and virtuous man, a man of God in actions, words and deeds.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the parable which the Lord Jesus spoke of to His disciples, regarding the lamp placed on a lampstand, and how no one would hide the light that ought to be put on the lampstand, but instead, that light should have been shown in its full brightness for all to see its light. God has given us this parable as a strong reminder that to each and every one of us, He has given the many talents, gifts, abilities and opportunities. We have to keep in mind that we should not underestimate the impact we may have on those who are around us, even in the smallest and seemingly most insignificant things.

We have to lead a life that is exemplary, virtuous and just, and we have to be good role models for one another that in our every actions and dealings, we may always be inspiration for our fellow brothers and sisters, to all those whom we encounter in our journey of life. And today, we also have the example of the faithful saints whose life and dedication to the Lord should become a great source of inspiration for us to follow in how we live our lives in our world today. They are the Holy Martyr Saints of Korea, those who have shed their blood in the persecution of the Faith in Korea across many decades.

We have these virtuous saints who gave their lives for the sake of the Lord and for their faith, as well as for their fellow brothers and sisters. At that time, Christians were heavily persecuted by the government of the Joseon-era Korea, as the foreign missionaries, the Christian faith and the local converts were seen as treasonous and undesirable elements of the society which needed to be rooted out, and which led to a bitter campaign of intense persecution of Christians much like what happened during the first centuries of the Church.

There were many courageous missionaries, both foreign and local Koreans alike who dedicated themselves to the Lord and preached the truth of God without fear despite the very difficult situation of that time. St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first Korean Catholic priest who was baptised as a Christian at the young age of fifteen, whose parents were also converts, and his own father killed as a martyr of the faith. He was ordained a priest after a period of formation in Macau before returning to Korea during the height of the persecutions. He was arrested, tortured and eventually beheaded for refusing to abandon his faith in the Lord.

Meanwhile, St. Laurent Imbert was the first bishop of Korea as a foreign missionary priest, as the first Vicar Apostolic of Korea, newly established then by the Holy See. St. Laurent Imbert was remembered for his courageous leadership of the faithful during those most difficult and turbulent periods, and was particularly honoured for his decision to surrender himself and in persuading other priests to surrender themselves when the government threatened to persecute the faithful if they did not surrender themselves.

St. Laurent Imbert hoped that by surrendering himself and others, they might spare many other Christians from great sufferings, that in the same words that the Lord Jesus had spoken, and repeated by this saint, that ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep’ and thus, following the good examples of the Lord, the Good Shepherd, St. Laurent Imbert as the shepherd of the Lord’s flock in Korea chose to give his life in exchange for that of his flock.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we recall the virtuous examples by these faithful brothers and sisters of ours, who gave their life to the Lord and dedicated themselves so selflessly and tirelessly for the sake of the Lord and His people, let us all challenge ourselves to do the same as well, even in the smallest things we do so that we may truly glorify the Lord by our deeds and by all that we say and do. Let us all inspire one another to remain faithful to God and to be exemplary in our action and faith. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen each and every one of us to be courageous with our Christian living, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 8 : 16-18

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “No one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a bowl or puts it under the bed; rather, he puts it on a lamp stand, so that people coming in may see the light.”

“In the same way, there is nothing hidden that shall not be uncovered; nothing kept secret, that shall not be known clearly. Now, pay attention and listen well, for whoever produces, will be given more; but from those who do not produce, even what they seem to have will be taken away from them.”

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH has done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Monday, 20 September 2021 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ezra 1 : 1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, YHVH willed to fulfil the word He had said through the prophet Jeremiah. So He moved the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his kingdom : “Thus speaks Cyrus, king of Persia : YHVH, the God of heavens, Who has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, has ordered me to build Him a Temple in Jerusalem, in the land of Judah.”

“To everyone belonging to His people, may his God be with him! Let them go up to Jerusalem with the help of their God and, there, build the House of YHVH, the God of Israel; the God Who is in Jerusalem. In every place where the rest of the people of YHVH live, let the people of those places help them for their journey with silver, gold and all kinds of goods and livestock. Let them also give them voluntary offerings for the House of YHVH which is in Jerusalem.”

Then they rose up – the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, and all those whose spirit God had stirred up – and they decided to go and build the House of YHVH. And all their neighbours gave them all kinds of help : gold, silver, livestock and precious objects in great quantity, besides every kind of voluntary offering.

Saturday, 29 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, remembering the courageous stand that this faithful servant of God showed in the last moments and days of his life, in staying true to his faith and in completing his mission of calling all the people to God. And he did this, even when he knew that he would be persecuted and suffer for all of his dedication.

St. John the Baptist spent several years ministering to the people and calling them to repentance, as those people flocked to him by the River Jordan and were baptised by him in the waters of the river. Many thousands came up to him and sought to repent from their sins, and through this, the servant of God fulfilled his mission as the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah, calling the people to turn away from sin and open their hearts and minds to welcome the Lord’s truth that would come soon.

St. John the Baptist had to face against the opposition first of all from the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, many of whom were skeptical of him, because of his teachings and his proclamations, and because of his way of dressing, very simple and like a wild man living in the wilderness, and most importantly, because he was not part of their group, and St. John the Baptist also had scathing remarks against them, as they professed to be the guardians of the faith of the people, and yet, they misled the people and did not practice the Law in the way they should have done.

St. John the Baptist spoke out courageously against them, calling them the brood of vipers, as their actions turned many people away from God, and thus away from His grace and salvation. In this saint, we see a figure filled with zeal and love both for God and for God’s people, his fellow brethren, who had been entrusted to his care as part of the preparation of the coming of the salvation of God.

And he dared to speak up against king Herod and Herodias, his unlawful wife. Herodias was the legal and rightful wife of Philip, the brother of Herod, who at that time was likely still living. In contravention of the Law of God, which stated that a man may only take his brother’s wife should the marriage be childless, the presence of a daughter of Herodias in the Scripture likely highlighted that this daughter was the daughter of Herodias and Philip, as clearly had the daughter been of Herod, she would not have been named as the daughter of Herodias.

Therefore, Herod had committed adultery with his own brother’s wife, and as a king and leader of the people, such a terrible and immoral deed should not have been done at all. It was unbecoming and wrong for the king to commit such an act, and St. John the Baptist courageously pointed this out to the king and his unlawful wife, Herodias. Herod had St. John arrested, although he still respected the servant of God and did not allow any harm to come to the man of God.

But Herodias held deep grudge against St. John the Baptist and plotted to have him killed. She used her own daughter as a tool to coerce her husband to achieve that aim, and she had her chance when she had her daughter dance at a party held by king Herod for his guests and officials. Using the daughter’s beauty to her advantage and Herod’s weakness in tending to succumb to his flesh’s desires, and also likely compounded by being intoxicated with wine drunk at the celebration, Herodias made Herod to commit the wicked deed of executing St. John the Baptist in prison.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the memory of the commitment and the perseverance of St. John the Baptist, we are called to follow in his good examples, in his faith and dedication, that we will always keep alive our faith and dedicate ourselves to God to the best of our abilities. We should be righteous and be brave in standing up for our faith before others, to be genuine witnesses of our Christian faith.

And we are also reminded to be careful and be vigilant against the temptations of pride and greed, as it was the same pride which prevented the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law to acknowledge God’s truth and that they had been wrong. It was also greed that had led king Herod to commit adultery with her husband’s wife, and how he succumbed to temptation and caused the murder of St. John the Baptist because of his lust for Herodias’ own daughter.

Let us all therefore strive to be ever better Christians through our every words and actions, spending and dedicating our every moments and efforts to serve the Lord and His people with ever greater devotion. May the Lord strengthen us and give us the same courage and faith as St. John the Baptist had shown us all. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 29 August 2020 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.