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.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard from the Scripture the difficulties and challenges that we all will encounter on our way as we live out our lives in faith in the Lord. It is important for us to take note that to have faith in the Lord, it is likely for us to encounter challenges, opposition, ridicule, rejection and bad treatment, even from those whom we considered to be good friends and relatives.

It will not be an easy life for us if we decide to walk the Lord’s path and follow Him to His salvation. Those who think that becoming the disciples of the Lord Jesus is easy will find that they are mistaken. This is because to become a member of God’s Church, as His disciples and children, it is necessary for us to make sacrifices and to let go of certain things that prevent us from achieving what God seeks from us to be saved

And this is the attitude of rejecting oneself, one’s own ego, needs, desires and all the temptations of the flesh, the temptation of worldly glory and fame, and the temptation to be ignorant and exclusive towards the sufferings of the world around us, our brethren who need our help. If we are able to accomplish all these, then we are indeed one step closer to be good and devoted disciples of our Lord.

God Himself mentioned through the parable of the dishonest and wicked steward, who cheated his master of his possessions, and when he was discovered and fired from his position, he used his power to safeguard himself, by using his trickery to cheat out of his master’s debts owned by several people, where he gained favour by reducing those debts and so, while he lost his job, he hoped that those whom he had helped would help him in return.

That is the way of the world, the way of the wicked, the way of those who serve themselves and are servants of money and possessions, and not servants and followers of the Lord. This is what the Lord mentioned, when He said that those who follow one master will not be able to obey another master, for either he will despise one and love the other, or vice versa.

In that way therefore, to reinforce what I have mentioned earlier on, that all those who want to follow the Lord faithfully shall suffer and face numerous and various challenges and obstacles on their way, that is their lives. There are many differences between the way and customs of this world as compared to the ways taught to us by our Lord, that is faith, righteousness, justice and love. The world on the other hand, prioritises selfish desires, money and pleasures of the flesh.

It is not necessary that the two ways should clash with each other, but what is to be expected is that it is inevitable that conflicts between the two will arise in time, as we will be made to choose between our Lord and His ways, and with the world and its ways. There will be moment when the difficult choice will be presented to us, or it might even have happened to us in the past, when we have no choice but to choose between appeasing the world and displeasing the Lord, or appeasing the Lord but displeasing the world.

Do not be surprised that one day people will scold us, rebuke us, reject us and ostracise us because we decide to do what is right for the Lord but considered wrong in the eyes and perception of the world. For example, if we have been aware of the state of the world so far, we would already know how far the culture of death is spreading throughout the world and into all echelons of society. And it is worrying indeed how our faith and the Church are under increasing pressure to give up our struggle and fight in the defence of the faith.

For instance, many people around the world, and even regretfully even counting among those who are in the Church, who believe that committing something as heinous and unthinkable as abortion and euthanasia, and many other actions that trample on the sanctity and dignity of life is not wrong or considered morally acceptable to do so. And there are many of those who pushed and lobbied for the acceptance of such sinful things, and claim that they are representing and defending our human rights to be able to do as we please with our bodies and with ourselves.

But they did not realise that such abominations are wicked and evil in the sight of not only men, but in the sight of God as well. Life is sacred and holy, no matter under what circumstances it is. Instead of honouring and protecting life in all the means they are able to contribute, we mankind instead strive to destroy them, whenever we think of them as obstacles to our own selfish desires and wants.

Indeed, the pressure is great for many of us to accept and acknowledge the legality of such vileness, but as those who truly believe in the Lord, if we really are faithful to the Lord, then all of us should persist in our resistance against such injustice and wickedness committed against innocent lives. Let us all not ignore or shy away or be afraid from standing up for our faith, as it is better for us to suffer and be rejected, and yet receive God’s approval and salvation, rather than to be accepted by the world but we lose the grace and favour of our Lord.

Let us all then reflect on the lives of the holy saints and martyrs whose feast we are celebrating today, the martyr saints of Korea. There were many of them, and all of them had had different lives and came from different periods of time spanning about two centuries, but they all share one thing in common, that is they gave their lives up in the defence of their faith, or that they were martyred and killed on the frontline of their works as the servants of the Lord and His Church.

Today there are many Christians, our brethren in faith in Korea, and the numbers are continuing to increase rapidly over the years. But if we look at the current situation, in comparison with how it was in the past and what it meant to evangelise to the people of Korea about the Lord Jesus, then we certainly will find it difficult to understand the kind of challenges and sufferings these faithful servants of the Lord and the faithful encountered there.

St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon was the first indigenous Korean who was ordained a priest of the Church, and he and many of his other Korean brethren who have believed in the Lord encountered great persecutions by the government of Korea at the time, which was intensely against the Faith and persecuted these people whom they considered as traitors to their nation.

And counted among these martyrs were also the missionaries from different countries, but many came from France as part of the missionaries to Asia. Among them were St. Laurent Imbert, the Vicar Apostolic of Korea, one of the first bishops of Korea, and St. Jacques Chastan with many other priests and missionaries who braved rejection, cultural and linguistic barriers, and even the threat and real risk of death to bring the Lord Jesus and His truth to the people who have yet to hear of Him.

And they did their works faithfully, carrying out all the missions which had been entrusted to them without worry or fear. And when many of the faithful were under the threat of death and suffering, and the government was offering an exchange, allowing the faithful to live and to go unpunished if the missionaries and the leaders gave themselves up, St. Laurent Imbert as the bishop of the faithful gave himself up willingly, saying in his now famous words, which he took from the words of Jesus, that ‘the good shepherd lay down his life for his sheep.’

He and the other missionaries could have continued to hide themselves or to run away and abandon their mission, and in the process saving their lives, but they did not do so, because they know that if they try to preserve themselves and to put themselves first before the needs of others, as the world advocated them to do, then they would not preserve their lives in the world that is to come.

Remember that Jesus Himself said that those who tried to preserve their lives on earth would lose them, and those who lost their lives for God’s sake, in the defence of their faith would gain eternal life? This is precisely what it meant, and all of us ought to heed it as well and learn our lesson from what we have talked about on this day, or else we risk falling into sin and darkness yet again.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have to realise that suffering is a part of our faith, and rather than fearing it or running away from it, why not we embrace it with full faith and full trust in the Lord, that He will be with us through it all? Running away from the problem does not resolve it, and indeed made the matter even worse. Instead, we really should face it with faith and trust in the Lord, and make a solid stand for our faith and for what we truly believe in.

May Almighty God bless us all and keep us always in His grace, and may we all learn to put our trust in Him and know that He will be with us as long as we are faithful to Him, and He will not let harm that lasts to come to us. Let us all realise that at the end of the difficulties and the sufferings we are to endure as the followers of our God are our crosses that we carry together with us, that in the end, just as our Lord is risen in glory, we too may rise with Him together into the glory of eternal life. God bless us all. Amen.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 9 : 30-37

At that time, after leaving the place where He drove out demons from a young boy, Jesus and His disciples made their way through Galilee; but He did not want people to know where He was because He was teaching His disciples.

And He told them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, but three days after He has been killed, He will rise.” The disciples, however, did not understand these words and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, Jesus asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they did not answer, because they had been arguing about who was the greatest. Then He sat down, called the Twelve and said to them, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.”

Then He took a little child, placed him in their midst, and putting His arms around him He said to them, “Whoever welcomes a child such as this in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes not Me but the One who sent Me.”

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

James 3 : 16 – James 4 : 3

Wherever there is jealousy and ambition, you will also find discord and all that is evil. Instead, the wisdom that comes from above is pure and peace-loving. Persons with this wisdom show understanding and listen to advice; they are full of compassion and good works; they are impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow peace reap a harvest of justice.

What causes these fights and quarrels among you? Is it not your cravings that make war within your own selves? When you long for something you cannot have, you kill for it and when you do not get what you desire, you squabble and fight. The fact is, you do not have what you want because you do not pray for it.

You pray for something and you do not get it because you pray with the wrong motive of indulging your pleasures.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 53 : 3-4, 5, 6 and 8

By Your Name, o God, save me; You, the Valiant, uphold my cause. Hear my prayer, o God; listen to the words of my mouth.

Strangers are against me – the ruthless seek my life; they have no regard for God.

See, God is my Helper; the Lord upholds my life. Freely will I offer sacrifice to You and praise Your Name, o Lord, for it is good.

Sunday, 20 September 2015 : Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest and St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest, and St. Paul Chong Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Wisdom 2 : 12a, 17-20

Let us set a trap for the righteous, for He annoys us and opposes our way of life. Let us see the truth of what He says and find out what His end will be. If the Righteous is a Son of God, God will defend Him and deliver Him from His adversaries.

Let us humble and torture Him to prove His self-control and test His patience. When we have condemned Him to a shameful death, we may test His words.

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.