Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the calling and transformation which God has made upon us, as He calls upon us His people to follow Him and to do His marvellous works. In the first reading we heard of the story of what happened between Jacob and God, when he unknowingly wrestled against Him, and then in the Gospel we heard of the Lord’s call for more workers to harvest the harvests of the Lord.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the encounter between Jacob and God disguised in the form of a Man. Jacob had just returned from the land of his forefathers where he spent many years in exile fleeing from his brother Esau, and over there, he managed to thrive and raised up a large family of his own. He was then on his way back to the land of Canaan, and when God came upon him, it was at the moment just before Jacob was about to meet his brother after many years.

Jacob was afraid that his brother was still very angry at him even after all those years and thus, sent his family and belongings ahead of him. It was then that God, disguised as a Man, struggled with him and wrestled with him all night long until the morning. And it was then and there that God renamed Jacob as Israel, as the one who struggled against God and survived. It was from that moment on that Jacob was known by his new name, a name that would become the name of an entire nation, of Israel.

In the Scriptures, name changes are always very symbolic and very important moments in a person’s life, as a name change indicates a profound change in a person’s direction in life, such as when God made a Covenant with Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah when she has received the fulfilment of the promise of God of bearing a son, and of the Apostles themselves, Simon who received the new name of Cephas or Peter, and Saul who changed his name to Paul after his conversion.

Therefore, in the first reading today, God called on Jacob to be courageous and to put his trust in Him even as he was struck with great fear of expecting the vengeance of his brother. He called on Jacob to a new existence and a new life, and renewed the promise of the Covenant which He had made with his forefathers, a significant milestone in the life of Jacob, who from then on was known as Israel.

This is linked to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard of the works of the Lord Who went about healing the people, casting out demons and proclaiming the Good News. The Lord went around seeking His people to heal them and to make them whole once again, and He had pity on them when He saw them like sheep without a shepherd, and therefore, poured forth His love upon them.

The Lord is calling on each and every one of us as He sent out His disciples to the people He loved, to follow in their footsteps and to do what they have done, in reaching out to the people and to show forth God’s love in their midst. Just as God has reassured Jacob of His faithfulness and love, and just as the Lord Jesus showed His love to the people He held dear, therefore, all of us should be the bearers and witnesses of this same love to our fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us celebrate the feast of many holy martyrs and saints who have given their very best in witnessing to the love of God among men, in standing up for their Christian faith and their commitment to the message of God’s truth, despite the tough persecution and challenges that they had to face. We commemorate today the memory of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his fellow saints, the Holy Martyrs of China.

Many of them were missionaries who came to China spreading the truth of God among the people, showing them the Good News and salvation of God, spreading the message of God’s love and mercy. And some among them were those who have accepted the truth and chose to become Christians, and paid dearly for their faith. The authorities and many of the people at the time viewed the missionaries and Christians with suspicion or even hatred.

And when in the various occasions, the local Christians and the missionaries were oppressed and persecuted, they endured great challenges and pain, suffering and torture just because they believed in the Lord Who has loved them and called them to salvation through Him. St. Augustine Zhao Rong, one of the first Chinese then to be ordained a priest, and many other of his companions in martyrdom, stood by their faith in God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the devotion and commitment of these holy martyrs should inspire us in our own lives to love the Lord in the same way that He has loved us. For these martyrs were willing to suffer and even die for their faith because they knew of the Lord’s generous love and mercy towards them. And indeed, we should reflect on the fact that, if God Himself has willingly suffered, took up His Cross and die for our sake, then why should we not love Him all the more?

Let us all be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and let us all commit ourselves ever anew to Him from now on. May the Lord be our Guide, and may He give us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 32-38

At that time, as the two blind men were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Genesis 32 : 23-33

Jacob took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons, and sent them across the stream and likewise everything he had. And Jacob was left alone. Then a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the Man saw that He could not get the better of Jacob, He struck him in the socket of his hip and dislocated it as He wrestled with him.

The Man said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go until you have given me Your blessing.” The Man then said, “What is your name?” “Jacob” was the reply. He answered, “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have been strong-with-God as you have been with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked Him, “What is Your Name?” He answered, “Why do you ask My Name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Penuel, saying, “I have seen God face to face and survived.” The sun rose as he passed through Penuel, limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the hip socket because the sciatic nerve in Jacob’s hip had been touched.

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we recall God’s wonderful love and providence for all of us, His beloved ones, as we heard of His wonderful promise of peace and deliverance by His very own words. God will not abandon His beloved and faithful ones to the darkness, and He will protect them from harm that causes eternal suffering and destruction. Yet, at the same time, we are also reminded that suffering is a real part of our lives, and we cannot expect to have a life that is free from troubles and difficulties.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, suffering and challenges are part and parcel of our Christian life, for just as the Lord Himself has suffered grievously at the hands of His enemies and all those who refused to believe in Him, so will all of us suffer at the hands of those who reject the message of God’s truth. That was how the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, the saints and martyrs of the Church have suffered throughout the history of the Church.

And yet, they remained strong and courageous in their faith, committed and sincere in their dedication, knowing that God was definitely by their side. Otherwise, it would have not been possible for them to remain so resolute, committed and dedicated in their love for God. For their trust and faith in God was strong such that even temptations and pressures of the world could not shake them and remove them from their faith.

And today we recall the memories of some of those faithful saints, the holy martyrs of the Church in Uganda, during the time when the missionaries and the laity in what is now Uganda suffered persecution and martyrdom at the hands of the enemies of the Church and the faithful, remembering the courage and the zeal which they showed even amidst assurance of suffering, trials and certain death.

St. Charles Lwanga and his many companions, the martyrs of the Church in Uganda have shown great courage and dedication to the Lord, in the work they have performed among the people, the faith which they have shown and the exemplary lives they have led. St. Charles Lwanga was the chief page of the king of Buganda, a major constituent of present day Uganda and the largest local kingdom, who received the truth of God and became a convert to the faith.

The king and his nobles were against the efforts of the Christian missionaries and persecuted those missionaries and the converts of the faith in the kingdom, and this also led to the suffering and martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga and many others whom he converted on his own. Led by the courage of St. Charles Lwanga, the faithful martyrs declared their faith and commitment to God before the king, who ordered them to be killed.

Many of the martyrs, including St. Charles Lwanga was martyred by burning alive in the place of their execution, on which now stands a great Basilica of the Uganda Martyrs commemorating the courage of their faith as examples for us all and for all Christians throughout generations to come. St. Charles Lwanga and all his companions are truly great examples and inspirations for us, in how we ought to live our Christian lives truly and meaningfully in today’s world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow their courage and willingness to commit to God and His ways? There will be plenty of occasions when we may have to stand up for our faith and for our dedication to the Lord amidst rejection and opposition from the world. Are we able to follow the examples of the saints and the martyrs in this? Are we able to live our lives with God at the very centre of our lives?

May God be with us always, and may He strengthen our faith each and every days of our life. May God be with us and may He grant us the strength and the courage to live our lives faithfully from now on, following the examples of the holy Ugandan martyrs. Holy Martyrs of Uganda, St. Charles Lwanga and companions, pray for us sinners. Amen.

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 16 : 29-33

At that time, the disciples said to Jesus, “Now You are speaking plainly and not in veiled language! Now we see that You know all things, even before we question You. Because of this we believe that You came from God.”

Jesus answered them, “You say that you believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with Me. I have told you all this, so that in Me you may have peace. You will have trouble in the world; but courage! I have overcome the world.”

Monday, 3 June 2019 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 67 : 2-3, 4-5ac, 6-7ab

Arise, o God, scatter Your enemies; let Your foes flee before You. As smoke is blown by the wind, so blow them away; as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish before You.

But let the righteous be glad and exult before God; let them sing to God and shout for joy. Sing to God, sing praises to His Name; the Lord is His Name. Rejoice in His presence.

Father of orphans and Protector of widows – such is our God is His holy dwelling. He gives shelter to the homeless, sets the prisoners free.