Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we commemorate the feast of our Lady of Sheshan or Sheshen, a major Marian devotion in China, as well as the feast of Mary herself as the Help of all Christians. This is of a particular importance as on this day, we commit ourselves together as the whole Church, to pray for our brethren, the faithful people of God now suffering persecution, whether legally or subtly, because they are faithful to the Lord and to His teachings.

Before we go on with regards to this matter, we have to first understand about the condition and the background of the situation of the Church and the faithful in China itself. The Church and the faithful in China had endured a long and difficult period of persecution and challenges ever since the Communists won the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and took over the control over mainland China.

At first, the officially atheistic and anti-Christian Communist government and officials openly persecuted the Church of God and the faithful people of God. They were harassed, attacked at every turn and opportunity, and their persecution took a nationalistic and political perspective, as the faithful Christians were deemed to have been influenced by the foreign influences, or even worse, by accusing them as traitors to the nation.

In what is similar to persecution of Christians in the earlier ages, even as the early Church was persecuted by the Roman Empire and by the Jewish authorities, many of the faithful suffered greatly for having kept their faith in God alive. Their properties and possessions were seized, their families and children were threatened, tortured or even brought to judgment and were killed unjustly.

Priests and bishops were sent to concentration and reeducation camp, where many suffered for many years. Some died in prison and for some the fact about their suffering was only known much later on. Such grievous things indeed which the faithful people of God in China had suffered for staying true to the Lord and for keeping the faith in their God alive.

The situation may seem to be much better these days as compared to how it was decades ago. And yet, we should not let ourselves be deceived. Persecution still continues upon the Church and upon our brethren the faithful ones in China. The Communists established the so-called ‘official church’ where all the faithful, the priests, the bishops and all must belong to, or else be persecuted.

But in reality, it is a means through which the people in power were trying to control the Church, and by requiring the faithful to obey the imposed rules and regulations, they were trying to sap the power of the Church and to prevent it from rising up against them. And if we have paid attention to the news, recently we have heard about the forced removal of crosses from many church buildings. It is a clear sign of the opposition which the government still accorded to the Christian faith.

And as we all reflect on these occasions today, let us all be mindful of the other persecutions and the sufferings that the faithful people of God are suffering even today in many parts of the world. Christians are persecuted in the Middle East where they even had to lose their lives just because they believe in the one and only true God. And in other places, the faithful are ridiculed because of their faith, and they are enduring ever greater difficulties in this world where God is gradually and increasingly becomes forgotten in the minds of men.

Therefore, let us all today devote our time to pray to God and ask for His help to be given to these brethren of ours, so that they may be given strength and courage to live their lives even under persecution and difficulty, that they will not give up or abandon their God for the sake of their own safety. May God help them and preserve them, particularly our brethren, the faithful people of God in China. May He bless them and keep them, and may He soon end the suffering that the Church in China faces today. God be with them all. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Mark 10 : 28-31

At that time, Peter spoke up and said to Jesus, “We have given up everything to follow You.” Jesus answered, “Truly, there is no one who has left house, or brothers or sisters, or father or mother, or children, or lands, for My sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive his reward.”

“I say to you : even in the midst of persecution, he will receive a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands in the present time, and in the world to come eternal life. Do pay attention : many who are now the first will be last, and the last, first.”

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary Help of Christians and our Lady of Sheshen in China, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Marian Feasts)

1 Peter 1 : 10-16

This was the salvation for which the prophets so eagerly looked when, in days past, they foretold the favour of God with regard to you. But they could only investigate when the Spirit of Christ present within them pointed out the time and the circumstances of this – the sufferings of Christ and the glories which would follow.

It was revealed to them that they were working not for themselves but for you. Thus, in these days, after the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, the Gospel’s preachers have taught you these mysteries which even the Angels long to see. So, then, let your spirit be ready. Be alert, with confident trust in the grace you will receive when Jesus Christ appears.

Like obedient children, do not return to your former life given over to ignorance and passions. Imitate the One Who called you. As He is holy, so you, too, be holy in all your conduct, since Scripture says : Be holy for I am holy.

Monday, 23 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard the readings from the Holy Scriptures speaking to us about how we ought to act if we are to enter into the kingdom of God and receive the eternal life, glory and the inheritance which our Lord has promised to all of us. Jesus spoke with a man asking Him how to attain eternal life, and He told him that firstly He had to obey the laws and commandments of the Lord.

But as what we heard from what Jesus had told the man, clearly it was not enough that he should just obey the laws and the commandments alone. Many Jews and the people of God at the time also obeyed the laws and rules as stipulated by the chief priests and the Temple, but in truth, how many of them truly love God and how many of them are capable of giving themselves entirely to God without doubt?

From what we heard of Jesus’ speech to the man, it might seem that He was rebuking the rich and the wealthy as those who were wicked, corrupted, as well as being inherently incapable of attaining God’s salvation. Yet, if we look deeper into the matter, Jesus was not condemning the rich because of their wealth, or condemning wealth and possession itself, as some would have believed that Jesus had done so. Instead, what Jesus condemned was the attachment and the unhealthy obsession that mankind often have on their possessions and wealth.

As I have reiterated many times, being wealthy and comfortable in our lives in itself is not inherently wicked, and thus we should not come to the point where we resent the rich and the privileged, so long as they act responsibly and in accordance with the laws of God. It is the desires of men, the desire to seek for more wealth and more things that bring about sin and wickedness.

It is just that, when we have more things and possessions, unfortunately it is our human nature that we desire for even more things, and we will tend to disregard others, even to the point of causing harm and trouble for others just so that we can get good things for ourselves. We have seen this too often throughout our history, where men would exploit other people, and do things in order to benefit themselves. Wars and conflicts have been fought just so that the needs and wants of certain few people could be satisfied, either for ego or for their wealth.

Heeding these examples and learning from our past mistakes, we should remember the words of Jesus, what He had spoken to His disciples about being truly faithful, and striving to have true love for God, surpassing all of our material wishes and desires. What God is asking us to do, is not to literally shun all forms of possession and wealth, or to sell all of them and live like a hermit. Rather, what God wanted us to do is to overcome our attachment to worldly possessions and greed.

What makes many of the rich to be unable to reach the goal of the kingdom of God is that attachment which they were unable to overcome, and it is therefore dragging them down and away from God’s salvation. It is important therefore that we should refrain and resist the temptations of the flesh, which is pulling us away from God and His ways. We have to learn to limit and control our desires, and not to allow it to control us.

There are also many people who are rich, and yet they are generous and are willing to give to help others around them. There are many philanthropists like them, who are willing to help those who are in need, caring for those who have little and none, sharing what blessings they had with them. And thus, if we too, have been blessed by God with good life and sufficient things to carry us through life, let us be mindful of those around us, our neighbours who had little or none, and are suffering because of it.

Let us all show mercy, care and love upon them, and let us not shut our hearts and our ears to their pleas. Let us instead help one another, that each and every one of us will be able to live comfortably, and by learning to let go of what have received, we too may be freed from the slavery to our desires and our wants, and by resisting those may all of us grow ever more righteous and just in the sight of our God. God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 23 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 10 : 17-27

At that time, just as Jesus was setting out on His journey again, a man ran up, knelt before Him and asked, “Good Master, what must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments : Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not cheat, honour your father and mother.”

The man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments since my childhood.” Then Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him and He said, “For you, one thing is lacking. Go, sell what you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and follow Me.” On hearing these words, his face fell and he went away sorrowful, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were shocked at these words, but Jesus insisted, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

They were more astonished than ever and wondered, “Who then, can be saved?” Jesus looked steadily at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God, all things are possible with God.

Monday, 23 May 2016 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 110 : 1-2, 5-6, 9 and 10c

Alleluia! I thank the Lord with all my heart. In the council of the just, in the assembly. The works of the Lord are great and pondered by all who delight in them.

Always mindful of His covenant, He provides food for those who fear Him. He shows His people the power of His arm by giving them the lands of other nations.

He has sent His people deliverances and made with them a covenant forever. His holy Name is to be revered! To Him belongs everlasting praise.