Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (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 heard the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder of how precious and beloved each and every one of us are by God. And we are also reminded of Who God truly is, the Almighty and all-powerful King and Lord over all the Universe, the Lord of all the Heaven and the Earth, the One Who rules over all. He is the One Who should be our focus in life, to Whom we should spend our efforts in redirecting our attention and lives towards. God is calling on us to put our trust in Him, and to follow Him wholeheartedly, and not to be swayed easily by the temptations found in this world.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, during the reign of king Uzziah or Azariah of Judah, in which we heard of the calling of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was called by God through a great vision of Heaven, and all of the glory of God. Isaiah saw God on His great Throne in Heaven, seated on His Throne attended by the Seraphim and surrounded by innumerable Angels, the Cherubim, Thrones and other spiritual beings. The Lord had shown Isaiah Who He was, and showed Him His great glory and might, and called on Him to do His will and to be His mouthpiece among the people of Israel and Judah.

Thus was how Isaiah was called and he responded with faith, and the Lord Himself reassured Isaiah that He would provide for him and strengthen him, and he would have no need to be afraid or to worry about what he ought to say before the people, for God Himself would inspire him and tell him what to say to the people. The prophet Isaiah henceforth went on to proclaim the words of the Lord, His will and the many prophecies entrusted to him, to the people of God, through which God called His people to repent from their sinful ways and to embrace once again His path of righteousness and truth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers regarding the matter of how God truly loved all of His people, and how no one should be afraid of God, and how the disciples and followers of the Lord should not fear persecution and hardships from the world, all because of the fact that the Lord would provide for them and protect them from harm. God treated all of us, His beloved children, with great love and kindness, with compassion and generosity, far more precious than anything else. We can be assured of this after remembering all that He had done all across the generations and throughout our human history.

The Lord told His disciples, and through them to all of us, that each and every one of us, though sinners, are truly important and precious to Him. No one is truly beyond the generous love and compassion of God. God has shown His kindness to us, and He has called on each and every one of us to be His disciples and followers, calling on us to His presence, to enjoy the fullness of His bountiful love and grace. Like the people of God of old, all of us are called to turn away from our sinful paths and from the darkness of this world, in order to embrace the path of righteousness and hope, which we can find in the Lord alone.

As Christians, that means as all those who profess to believe in the Lord, each and every one of us are called by God to follow Him, as He had called Isaiah and His disciples, the many Apostles, saints and martyrs, as well as other servants and messengers whom He had called earlier on. Each one of us should respond to the Lord with faith, and embrace the calling He had made upon us, committing ourselves to go and proclaim His truth and love to the nations. Through our lives, our examples, actions, deeds and words all of us should do whatever we can to glorify God, and to bring more and more people to come to believe in God as well.

Today, we should be inspired by the examples of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions in faith and martyrdom, the victims of the intense persecution and oppression of Christians by the Chinese authorities and all other forces that were hostile against Christian believers at that time. St. Augustine Zhao Rong himself was one of the first clergyman ordained from the native population of China, amidst the rapidly growing Church there at the time, as missionaries came from afar and risked their lives in proclaiming God’s truth to the people. Many became believers, and then many also equally became martyrs and victims of persecutions by the officials and the state which were against Christians and the teachings of Christ.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and many other Christians, both the laity and the clergy alike were arrested, tortured and forced to abandon their faith or to face death. Many of them had to endure bitter sufferings and painful deaths, but they chose to be faithful to the very end. Many of them became inspirations for other Christians, not only in China but also elsewhere throughout the world. They inspired many more to follow Christ, and to persevere in the challenges and trials that they had to face throughout their journey. Each one of us should also be similarly inspired by their examples, that we may be inspired to take up our crosses too, and follow the Lord with zeal.

May the Lord continue to strengthen and inspire us, together with the inspiration from the lives of the saints and martyrs, from St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions in holy martyrdom, and many other inspirations, that we may always ever be faithful to God, and we may grow ever closer to God, and in our every actions, be ever exemplary and worthy of Him. May God bless us all and every actions and works we do, at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 10 : 24-33

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

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is 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 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 worth more 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 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

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

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

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

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

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

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

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

Isaiah 6 : 1-8

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him were Seraphs, each with six wings : two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another : “Holy, Holy, Holy is YHVH Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with His glory!”

At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, YHVH Sabaoth.”

Then one of the Seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the Altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?”

I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Friday, 9 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures we are all reminded of the reassurances of the Lord to all of us, that all who are faithful to Him shall never be left alone, and God will always take good care of those who are beloved and precious to Him. God will be with those who are faithful to Him and will not leave them wanting or in need. This is just as we heard the story of Jacob as he was about to go to Egypt from the Book of Genesis, and the Lord’s words reassuring His disciples regarding the mission they would be taking on.

In our first reading today from the Book of Genesis, we heard about Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, who in his old age was embarking on the journey to the land of Egypt, as he had just heard the unbelievable news that Joseph, his second youngest son, whom he thought to be long dead, was in fact still alive and was the Regent of all Egypt, the second most powerful person there after the Egyptian Pharaoh himself. Jacob heard all of these from his other sons, who had once told him that Joseph was seized by wild beasts and was killed, a plot they did due to their jealousy to Joseph’s preferential treatment by Jacob.

After all those years, Jacob who had grieved over the loss of one of his beloved sons, heard again the message of hope, and he wanted to see his long-lost son. Yet, at the same time, he was unsure and worried of the journey to come. Joseph had called his father and the rest of the extended family of Israel to move to Egypt, as that time it was still in the midst of the great famine engulfing the whole world, and many years remained in that long famine, while Egypt had plenty of food storage thanks to Joseph and his insight from God.

The Lord therefore spoke to Jacob as we heard in our first reading today, reassuring him that he had nothing to fear from the journey, and that God Himself would accompany him and his family, and continue to bless him and all of his descendants in the land of Egypt. He reassured Jacob that He would always be by his side, no matter what, and provide for the Israelites, as He would prove again and again. Then we heard how Jacob finally encountered Joseph again, and was indeed overcome with great joy of seeing his beloved son.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when the Lord told His disciples that their commitment to Him and the mission which He has entrusted to them would see them facing plenty of obstacles and trials, as they might encounter severe persecutions, oppressions and challenges from the powerful, from the state and the authorities, and all those who were opposed to the Lord and His truth and works. This is the reality which the Lord did not hide but instead, reveal plainly before all of His disciples.

But at the same time, the Lord also reassured them all that they had nothing to be worried about, as they embark on their missionary journey and works, echoing what the Lord had told Jacob many centuries previously. He would be with all of His disciples, followers and all who have professed their faith in Him, and He would journey together with them, suffering with them and helping them to endure all the persecutions and trials that they would face in the midst of their ministry.

These therefore are reminders for all of us that the Lord is always ever faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us, and He will always stand by us no matter what, and He will not abandon us, and we truly have nothing to fear even if we are facing the worst of oppositions and troubles. As Christians, we have to embrace our calling and respective mission in life with faith, and trust the Lord with our lives, at all times. We have to believe in Him and put our faith in Him, and be strengthened with courage and faith.

Today, we remember the glorious memory of the holy saints, St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of China. Today we recall these multitudes of people, our holy predecessors, who have suffered for their faith in the great country of China. Many of them were converts to the faith who had embraced the Lord and remained firm in their faith despite the persecutions they faced from the local authorities and the challenges they had in various forms, and when forced to abandon their faith, they remained faithful to the Lord and suffered martyrdom as a result.

Many of them suffered grievously and faced great tribulations, prison and torture, death in most painful ways, for their dedication and commitment. But they remained steadfast, all because they believed in the Lord and His faithfulness, that no matter what, they trusted in Him and the love that they had received from Him. To the very end, they persevered and remained true to the Lord. They are our inspirations in life, in how we ourselves can devote ourselves to the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way. Let us entrust ourselves to the Lord and give ourselves in the best way possible, that each and every one of us shall be more and more faithful, closer and worthy of the Lord, with each and every passing moments in our lives. May God be with us always, and may He strengthen us with resolve and courage to follow Him wholeheartedly in all things. Amen.

Friday, 9 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 10 : 16-23

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Look, I send you out like sheep among wolves. You must be as clever as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard with people, for they will hand you over to their courts, and they will flog you in their synagogues. You will be brought to trial before rulers and kings because of Me, so that you may witness to them and the pagans.”

“But when you are arrested, do not worry about what you are to say, or how you are to say it; when the hour comes, you will be given what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father, speaking through you.”

“Brother will hand over his brother to death, and a father his child; children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of Me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, you will not have passed through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Friday, 9 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 36 : 3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40

Trust in YHVH and do good; dwell in the land and live on it. Make YHVH your delight; and He will grant your heart’s desire.

YHVH watches over the lives of the upright; forever will their inheritance abide. They are not crushed in times of calamity; when famine strikes, they still are satisfied.

Do good and shun evil, so that you will live secure forever. For YHVH loves justice and right, and never forsakes His faithful ones. The wicked, instead, will perish, and their breed will be cut off.

YHVH is the salvation of the righteous; in time of distress, He is their refuge. YHVH helps them, and rescues them from the oppressor; He saves them, for they sought shelter in Him.

Friday, 9 July 2021 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Genesis 46 : 1-7, 28-30

Israel left with all he owned and reached Beersheba where he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to Israel in visions that he had during the night. “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he said. “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I will go with you to Egypt and I will bring you back again and Joseph’s hand will close your eyes.”

Jacob left Beersheba and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father with their little children and their wives in the wagons that Joseph had sent to fetch him. They also took their flocks and all that they had acquired in Canaan. And so it was that Jacob came to Egypt and with him all his family, his sons and his grandsons, his daughters and his granddaughters, in short all his children he took with him to Egypt.

Jacob sent Judah ahead to let Joseph know he was coming and that he would soon arrive in the land of Goshen. Joseph got his chariot ready in order to meet Israel his father in Goshen. He presented himself, threw his arms around his father and wept on his shoulder for a long time. Israel said to Joseph, “Now I can die, for I have seen your face and know you are alive.”

Thursday, 9 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs, Holy Chinese Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us are first confronted with the great wickedness of the people of Israel who refused to believe in God and committed all sorts of sin, despite everything that God had done for their sake. He has protected them many times, brought them out of their troubles, as the Exodus from Egypt was mentioned, the time when God liberated the Israelites and freed them from their slavery and gave them their own land to live in.

In all those years God had patiently cared for His people, sending them help and protection, provision and guidance when they encountered troubles. When the Israelites faced troubles and persecution from their neighbours and when their enemies rose up against them and subjugated them, God raised up Judges one after another to lead the people and free them from their oppressors. And still yet, they did not remain faithful and instead, worshipped idols, disobeyed His Law and commandments.

He has sent prophets after prophets, messengers after messengers to lead His people down the right path, and even after all these, they still refused to believe, and many among them openly disregarded His messages and reminders, persecuting and even killing His prophets. It was with these background and history that we then heard the words of the Lord through His prophet Hosea, sent to the Israelites in the northern kingdom during its final days.

For the past more than one week during the weekdays we have been listening to the words of the prophet Hosea, as we heard the words of God’s anger and dissatisfaction with the constant disobedience showed by the people, and the upcoming judgment, reckoning and consequences they had to suffer for their sins. And all those things were about to happen, as not long after the prophet Hosea spoke of those words, the northern kingdom was destroyed in the conquest by the Assyrian Empire, and many of its people brought into exile in far-off lands.

But we have also then heard, strangely, in between the anger and the premonitions of destruction that were to come, the words of soothing love, compassion and mercy. And all these underlie the true intention of the Lord, and why He has always been so patient with His people despite their constant rebellion and disobedience. That is because He was always filled with love for all of us, His own beloved children. He has created us all for a good reason, and that is His ever-present love for us.

In God, we truly have a loving Father and Master, as One Who has always been concerned about us, and that was why, despite our constant waywardness and disobedience, we are still indeed beloved by God, and God patiently sent His messengers and servants to help guide us out of the wrong path, as He ultimately did through sending us the finest gift of all, His own begotten Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, all of us receive the assurance and guarantee of God’s most wonderful love and providence, and all these He has freely given and revealed to us, sending out His Apostles and disciples two by two to go and proclaim the words of God’s truth, His wonderful love to many more people among us. But for all these, many among us His people refused to follow and stubbornly opposed Him, as their ancestors had done in the past.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is just how unfortunate the state of world truly is, with people refusing to believe in God even though He has always ever been so patient and loving, caring and forgiving. And for all these, many of the Lord’s servants, His Apostles and disciples, His prophets and messengers had suffered from the rejection and persecution that they had to endure for many occasions and through their many years of good service.

Today, all of us commend to our memory the great faith and dedication showed by the holy saints and martyrs who suffered in the great land of China, all the missionaries and the laypeople who have believed in God and received the faith, and were persecuted for that same faith and for their dedication to serve the people. St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions are truly great inspirations and examples for us, as to how we should live our lives as faithful Christians.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong was among one of the first Chinese to be ordained as priests, and he was sent out to serve the communities of the faithful, a truly difficult task not only for him but also for many other missionaries, as the Christian faith at that time was just barely tolerated at the very most, and in most circumstances, to be a Christian was frowned upon by the society as well as by the government. Many people had to practice their faith in secret, and many of the missionaries also had to spread the Word of God carefully.

At that time, the conflict between the Chinese court and the Christian faith had been a culmination of centuries of exchanges, in which misunderstandings and conflicting interests among various religious orders and missionaries sent to the mission in China led to the official persecution of the Church and Christians in China, as the instructions from the Church, misled by these misunderstandings led to great conflict with the authorities for many years.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and many other Church missionaries and priests were persecuted, arrested and tortured, and eventually put to death for their constant dedication to the Lord, refusal to betray the Lord and abandon their faith. All of these persecutions were made worse in particular because they were complicated by the arrival of the foreign powers that quickly led to diplomatic and political conflicts. And as the Western powers continued to gain prestige, territories and privileges at the expense of the Chinese, the Christian missionaries, priests and the faithful were often caught in the crossfire and conflicts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all those faithful people of God, both missionaries, priests and laypeople alike, all were faithful and committed to God despite the challenges that they had to endure. Many of them had to endure prison, unimaginable torture and painful sufferings, and yet, they remained firm in their conviction. This is something that each and every one of us should also be inspired with, even as we carry on living our own lives as Christians, as those whom God had called to be His followers.

As we can see, there is still much darkness in this world, and there is likely to be even more darkness, as mankind continue to walk down the path of sin and disobedience against God. Therefore, now as Christians all of us are challenged to be true and genuine witnesses of the Lord’s truth, His love for each and every one of us, and His willingness to forgive us our trespasses and sins as long as we are willing to repent from those many sins and mistakes we have committed.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of our holy predecessors, the Holy Martyrs of China, St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions. Let us all be shining beacons of light and hope in the darkness, especially amidst all the trials, challenges and difficulties we are all enduring throughout this year. May the Lord be our help and guide, and may He strengthen our resolve to be ever good and righteous in all our actions and to be able to devote ourselves more with each and every passing moments of our lives. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 9 July 2020 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs, Holy Chinese Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 10 : 7-15

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or money in your purses. Do not take a travelling bag, or an extra shirt, or sandals, or a walking stick : workers deserve to be compensated.”

“When you come to a town or a village, look for a worthy person, and stay there until you leave. When you enter the house, wish it peace. If the people are worthy people, your peace will rest on them; if they are not worthy people, your blessing will come back to you.”

“And if you are not welcomed, and your words are not listened to, leave that house or that town, and shake the dust off your feet. I assure you, it will go easier for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than it will for the people of that town.”