Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the memorial of Mary, Our Lady, Help of Christians, and the Lady of Sheshan, named after the famous Sheshan Basilica in Shanghai, China. On this day, in particular, we remember all those brothers and sisters of ours, who are currently facing intense persecution and difficult time, as they struggle to remain true to their faith in God.

That is why, the Church has designated this day, true to the memorial I just mentioned, as the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. We are praying on behalf of our brethren in faith, who may be undergoing and are indeed, for many among them, facing persecution and challenges just because they identify themselves as Christians, that is as those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and take Him as their Lord and Saviour.

In China today, especially in recent years, there had been increasing intolerance towards Christians in particular, and many of the faithful find it more and more difficult to remain true to their faith. I am sure many of us have heard news of how crosses were forcibly removed from churches, and restrictions put in place on Christian worship, and even, young children were barred from attending the Holy Mass or going to Church.

In all these, we can see how the persecution of Christians that once happened during its early days came back once again, especially in China, but in truth, is happening in many other parts of the world, such as in the Middle East, Africa, in the Western world, the Americas, and even recently in the Philippines, being a Christian, and especially for priests, it can be very challenging and a matter of life or death.

And when I speak about persecution and challenges, it is not just about persecution with lions and gladiators, or with swords and whips and lances, as how it was in the Ancient Roman times. Indeed, such kind of persecutions still exist, but nowadays, persecution exist in many more ways than what we think persecution is truly about. Persecution happened in many areas, in the political world, in the society and the community, through the attacks on Christian values and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we should spend some time, to think about these suffering brethren of ours, and pray for them, that God will protect them and defend them from their enemies, all the forces of darkness assembled against them. And then, we should also realise just how fortunate we may be, if we have not faced a similar kind of persecution and challenge as these brethren of ours had experienced.

Let us all do our best therefore, to live our lives as true Christians, dedicated and devoted to the Lord, that we show love and charity in our actions, towards all those who are around us. However, most importantly, in order to show our true faith, we cannot forget, that the most important virtue is indeed, love, and love that is unconditional and generous, as the Lord Himself had done.

It is easy for us to be angry at our enemies and to all those who hate us and persecute us. However, if we become angry at them, hate them and strike back at them, then are we not just as evil and wicked as our enemies had been wicked? If the Lord Jesus Himself had forgiven those who condemned Him to death and crucified Him from the cross, and prayed for them? Should we not do the same then?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, let us all be exemplary in our faith, that we become inspiration for one another, and also even strength for those who are being persecuted for their faith, by standing up for the Lord’s sake and living our lives with faith. Let us all pray for our brethren, that God will be with them, and also with all of us, that together, we may in the end, enjoy forever the eternal grace and glory of heaven, having suffered for His sake. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Mark 9 : 41-50

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone gives you a drink of water because you belong to Christ and bear His Name, truly, I say to you, he will not go without reward. If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble and sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.”

“If your hand makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a hand, than with two hands to go to hell, to the fire that never goes out. And if your foot makes you fall into sin, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life without a foot, than with both feet to be thrown into hell.”

“And if your eye makes you fall into sin, tear it out! It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, keeping both eyes, to be thrown into hell, where the worms that eat them never die, and the fire never goes out. The fire itself will preserve them.”

“Salt is a good thing; but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.”

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

Psalm 48 : 14-15ab, 15cde-16, 17-18, 19-20

This is the fate of people trusting themselves, the future of those who rely on their strength. Like sheep led to the grave, they have death, as their shepherd and ruler.

Quickly, their form will be consumed in the world of the dead, which is their home. But God will rescue my soul from the grave by receiving me unto Himself.

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.

Thursday, 24 May 2018 : 7th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, Our Lady of Sheshan, World Day of Prayer for the Church in China (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mary, Help of Christians)

James 5 : 1-6

So, now, for what concerns the rich, cry and weep, for the misfortunes that are coming upon you. Your riches are rotting, and your clothes, eaten up by the moths. Your silver and gold have rusted, and their rust grows into a witness against you. It will consume your flesh, like fire, for having piled up riches, in these, the last days.

You deceived the workers who harvested your fields, but, now, their wages cry out to the heavens. The reapers’ complaints have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You lived in luxury and pleasure in this world, thus, fattening yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have easily condemned, and killed the innocent since they offered no resistance.

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.