Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard from the Scriptures firstly of the account of the reaping of the Earth by the Angel of God as recounted in the Book of Revelations of St. John, and then in the Gospel the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people that the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple would come soon and also elaborated of the signs of the end times. Just as that destruction really came about as the Lord had spoken, it proved that whatever else He said about His coming will definitely come true.

In all of those readings, we heard of the coming of the time of reckoning and judgment of the world, typical of the readings at the end of the liturgical year cycle. This serves to remind us that we have to always be vigilant and not be complacent in living our lives that we do not end up falling into the path of sin and stray from the path that the Lord has shown us. It is very easy for us to be tempted and to be swayed away from the path of God.

In our first reading today, St. John recounted his vision of the Apocalypse or the end times, when the Lord commanded His Angels to go to the world and reap the harvest of the Earth. This is related to the parable of the Lord which was the harvest of the wheat and the weeds in which they were harvested when they were mature at the time of the harvest, and while the wheat were gathered and kept, the weeds were thrown into the fire and perished.

This means that the time will come when the time of reckoning is at hand for all of us, be it the living and the dead, when the Lord at His appointed time shall come again to judge the whole creation just as He has revealed and promised to us. And all those who have been faithful and righteous will be blessed while those who have been defiant and refused to believe in God will be condemned by their sins and wickedness.

That is why at the time of the judgment of the world in the vision of St. John, the same parable was repeated yet again to highlight just how the time of the harvest shall eventually come, the time of the world’s judgment, our judgment shall also come for us. And why does it say that the grapes were thrown into the winepress of the anger of the Lord? That is because likely there are just so much wickedness and evil in the world to bring about God’s anger against all those evils and evildoers.

Now the question is, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we want to be counted among those who are wicked? Or do we rather be counted among the righteous and the worthy ones? God has given each and every one of us the free will and the choice to choose whether we want to be faithful to Him or whether we prefer instead to follow our own path and forge our own ways and actions. If we had chosen to walk away from God, then know it that it is by our own choice that we shall be judged into eternal darkness.

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our own lives in the light of the certainty of the Lord’s return and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been good and faithful to the teachings of the Lord that He has revealed to us and taught us through His Church? Have we dedicated our live to Him as we should have done? If we have not done so, then it is not yet too late for us to change our ways and make a difference.

Let us today look up upon the examples of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions, all holy martyrs of the persecution of the faithful in Vietnam, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. St. Andrew Dung-Lac himself was one of the first local Vietnamese to be ordained as a priest amidst the very hostile environment in Vietnam at that time as the Vietnamese Emperor and his government were deeply suspicious of the Christian faith and its missionaries.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, the Christian missionaries and all the Vietnamese faithful faced bitter persecution and trials, and many of them were forced to choose between suffering and abandoning their faith. Many remained firm in their faith and conviction, choosing rather to suffer and even die rather than abandoning their faith and devotion to God. And the most difficult and challenging fate faced those priests and missionaries who laboured to serve the people and spread the message of the Gospel even through these difficult times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore be more faithful to the Lord following the examples of our faithful predecessors, especially that of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions in holy martyrdom, the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam. Let us be inspired by their great courage and dedication to the Lord, their wholehearted service of God that we too shall be counted among the righteous, the holy saints and martyrs of God.

Let us all walk in their footsteps and love of God ever more faithfully from now on. May the Lord be with us in our journey of faith always, that we may persevere through all the challenges and trials we face. May God bless us now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 21 : 5-11

At that time, while some people were talking about the Temple, remarking that it was adorned with fine stonework and rich gifts, Jesus said to them, “The days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon another of all that you now admire; all will be torn down.” And they asked Him, “Master, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”

Jesus then said, “Take care not to be deceived, for many will come claiming My title and saying, ‘I am He, the Messiah; the time is at hand!’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and troubled times, do not be frightened; for all these things must happen first, even though the end is not so soon.”

And Jesus said, “Nations will fight each other and kingdom will oppose kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and plagues; in many places strange and terrifying signs from heaven will be seen.”

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Tuesday, 24 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 14 : 14-19

Then I had this vision, I saw a white cloud and the One sitting on it like a Son of Man, wearing a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. An Angel came out of the sanctuary, calling loudly to the One sitting on the cloud, “Put in Your sickle and reap, for harvest time has come and the harvest of the earth is ripe.”

He Who was sitting on the cloud swung His sickle at the earth and reaped the harvest. Then another Angel, who also had a sharp sickle, came out of the heavenly sanctuary. Still another Angel, the one who has charge of the altar fire, emerged and shouted to the first who held the sharp sickle, “Swing your sharp sickle and reap the bunches of the vine of the earth for they are fully ripe.”

So the Angel swung his sickle and gathered in the vintage, throwing all the grapes into the great winepress of the anger of God.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scripture which we heard about the suffering of the faithful and the resurrection from the dead into eternal glory of heaven. And this is apt considering that today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs who perished during the harsh persecutions against Christians in Vietnam.

In the first reading today, we heard about the moment from the Book of the Revelations of St. John the Apostle, when at the end of time, holy witnesses of God came into the world to preach the truth about God, and many would not listen to the words that they said in their midst. Those witnesses were given power and authority to oppose those who were against them until the time when the great enemy, the devil is to rise up and destroy those faithful servants of God at the end of their ministries.

The wicked people rejoiced at the death of the two servants of God, and continued to walk in sin, not repenting from those sins that they have committed. But God will not abandon those who have been faithful to Him, and after three days, in the same manner as He Himself has risen from the dead, He raised the dead servants into glory, and they rose to heaven at the plain sight of those who had rejected and persecuted them.

This is related to what has happened throughout the history of the Church, of the challenges and persecutions that occur in various parts of the world, and at different periods and times in the history of the Church, when the faithful were subjected to varying persecutions and oppressions, be it from individuals, or from state governments and holders of power and authority.

Many missionaries and followers of Christ have encountered difficulties and challenges, rejections and oppositions throughout their ministries in the attempt and effort to preach the truth and the word of God among the people who have not yet heard of them. They had to suffer prison, torture, indignation, and even death just because of their determination and commitment to remain faithful to the Lord.

Today, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs as mentioned, celebrating the memory of those who have perished through the many years of persecution of Christians in the land of Vietnam. There are both missionaries and local Christians amidst these martyrs, whose life and stories spanned over a century of the history of the early years of Christian faith in Vietnam.

At that time, the state government of Vietnam viewed the Christian faith with great suspicion, and suspected the missionaries to be agents of Western influence and of their effort to colonise their country. As a result, they placed strict regulations and restrictions on the propagation of the Christian faith among the local population, and persecuted the Christian communities harshly.

Yet, the Christian communities continued to grow, and many more local populace converted to the faith despite the strong oppression and persecution by the government. That is because the Christian faithful held fast to the promise that God has made in today’s Gospel passage, when the Lord Jesus reiterated what He meant by the resurrection of the dead, when those faithful departed will be raised once again to life, to enjoy forever the eternal glory with God.

The saints and martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions resisted the sufferings and the many temptations through which the enemies of the Lord wanted to lead the Christian faithful to abandon their faith. Putting their trust completely in God, they did not fear the pain of death and chose rather suffering and death rather than to abandon their hard-won faith and commitment to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we ought to reflect on our own lives, on our actions in life thus far on whether we have been truly faithful to God in everything, or whether we have allowed ourselves to be swayed by the temptations and to be intimidated to give up our faith and the Christian way of living. We need to reflect on this, so that we may be able to find our way to the Lord, and follow in the footsteps of the holy martyrs.

Let us all ask for the intercessions of the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, that we may continue to strive to reach righteousness in God, to be able to courageously stand up for our faith amidst trials and tribulations we face. May the Lord be with us always, and may He be our guide in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.'”

“Now, there were seven brothers; the first married a wife, but he died without children; and the second and the third took the wife; in fact, all seven died leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when He called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare to ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 143 : 1, 2, 9-10

Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, Who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.

My loving God, my Fortress; my Protector and Deliverer, my Shield where I take refuge, Who conquers nations and subjects them to my rule.

I will sing a new song to You, o God, I will make music on the ten-stringed harp, for You Who give victory to kings and deliver David, Your servant.

Saturday, 24 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Revelations 11 : 4-12

These are the two olive trees and the two lamps which are before the Lord of the earth. If anyone intends to harm them, fire will come out of their mouths to devour their enemies : this is how whoever intends to harm them will perish. They have the power to close the sky and hold back the rain during the time of their prophetic mission; they also have the power to change water into blood, and punish the earth with a thousand plagues, any time they wish.

But when My witnesses have fulfilled their mission, the beast that comes up from the abyss will make war upon them, and will conquer and kill them. Their dead bodies will lie in the square of the Great City which the believers figuratively call Sodom or Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. And their dead bodies will be exposed for three days and a half to people of all tribes, races, languages and nations who will be ordered not to have them buried.

Then the inhabitants of the earth will rejoice, congratulate one another and exchange gifts among themselves because these two prophets were a torment to them. But after those three and a half days, a Spirit of life coming from God entered them. They them stood up, and those who looked at them were seized with great fear. A loud voice from heaven called them, “Come up here.” So they went up to heaven in the midst of the clouds in the sight of their enemies.

Friday, 24 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s readings, we see a common theme between what we have heard from the Book of the Maccabees and from the Gospel passage according to St. Luke. In the first reading from the Maccabees, we heard an account of how the forces of the Israelites triumphed against their enemies, the Seleucids, and seized a very important place in Jerusalem, none other than the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

On that day, the victorious Jewish forces under the leadership of Judas Maccabees overthrew all that the Greek invaders had imposed on the Temple, the defilement and all the wickedness, all the pagan idols, altars and corruption which have been placed there by king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who had wanted to eradicate the faith of the Jewish people by imposing on them the worship of the Greek pagan gods.

The old altar that had been defiled were corrupted, and it had to be removed and destroyed, to be replaced with a new altar, free from defilement of the pagan idols. That was what the victorious Jews did, and after the necessary preparations, they rededicated the Temple of God through great festivities and celebrations, which were highly symbolic as the sign of the overthrowing of the great oppression and persecution imposed on them by the Seleucid king.

Then, in the Gospel passage today, we listened to the well known passage, of how Jesus became angry at the state in which the Temple of God, the House of God His Father, has become, because it was filled with many merchants and money changers, with people plying their trade and worse still, cheating their customers by overcharging them and tricking them as they changed their money and purchased the sacrificial animals.

Thus, Jesus chased all of them out of the Temple courtyard with a whip, in His righteous wrath, and rebuked all those who had defiled His Father’s house, which ought to be a house of prayer and instead had been made into a den of robbers and wicked people. This act surely surprised even His followers, as if we see throughout the Scriptures, Jesus mostly used non-violence and peaceful means to spread His teachings.

But the Lord was rightful and just to be angry, as those people had desecrated the sanctity of His holy place by their actions, just as the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes had done with the pagan idols and wickedness placed on the altars of the Temple during the time of the Maccabees. It was in fact merely only less than two centuries before the time of Jesus, and the Jewish people had forgotten how they fought hard to reclaim their Temple and House of God, and toiled to rededicate it to God.

What is the significance of all these to us, brothers and sisters? Each and every one of us are God’s Temple, where God resides in this world. He Himself has given us all His own Precious Body to eat and Precious Blood to drink. As a result, God Himself in His real and holy Presence is present fully in each and every one of us, and we are in charge of each of these Temples, that is our Body and our whole Being.

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth spoke of our bodies, our hearts and minds, and our whole being as the Temples of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, we ought to maintain their sanctity and holiness. We must not do things that compromise the sanctity of these Houses of God, ourselves or else, what the Lord’s anger had done to those wicked merchants and also the wicked forces of the Seleucids will befall us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is not easy for us all to maintain this sanctity, as there are many temptations and challenges in life, which we will surely encounter on our way, and many of these will weaken our resolve to live a faithful life, that many of us failing to reach God’s salvation. But we should then heed the examples of our holy and dedicated predecessors in faith, especially those who we commemorate today, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his many companions in faith, martyrs of the Lord and His Church in Vietnam.

During those years, around two to three centuries ago, there were great works of evangelisation among the peoples in areas such as Vietnam and Korea. However, the government and the authorities were suspicious against the missionaries who were sent to preach the Gospel to the people, and eventually, persecution against Christians began, both towards the missionaries and to the people they converted.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac was among the first priests to be ordained from the local community, and he and his many companions had to endure great difficulties as they had to practice their faith in secret to avoid the authorities, and at the same time, they still had to minister to the faithful in many places. They persevered through, and when they were arrested and tortured, demanded to abandon their faith or die, they refused to do so.

To the very end, these saints and martyrs are our examples of how we should live our lives in accordance with our faith. We should not be lukewarm with our faith, but instead should try our best to be faithful, keeping ourselves obedient to the Law and commandments of God. There will indeed be trials and tribulations, but we should not give up to the demands of those who want us to abandon our faith and corrupt ourselves with sin.

Let us all therefore renew our commitment to the Lord and draw ourselves ever closer to Him. Let us put our trust in Him, for it is He alone Who is worthy of all trust, and through our steadfast faith in Him, God will reward each and every one of us bountifully at the end. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 24 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.