Thursday, 21 September 2017 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one great servant of God, one of the Twelve Apostles and one of the Four Evangelists, whom God had called from among the tax collectors, a group of people who was long reviled and hated in the Jewish community, considered as betrayers and traitors to the nation. Yet, from among this group, God had called up a great saint.

It is often that we thought of certain group of people as being sinners and wicked in their deeds. And we often look down on them, thinking that we are better than them. But, do we realise that each and every one of us are sinners too? Do we realise that no matter how great or how small the sins we have, they are still sins in the sight of God? And that those sins have made us all to be unworthy?

With great sins and wickedness, also comes great opportunity at redemption and liberation. God has granted us the new hope and opportunity of being forgiven, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whose action, His sacrifice on the Cross, He has brought healing and redemption upon all those who have been lost to the Lord, all those who have gone wayward in their lives.

Each and every one of us are called with the same calling that Jesus made upon His Apostle St. Matthew, while he was still called Levi, the tax collector, with the words, “Follow Me!” He called Levi to leave behind his old life, his old work as a tax collector, and embrace wholeheartedly and completely his new role and calling as a disciple of the Lord, as the one through whom the Lord would exercise His will upon this world.

We often feel that we are inadequate or incapable of contributing to the causes of the Lord, through His Church. Some of us feel that we do not have any special talents or abilities to do what the Lord had done through His Apostles and the other disciples. But we forget that it is not we who decide or choose who it is that is worthy of the Lord, just as it is not ours to decide whether someone would be unworthy of the Lord, as the Pharisees had done on the tax collectors and prostitutes.

Rather, God chooses those whom He had chosen and He makes worthy all those who He wishes to be worthy. He has granted us His blessings and gifts, as what St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, our first reading today, mentioned. God has given to different people the different gifts according to what He deems to be right for each one of us. Not all of us are called to be leaders, and neither are all of us called to be teachers, or to be pastors and priests.

That is therefore how things are working out in the Church today. There are different members of the Church, with different professions and callings in life. Some are called to the married life, where man and woman are called to glorify the Lord through their commitment to one another, and by building up families that are founded upon the firm foundation of faith, raising up children devoted to God, praying together and doing the will of God as one family.

Some others are called to labour for the good of the Church, and this may indeed overlapped the calling to married life. For there are those who, while being busy with their families, but they still, in various ways, contribute to the Church, in their effort and time spent, to help the good works of the Church, volunteering their best to help realise the Lord’s work done through His Church.

And of course some heard the noble calling to surrender their lives completely to God, to heed His will and to follow wholeheartedly in His Apostles’ footsteps, to become His holy priests, to become the ones who have been entrusted with the guidance of the people of God, to forgive the sins of man by the virtue of them being the Alter Christus, representing our Lord Jesus Himself.

Regardless of what God has called us to be, what each and every one of us need to do is to discern what it is that God wants us to do with our lives, and with all that He has granted us and blessed us with. Let us heed the examples of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist, who heeded the Lord’s call and went forth, trusting completely in God’s will and providence, and devoted himself completely to God.

Let us all do the same, brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us all devote ourselves anew to the Lord, with a renewed zeal, knowing that in Him alone that we will be able to find true satisfaction and joy in life. Let us embrace what God has called us to be, in our own capacities, as the lay members of the Church, as married couples and family members, and also as those who have given themselves to consecrated and religious life, as well as the holy priesthood.

May the Lord be with each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us so that we may be courageous in living our lives to the best of our abilities. Let us contribute in whatever way we can, trusting that God will show us the way forward. Let us all follow Him and love Him ever more, with each passing day. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 21 September 2017 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 9 : 9-13

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He cured a paralytic man, He saw a man named Matthew, at his seat in the custom house; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.

Now it happened, while Jesus was at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners joined Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is it, that your Master eats with sinners and tax collectors?”

When Jesus heard this, He said, “Healthy people do not need a doctor, but sick people do. Go, and find out what this means : What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Thursday, 21 September 2017 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands over the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Thursday, 21 September 2017 : Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Ephesians 4 : 1-7, 11-13

Therefore, I, the prisoner of Christ, invite you, to live the vocation you have received. Be humble, kind, patient, and bear with one another in love. Make every effort to keep, among you, the unity of spirit, through bonds of peace. Let there be one body, and one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God, the Father of all, Who is above all, and works through all, and is in all.

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it is said : When He ascended to the heights, He brought captives and gave His gifts to people. As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers.

So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

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.”

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 (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 110 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

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

Glorious and majestic are His deeds, His righteousness endures forever. He lets us remember His wondrous deeds; YHVH is merciful and kind.

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.