Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the need of loving God with all our hearts, that we place Him foremost before all other things, loving Him with all our might. For He had come into the world to ransom us from evil. He had given of Himself to all of us, as an example we all also ought to follow. That we have to love Him just as He had loved us, and love our brethren, without exception, in the same way.

For Christ had called us to be good, and to do good for everyone’s sake. He had taught us how to love, the same love He had shown us when He hung on that cross on Calvary. To Him had been granted authority and power, and He healed all from their afflictions, physically and spiritually. These people were among those who were mentioned in the Gospel today, particularly Mary Magdalene, whom He had liberated from the possession of Satan. Many of His disciples and Apostles also were once great sinners, even murderers and tax collectors.

He had called them from the darkness, that they would have a new life in Him, and through Him, just as He calls all of us to follow Him. This means to leave our old sinful and conceited selves behind, and do what the Lord had asked us to do. We ought to leave things that corrupt ourselves behind, and put on a new clothes of purity, as it had been on the day we were baptised, when we took up a new life, a clean and pure slate of life.

In the first reading today, St. Paul mentioned an important element of sin, that is possessions, meaning material possessions, in the form of visible and invisible wealth, in money and all its manifestation. It is first important to note, brethren, that money and possessions themselves are not innately evil. It is how they are gained and how they are utilised that can potentially bring about great evil.

Money can be used for good and noble purposes, as well as for evil and wicked purposes. It can be something that bring about blessings and life, and in the same way, also something that bring about destruction and suffering. That is why we must be careful on how we approach and utilise our money and our possessions. Remember always, that money and wealth are themselves not intrinsically evil, that it is we who can make that difference between good and evil from what we have.

For example, with the same money or wealth, we can choose, whether we spend it lavishly on the latest fashion items and gadgets that we do not really need. It is a really bad habit for some of us, considering the recent developments of the smartphone technology, that every time a new smartphone model comes out, we are always first to queue and get our hands on it. Remember again, smartphones can be very useful for good purposes, but it is how we use them and think of them, that differentiate between good and evil.

As in the earlier mentioned case, the money can be better used for other purposes, not only for charity, but even for ourselves, for our education, welfare, and improvement, basically, for many different things that we could not do, if we had spent all the money on these unnecessary excessiveness. Judge wisely therefore, brethren, what we are to do with our possessions, for they are God’s blessing to us. Let us not misuse these gifts that had been granted to us.

Today, we celebrate the feast of martyrs of Korea, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and their companions. They were among the first Christians of Korea, convert from their native religions into the faith of the Lord. Korea at that time was tightly closed against any form of external influences, especially Christianity, and the practice of the faith was strictly forbidden by the state.

Christians were harshly persecuted and forced to renounce their ‘alien’ faith and abandon the practices seen by the Korean government to be barbaric in nature. Many Christians were imprisoned and tortured and not few lost their lives for the faith. They are the ones we are commemorating today, the martyr saints of Korea, especially St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first martyr saint of Korea, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang.

They stayed faithful to the Lord despite immense pressure by the authorities forcing them to abandon their faith, and preferred suffering for the Lord even until they met their death, staying true to the Lord to the end. They gave their life, so that more and more people would be inspired by their example, and stay faithful to the Lord and did not apostasize, despite the pressure or the temptations offered to them to abandon the Lord for worldly incentives.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, after listening to the word of God, and the advice on how we need to make sure that we use the blessings granted to us for the right cause, and especially after witnessing the life story of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and the other martyr saints of Korea, let us be motivated, brethren, to do what is good in the eyes of the Lord.

May the Lord protect us and continue to bless us to be strong, to be the true witnesses of the Gospel, as the martyr saints of Korea had done. God be with us always. Amen.

Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 8 : 1-3

Jesus walked through towns and countryside, preaching and giving the Good News of the kingdom of God. The Twelve followed Him, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases : Mary called Magdalene, who had been freed of seven demons; Joanna, wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward; Suzanna, and others who provided for them out of their own funds.

Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 48 : 6-7, 8-10, 17-18, 19-20

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers ring me round – those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?

For no ransom avails for one’s life, there is no price one can give to God for it. For redeeming one’s life demands too high a price, and all is lost forever. Who can remain forever alive and never see the grave?

Fear not when someone grows rich, when his power becomes oppressively great, for nothing will he take when he dies; his wealth and pomp he will leave behind.

Though he praised himself in his lifetime, “All will say that I have enjoyed life,” he will join the generation of his forebears, who will never again see the light.

Friday, 20 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-Sang, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Timothy 6 : 2c-12

Teach and stress these things. Whoever teaches in some other way, not following the sound teaching of our Lord Christ Jesus and true religious instruction, is conceited and understands nothing. This one is crazy about controversies and discussions that result in envy, insults, blows, and constant arguments between people of depraved minds and far from the truth. For them, religion is merely for financial gain.

In reality, religion is a treasure if we are content with what we have. We brought nothing into the world and we will leave it with nothing. Let us then be content with having food and clothing. Those who strive to be rich fall into temptations and traps. A lot of foolish and harmful ambitions plunge them into ruin and destruction.

Indeed, the love of money is the root of every evil. Because of this greed, some have wandered away from the faith, bringing on themselves afflictions of every kind. But you, man of God, shun all this. Strive to be holy and godly. Live in faith and love, with endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith and win everlasting life to which you were called when you made the good profession of faith in the presence of so many witnesses.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Scripture Reflection)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear a very powerful story, one which certainly resonates with all of us. Firstly, it is that we ought not to let our  apparent inferiority and weakness be an obstacle to us, and allow others to belittle us because of our apparent shortcomings. That is because, brethren, even the least one among mankind, and the worst of all sinners have hope in them, that is hope in Jesus the Lord.

It is often that people are ostracised, bullied, and treated badly, simply because they appeared weak to their surrounding people, simply because they are perceived to be inferior, and therefore, to the people around them, they are not worthy of anything good. We are indeed ourselves also guilty of the same thing, as we often let our prejudices and pre-formed generalisations and mindsets to interfere in our approach to these less fortunate ones.

And that is how we belittle others around us and ostracise them, often even without we ourselves knowing that we had done such evil acts on our fellow brethren, simply because we are often not aware of the impacts of the actions we had done. Indeed, in fact, we have to make the habit of continuously reflecting on our own actions, especially our own shortcomings, that we become aware that as mankind, each of us have our own shortcomings, our unworthiness before God, and therefore we should not judge others, less so belittling them or treating them badly.

That was exactly what the Pharisee in the story of Jesus in the Gospel today had not done. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are the supposed experts and examples for the entire people of God, because of their piety and strict observation of the entire Jewish laws. Yet, as Christ had repeatedly pointed out in many different occasions, they did not truly have God in their hearts, as what they truly yearned was the glory and praise of men instead of the love of God.

They give in to their pride and arrogance, especially being placed in high esteem by the people, that they often judge others whom they deemed to be not as ‘holy’ as they were. They condemned prostitutes, tax collectors, and those they had considered as sinners in general. They failed to notice that they too were sinners, and in condemning these people, they have in fact judge others, while they themselves ought to be judged for their own wickedness.

They acted mighty and proud, proud with their great ‘piety’ and ‘obedience’ to the Law, but in fact, all these were empty, because they did not have God in their hearts. It is such that they have always been in the way during the Lord’s ministry in this world, planting obstacles wherever they could, and sowed dissent and trouble for Jesus and His disciples.

They failed to see the great repentance in the woman, the great humility in her as she approached the Lord and Saviour. She showed her regret for her sins through her tears, and through her complete humility. She did not show her faith, love, and dedication for the Lord through loud and long prayers as the Pharisees had done, but through her concrete actions. And to the Lord our God, her faith and love for Him was truly far greater than all of them combined.

Prayers are important, brethren, as it is our way to communicate with the Lord our God, in a two-way communication between Him and us. That is why, it is even more important to make sure that the prayers that we make truly are prayers worthy of our God, that is not like the prayers of the Pharisees.

We must humble ourselves before the Lord as the prostitute had done, seeking for God’s most merciful heart, throwing far away our pride and arrogance. The Pharisees liked to praise themselves and their ‘piety’ in prayers, and did not humble themselves for their sins. This is what we must not do.

Today, brethren, we celebrate the feast day of St. Januarius, who was once the Bishop of Naples in the early Church in Italy. St. Januarius lived and ministered through the times of difficulty for the Church and the faithful. He worked hard for the faithful, and ministered piously, even despite the harsh persecutions of the faithful, by the Emperor Diocletian, who led the last great persecution of the Church.

St. Januarius died protecting his faith and in his loving service to the people of God. As a result, he provided much ground for the Church to continue to grow and he also defended the faith against threats both external and internal. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us follow in the footsteps of St. Januarius, to serve the Lord with passion and commitment. Let us also be humble before the Lord our God. May the Lord who is merciful and loving, continue to watch over us and protect us sinners, that we may return to Him and praise Him forevermore.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red

Luke 7 : 36-50

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share His meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house.

She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood beside Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears, she dried them with her hair, she dried them with her hair, she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a prophet, He would know what sort of a person is touching Him; Is this woman not a sinner?”

Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.” And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave me no water for My feet when I entered your house, but she has washed My feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.”

“You did not welcome Me with a kiss, but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head, but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because  of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 19 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red

Psalm 110 : 7-8, 9, 10

The works of His hands are faithful and just, trustworthy are all His precepts, ordained to last forever, bearers of truth and uprightness.

He has sent His people deliverances and made with them a covenant forever. His Holy Name is to be revered!

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are those who live by His precepts. To Him belongs everlasting praise.

Thursday, 19 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red

1 Timothy 4 : 12-16

Let no one reproach you on account of your youth. Be a model to the believers in the way you speak and act, in your love, your faith and purity of life. Devote yourself to reading, preaching, and teaching, until I come.

Do not neglect the spiritual gift conferred on you with prophetic words when the elders laid their hands upon you. Think about it and practice it so that your progress may be seen by all. Take heed of yourself and attend to your teaching. Be steadfast in doing this and you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear the long preaching by St. Paul in the first reading, on the criteria required of one to be the overseer of the people of God, that is in the more contemporary language, means to be bishops and leaders of the Universal Church, including the Pope himself, our leader and the Vicar of Christ.

Just as not anybody can become the ordained ministers of the Lord, that is priests and deacons, therefore, the higher ordained orders demand even greater requirements and even stricter criteria. That is important because, just as the Pharisees and the chief priests had led their people into ruin, the leaders of the Church and their capabilities are essential to lead the people of God into the right way, that is towards the Lord.

If the bishops are improperly chosen, and if the early Church had not carefully decided on whom should be the overseers, there would certainly be chaos and divisions within the Church, damaging the unity and structure of the Church of God. Bishops should be upright men, who placed the Lord first before all other things, and avoid any form of fornication or impurities that may cause them to deviate from the path of truth.

Bishops, the overseers of God’s work, did not have it easy brethren, as they certainly had much oppositions, and also heavy demands and expectations on their shoulders. That was why, St. Paul was very strict in his criteria of who should be chosen as overseers, as bishops of the Church, especially the Pope, the bishop of Rome, whom all believers look up to, as their moral authority in this world, representing Christ Himself.

The people look up to them as teachers and leaders, and uprightness and righteousness are important priorities for the selection criteria, those with commitment to the Lord and dedication to doing good for the sake of others, and for the sake of God, and those with the heart and dedication for service of the Lord and for His people in the Church. Certainly not someone who desires the position because they desire power, money, and privileges attached such positions.

Yes, brethren, we need someone who is truly dedicated and devoted to his position as leaders and shepherds of the faithful. We need good shepherds, modelled after Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd, who gave His all to His sheep, that is all of us, fully dedicated to us, and most importantly filled with love for us, those who had been entrusted to Him. The same too, therefore, ought to be expected of those who had been entrusted with positions of authority in the Church.

Yes, loving in the same way that Jesus had loved His people, the people of God, especially those who are suffering, those who are unloved, and those who are rejected by the society. Today, He showed His love to the widow of Naim, who had just lost her son to death. He showed His love to her and to everyone, by exercising His authority over life and death, bringing the son of the widow back to life.

He was so moved with compassion over the sorrow of the widow, who had lost the only one she had possessed in this world, her beloved. The Lord truly understood that feeling. Imagine, brethren! How would the Lord feel, with each one of us lost day by day, to sin and damnation, that is to be separated for eternity from He who loves all of us, without exception. If we suffer from such separation, imagine the wounds that cause to the loving heart of our God.

Therefore, we truly need good and dedicated and loving leaders in this Church of God, to be the ones leading us in our approach towards the Lord. We need someone who follow the Lord and His love for those entrusted to Him, and not someone who will immediately run away at the first sign of trouble, or someone who do not love the sheep and do not put all of his heart and effort to his ministry. For those are the false and bad shepherds, the hired men who care not for those given to them.

However, brethren, this should not just be limited to just our bishops, our priests and those in the position of leadership. It is also important for us, to also follow in their footsteps, emulating the examples of the Lord, and become role models and leaders for one another. It is important for us that we help one another and support one another, that we help each other in our journey towards salvation, guided by our chosen leaders, the priests, and particularly the bishops.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine, a great religious and leader of the Universal Church, as both a Jesuit and a Cardinal. He lived at the era of upheaval in the Church, where heresies and rebellion against the faith were commonplace. St. Robert Bellarmine was appointed to positions of influence and entrusted with much responsibilities. Yet, he did not remain idle, and instead plunged himself into the work, totally committed to his vocation in life, that is to serve the people of God and uphold the truth of the faith.

St. Robert Bellarmine wrote extensively on the matters of the faith, contributing greatly to the advancement and enrichment of the faith in the Church. Through his works and contributions, many people returned to the faith, and his valuable writings remain widely studied even until today. St. Robert Bellarmine supported the Church’s attempt to counter Protestantism through the Countet-Reformation, working hard to protect the Holy Mother Church.

May the Lord continue to shower us with His love, and especially to our leaders, that we all will continue to reflect Christ and His love, love for all of us,  and the love He had once shown to the widow of Naim. Let us be loving and compassionate to our fellow men, showing them the care Christ had shown to us.

Inspired also by the examples of St. Robert Bellarmine, who committed himself fully to his appointed mission, and through his passionate defender of the faith, let us not be ignorant of the suffering of others, but let us empathise and open our hearts to those who need our love. And do not forget to always pray for our priests! Amen.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White

Luke 7 : 11-17

A little later Jesus went to a town called Naim. He was accompanied by His disciples and a great number of people. As He reached the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; there followed a large crowd of townspeople.

On seeing her, the Lord had pity on her and said, “Do not cry.” Then He came up and touched the stretcher, and the men who carried it stopped. Jesus then said, “Young man, I say to you, wake up!” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.

A holy fear came over them all, and they praised God saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us; God, has visited His people.” This news spread throughout Judea and the surrounding places.