Tuesday, 20 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, 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 Scriptures, we are all presented with the words of the Lord reminding us to do the will of God and not to fall into the path of sin and wickedness. Again and again we have constantly been reminded of the dangers of sin and the temptations to sin. Unless we are vigilant and put our conscious effort to reject sin and evil, more often than not we may find ourselves stumbling and falling yet again because we are unable to resist the strong pull and allure of sin which can drag us down the path towards damnation and downfall.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of Proverbs, we are all reminded that the Lord values our actions and obedience to His Law, commandments and will more than our sacrifices and offerings. The Lord honours and blesses the just and the righteous ones, all those who have obeyed His will, followed His ways and dedicated themselves to His cause by their real actions and works, instead of just merely paying lip service or making profession of faith. And yet in our way of life and actions, we are often full of actions that are contrary to God’s teachings and truth, as we often follow the whim of our desires, our pride and ego, the norms and ways of this world among others.

The Lord said that those who were haughty and wicked, who oppressed the poor and the weak, all those who were selfish and proud, and thinking only of fulfilling their own selfish and wicked desires, all of these will not flourish with Him, and will not have part in any of His inheritance and graces. The Lord made it clear that all of us as Christians are called to distance ourselves from wicked ways, and embrace wholeheartedly instead the path of righteousness and justice, of all the good things that the Lord Himself had taught us to do. God had taught us His ways, and showed us all how to live our lives in the right manner, and it is in the end, up to us whether we want to follow Him or to follow our own path.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord when the people told Him that His family members, His mother and other relatives were waiting for Him. The Lord then told them all that His brothers and sisters, His mother are all those who listen to the Lord and do His will. While at a glance it might seem that the Lord had been rude to His mother and family, but in truth, the intention behind those words uttered by the Lord Jesus is that, each and every one of us are equally beloved by God, and all of us who do His will, who are righteous and just, virtuous and good, upright and faithful, all of us will share the fullness of God’s love, grace and compassion. And we should look upon our glorious and holy predecessors how we ought to be just doing exactly that.

Today the Church celebrates the memory of the great martyrs and all those who had given their lives for their faith in the region of Korea, as part of the Feast of the Holy Martyrs of Korea, namely St. Andreas Kim Taegon, St. Paul Chong Hasang among the many other local Christians of Korea who were persecuted for their faith, as well as foreign missionaries such as St. Laurent Imbert, the first Apostolic Vicar to Korea, St. Jacques Chastan and many others who had travelled far and wide, to come to the far peripheries of the world and spread the Good News of God to all those who have yet to hear of Him, and who suffered for His sake.

At that time, the state and the government of Korea was highly hostile and suspicious of Christian missionaries and the Christian faith, considering them all as unwanted foreign influences that could potentially bring harm to the state. To that extent, the state carried out intense official persecution much alike what happened during the time of the Roman Empire in the early Church. The Christian missionaries had to operate in secret, in fear of repercussions from the officials and the authorities, and many of the Christian faithful, both the missionaries and converts alike suffered because of their persistence and perseverance in remaining true to their faith in God despite the oppressions.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon was the first local convert Catholic priest in Korea, whose parents were themselves converts, and his father was martyred for his faith. St. Andrew Kim Taegon eventually chose priesthood as his path and finally returned to Korea after years of ministry and studies, during which time then he ministered and preached to his native Koreans about the Lord, having to deal with the intensifying persecution from the government authorities. He was martyred together with thousands of the other Christians who refused to abandon their faith, as he was tortured and beheaded, enduring glorious martyr’s death for the Lord.

Then, I would also like to share the story of St. Laurent Imbert, who was the first Apostolic Vicar to Korea, as the first bishop to establish the nascent hierarchy of the Church in that land. St. Laurent Imbert was a member of the Paris Foreign Missions society or the M.E.P., who together with the other missionary priests clandestinely ministered to the faithful and grew the Church during those difficult years. And it was told that when the officials demanded that he and the other priests surrendered themselves in exchange for the safety of his faithful flock, he willingly surrendered himself and asked his fellow two other priests to do the same as well, saying that ‘The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep’, remembering what the Lord Himself, our Good Shepherd, had done for our sake.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the numerous stories of great wisdom and courage from the martyr saints of Korea should inspire us all to live our lives worthily and to do our best to glorify the Lord by our lives, actions and works. Each and every one of us should follow God’s will and obey His Law and commandments. Let us all no longer distance ourselves from Him or be ignorant of Him calling on us to follow Him in our hearts and minds. May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to strengthen us all each day, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 8 : 19-21

At that time, the mother of Jesus and His relatives came to Him; but they could not get to Him because of the crowd. Someone told Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside and wish to meet You.”

Then Jesus answered, “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

Tuesday, 20 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 118 : 1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44

Blessed are they whose ways are upright, who follow the Law of YHVH.

Explain to me all Your ordinances, and I will meditate on Your wondrous deeds.

I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart upon Your laws.

Give me understanding, that I may observe Your Law with all my heart.

Guide me in obeying Your instructions, for my pleasure lies in them.

May I always keep Your word, forever and ever.

Tuesday, 20 September 2022 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon, Martyr, St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Proverbs 21 : 1-6, 10-13

In the hands of YHVH, the heart of the king is like running water; He directs it wherever He wishes. To the eyes of man all His ways are honest but it is YHVH Who weighs the heart. To do what is upright and just pleases YHVH more than sacrifice.

Haughty looks, proud heart, the light of the wicked is sin. The plans of a hardworking man result in earnings; poverty is for those who act too hastily. To make a fortune by means of deceit is like running after the wind; the end is death.

The soul of the wicked desires nothing but evil; not even his friend is treated with compassion. When the mocker is punished the ignorant man grows wise; when the wise man is instructed he grows in knowledge. The Just One watches the house of the evildoer and hurls the wicked into misfortune.

He who is deaf to the poor man’s cry will not be heard when he himself calls out.

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.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scriptures of the contradiction that came from the world, its expectation from us, and how we ought to live in accordance with God’s ways regardless of what the world demands from us. In the Gospel Jesus mentioned to His disciples how the world always refused to acknowledge God and His works, finding a reason at all times to find fault with Him and His servants.

Now, all of us as Christians are given the choice, whether we all want to be conforming to the world that we may be accepted and welcomed, or whether we should remain true wholeheartedly to our faith in God, obeying His ways and His laws, despite the opposition and disapproval from the Lord. We need to make a choice, brothers and sisters in Christ, for if we are lukewarm or if we are ambivalent, we will end up getting nothing in the end, neither righteousness in God, or approval from the world, and we will fall nonetheless.

We should instead be inspired by the examples of the holy martyrs and saints who predeceased us, what they have done in their lives, and how they have stood up to their faith despite the challenges and the suffering they had to encounter. And today we remember the holy martyrs of Korea for that reason, all those multitudes of the holy people of God who have suffered and died in the land of Korea, through the many years of persecution when the faith was still young in that land.

At that time, the Korean government was staunchly anti-Christian in nature, and the government agents and officials were very harsh in their oppression of the Christian faith, rounding up and arresting missionaries and making life very difficult for all the Christians. Yet, the Christian community was thriving, and more and more people accepted the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and were baptised into the Church.

They lived in a very difficult time, when even the slightest inclination of hint of one being a Christian might mean the difference between life and death. It was certainly a time when someone would rather not be known as a Christian, and where many would end up giving up the faith, as was what truly happened then. There were those who were unable to resist the temptation and the pressure for them to give up the faith, and they faltered.

But there were those brave and courageous servants of God who refused to let fear to overcome them, and they continued to serve the people of God and remained true to their faith. There were European missionaries amongst them as well as the local Korean priests and the laypeople, who continued to minister among the people even under the very real threat of suffering, pain and death.

Their commitment to the Lord was truly commendable, especially in the case of one of the saints whose story I can really relate to, as he was the saint who inspired the name of the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Singapore, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, because of his dedication to the people and the flock he had been entrusted with in Korea, as the first Bishop and Vicar Apostolic of the country.

St. Laurent Imbert was a French Missionary of the Mission Etrangeres de Paris or the Paris Foreign Mission Society, who went to Asia and the Far East to preach the Gospel and evangelise to the people, including countries in Southeast Asia like Singapore, where he helped to build the foundation of the Church, and then later on in Korea, where as the first Vicar Apostolic, he was committed to care for his faithful flock even amidst the difficult times.

He was betrayed at one time, and realising that it would be inevitable that he would be arrested, he surrendered himself to the authorities, to avoid bloodshed and trouble for his flock. And believing that if the foreign missionaries surrendered themselves the authorities would spare the people from harm, he encouraged his fellow missionaries to surrender themselves. At that time, many of the priest missionaries were in hiding, as the authorities were looking for them.

St. Laurent Imbert encouraged two of his fellow priests, St. Pierre Maubant and St. Jacques Chastan to surrender themselves to the authorities, hoping that they would gain safety for the people, and through their suffering the people might live. There was indeed no guarantee that the authorities would not persecute the people even if they surrendered. However, St. Laurent Imbert as the leader and shepherd of the flock of God showed the example, saying that, ‘the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’

In putting his flock’s safety ahead of his own safety, these saints imitated our Lord, the Good Shepherd, Who has laid down His life for all of His sheep, these holy saints and martyrs have shown each and every one of us what is the true meaning of being Christians. Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians must be sincerely and devoutly committed to God, standing up for our faith through our actions and deeds.

Let us all treasure this faith which we have, which our predecessors have even suffered and died that they might pass on the faith to us. Let us all ask for the intercession of the holy Korean martyrs, that they will pray for our sake before the Lord, that the Lord will move our hearts to be ever better servants to Him in all of our actions. May God bless all of our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop and Martyr, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and Martyr, St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Martyr, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 31-35

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What comparison can I use for the people? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain, ‘We piped you a tune and you would not dance; we sang funeral songs and you would not cry.'”

“Remember John : he did not ear bread or drink wine, and you said, ‘He has an evil spirit.’ Next, came the Son of Man, eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Look, a glutton for food and wine, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But the children of Wisdom always recognise her work.”