Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we heard the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder of how precious and beloved each and every one of us are by God. And we are also reminded of Who God truly is, the Almighty and all-powerful King and Lord over all the Universe, the Lord of all the Heaven and the Earth, the One Who rules over all. He is the One Who should be our focus in life, to Whom we should spend our efforts in redirecting our attention and lives towards. God is calling on us to put our trust in Him, and to follow Him wholeheartedly, and not to be swayed easily by the temptations found in this world.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, during the reign of king Uzziah or Azariah of Judah, in which we heard of the calling of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was called by God through a great vision of Heaven, and all of the glory of God. Isaiah saw God on His great Throne in Heaven, seated on His Throne attended by the Seraphim and surrounded by innumerable Angels, the Cherubim, Thrones and other spiritual beings. The Lord had shown Isaiah Who He was, and showed Him His great glory and might, and called on Him to do His will and to be His mouthpiece among the people of Israel and Judah.

Thus was how Isaiah was called and he responded with faith, and the Lord Himself reassured Isaiah that He would provide for him and strengthen him, and he would have no need to be afraid or to worry about what he ought to say before the people, for God Himself would inspire him and tell him what to say to the people. The prophet Isaiah henceforth went on to proclaim the words of the Lord, His will and the many prophecies entrusted to him, to the people of God, through which God called His people to repent from their sinful ways and to embrace once again His path of righteousness and truth.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord speaking to His disciples and followers regarding the matter of how God truly loved all of His people, and how no one should be afraid of God, and how the disciples and followers of the Lord should not fear persecution and hardships from the world, all because of the fact that the Lord would provide for them and protect them from harm. God treated all of us, His beloved children, with great love and kindness, with compassion and generosity, far more precious than anything else. We can be assured of this after remembering all that He had done all across the generations and throughout our human history.

The Lord told His disciples, and through them to all of us, that each and every one of us, though sinners, are truly important and precious to Him. No one is truly beyond the generous love and compassion of God. God has shown His kindness to us, and He has called on each and every one of us to be His disciples and followers, calling on us to His presence, to enjoy the fullness of His bountiful love and grace. Like the people of God of old, all of us are called to turn away from our sinful paths and from the darkness of this world, in order to embrace the path of righteousness and hope, which we can find in the Lord alone.

As Christians, that means as all those who profess to believe in the Lord, each and every one of us are called by God to follow Him, as He had called Isaiah and His disciples, the many Apostles, saints and martyrs, as well as other servants and messengers whom He had called earlier on. Each one of us should respond to the Lord with faith, and embrace the calling He had made upon us, committing ourselves to go and proclaim His truth and love to the nations. Through our lives, our examples, actions, deeds and words all of us should do whatever we can to glorify God, and to bring more and more people to come to believe in God as well.

Today, we should be inspired by the examples of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his many companions in faith and martyrdom, the victims of the intense persecution and oppression of Christians by the Chinese authorities and all other forces that were hostile against Christian believers at that time. St. Augustine Zhao Rong himself was one of the first clergyman ordained from the native population of China, amidst the rapidly growing Church there at the time, as missionaries came from afar and risked their lives in proclaiming God’s truth to the people. Many became believers, and then many also equally became martyrs and victims of persecutions by the officials and the state which were against Christians and the teachings of Christ.

St. Augustine Zhao Rong and many other Christians, both the laity and the clergy alike were arrested, tortured and forced to abandon their faith or to face death. Many of them had to endure bitter sufferings and painful deaths, but they chose to be faithful to the very end. Many of them became inspirations for other Christians, not only in China but also elsewhere throughout the world. They inspired many more to follow Christ, and to persevere in the challenges and trials that they had to face throughout their journey. Each one of us should also be similarly inspired by their examples, that we may be inspired to take up our crosses too, and follow the Lord with zeal.

May the Lord continue to strengthen and inspire us, together with the inspiration from the lives of the saints and martyrs, from St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his companions in holy martyrdom, and many other inspirations, that we may always ever be faithful to God, and we may grow ever closer to God, and in our every actions, be ever exemplary and worthy of Him. May God bless us all and every actions and works we do, at all times. Amen.

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 10 : 24-33

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “A student is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. A student should be content to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If the head of the household has been called Beelzebul, how much more, those of his household! So, do not be afraid of them!”

“There is nothing covered that will not be uncovered. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known. What I am telling you in the dark, you must speak in the light. What you hear in private, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but have no power to kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell.”

“For a few cents you can buy two sparrows. Yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father knowing. As for you, every hair of your head has been counted. Do not be afraid : you are worth more than many sparrows! Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will acknowledge before My Father in heaven. Whoever rejects Me before others, I will reject before My Father in heaven.”

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 92 : 1ab, 1c-2, 5

YHVH reigns, robed in majesty; YHVH is girded with strength.

The world now, is firm; it cannot be moved. Your throne stands from long ago, o YHVH; from all eternity You are.

Your decrees can be trusted; holiness dwells in Your House, day after day, without end, o YHVH.

Saturday, 9 July 2022 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Isaiah 6 : 1-8

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted; the train of His robe filled the Temple. Above Him were Seraphs, each with six wings : two to cover the face, two to cover the feet, and two to fly with. They were calling to one another : “Holy, Holy, Holy is YHVH Sabaoth. All the earth is filled with His glory!”

At the sound of their voices the foundations of the threshold shook and the Temple was filled with smoke. I said, “Poor me! I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips, and yet I have seen the King, YHVH Sabaoth.”

Then one of the Seraphs flew to me; in his hands was a live coal which he had taken with tongs from the Altar. He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?”

I answered, “Here I am. Send me!”

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the calling and transformation which God has made upon us, as He calls upon us His people to follow Him and to do His marvellous works. In the first reading we heard of the story of what happened between Jacob and God, when he unknowingly wrestled against Him, and then in the Gospel we heard of the Lord’s call for more workers to harvest the harvests of the Lord.

In the first reading from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the encounter between Jacob and God disguised in the form of a Man. Jacob had just returned from the land of his forefathers where he spent many years in exile fleeing from his brother Esau, and over there, he managed to thrive and raised up a large family of his own. He was then on his way back to the land of Canaan, and when God came upon him, it was at the moment just before Jacob was about to meet his brother after many years.

Jacob was afraid that his brother was still very angry at him even after all those years and thus, sent his family and belongings ahead of him. It was then that God, disguised as a Man, struggled with him and wrestled with him all night long until the morning. And it was then and there that God renamed Jacob as Israel, as the one who struggled against God and survived. It was from that moment on that Jacob was known by his new name, a name that would become the name of an entire nation, of Israel.

In the Scriptures, name changes are always very symbolic and very important moments in a person’s life, as a name change indicates a profound change in a person’s direction in life, such as when God made a Covenant with Abram, changing his name to Abraham, and Sarai to Sarah when she has received the fulfilment of the promise of God of bearing a son, and of the Apostles themselves, Simon who received the new name of Cephas or Peter, and Saul who changed his name to Paul after his conversion.

Therefore, in the first reading today, God called on Jacob to be courageous and to put his trust in Him even as he was struck with great fear of expecting the vengeance of his brother. He called on Jacob to a new existence and a new life, and renewed the promise of the Covenant which He had made with his forefathers, a significant milestone in the life of Jacob, who from then on was known as Israel.

This is linked to what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, as we heard of the works of the Lord Who went about healing the people, casting out demons and proclaiming the Good News. The Lord went around seeking His people to heal them and to make them whole once again, and He had pity on them when He saw them like sheep without a shepherd, and therefore, poured forth His love upon them.

The Lord is calling on each and every one of us as He sent out His disciples to the people He loved, to follow in their footsteps and to do what they have done, in reaching out to the people and to show forth God’s love in their midst. Just as God has reassured Jacob of His faithfulness and love, and just as the Lord Jesus showed His love to the people He held dear, therefore, all of us should be the bearers and witnesses of this same love to our fellow men.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, all of us celebrate the feast of many holy martyrs and saints who have given their very best in witnessing to the love of God among men, in standing up for their Christian faith and their commitment to the message of God’s truth, despite the tough persecution and challenges that they had to face. We commemorate today the memory of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and his fellow saints, the Holy Martyrs of China.

Many of them were missionaries who came to China spreading the truth of God among the people, showing them the Good News and salvation of God, spreading the message of God’s love and mercy. And some among them were those who have accepted the truth and chose to become Christians, and paid dearly for their faith. The authorities and many of the people at the time viewed the missionaries and Christians with suspicion or even hatred.

And when in the various occasions, the local Christians and the missionaries were oppressed and persecuted, they endured great challenges and pain, suffering and torture just because they believed in the Lord Who has loved them and called them to salvation through Him. St. Augustine Zhao Rong, one of the first Chinese then to be ordained a priest, and many other of his companions in martyrdom, stood by their faith in God to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the devotion and commitment of these holy martyrs should inspire us in our own lives to love the Lord in the same way that He has loved us. For these martyrs were willing to suffer and even die for their faith because they knew of the Lord’s generous love and mercy towards them. And indeed, we should reflect on the fact that, if God Himself has willingly suffered, took up His Cross and die for our sake, then why should we not love Him all the more?

Let us all be inspired by the examples of our holy predecessors. Let us all turn towards God with all of our hearts and minds, and let us all commit ourselves ever anew to Him from now on. May the Lord be our Guide, and may He give us the strength and courage to live our lives ever more faithfully from now on. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 32-38

At that time, as the two blind men were going away, some people brought to Jesus a man who was dumb, because he was possessed by a demon. When the demon was driven out, the dumb man began to speak. The crowds were astonished and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “He drives away demons with the help of the prince of demons.”

Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7, 8 and 15

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; under the shadow of Your wings hide me. As for me, righteous in Your sight, I shall see Your face and, awakening, gaze my fill on Your likeness.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Genesis 32 : 23-33

Jacob took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons, and sent them across the stream and likewise everything he had. And Jacob was left alone. Then a Man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the Man saw that He could not get the better of Jacob, He struck him in the socket of his hip and dislocated it as He wrestled with him.

The Man said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go until you have given me Your blessing.” The Man then said, “What is your name?” “Jacob” was the reply. He answered, “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have been strong-with-God as you have been with men and have prevailed.”

Then Jacob asked Him, “What is Your Name?” He answered, “Why do you ask My Name?” And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Penuel, saying, “I have seen God face to face and survived.” The sun rose as he passed through Penuel, limping because of his hip. That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the sciatic nerve which is in the hip socket because the sciatic nerve in Jacob’s hip had been touched.

Monday, 9 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and 119 Companions, Chinese Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the messages of hope mentioned in the Scriptures, both from the prophet Hosea in the Old Testament, as well as from the Gospel passage showing us the healing of the woman with the haemorrhage or bleeding issue and the returning of the dead daughter of the synagogue official to life by the Lord Jesus.

In the first reading, the prophet Hosea was speaking in the context of the time, when the northern kingdom of Israel to whom he had been sent to by God, was beset by its enemies and was on the verge of destruction and annihilation. And the people living there had nothing else to depend on, for their pagan idols and gods did nothing to help them, for those were merely handicrafts of man’s hands, and no earthly power could help them.

But the Lord promised His people through His prophet Hosea, that if only that they would turn away from their sinful ways and repent sincerely from those wickedness and disobedience, then they would once again become His people and receive the fullness of His protection, love and grace as they once had before. Ultimately, the Lord loves us all, and by no means that He wants to see us destroyed.

That is why, in the Gospel passage today, He showed compassion to the old woman suffering from the bleeding problem. He had pity on her, and seeing her great faith, and the perseverance and the courage she mustered, despite the dangers she might have to face in order to reach out to the Lord, and the doubts and fears on her heart. She had faith and trusted in the Lord while many of her fellow countrymen did not have the same faith.

Similarly, while many people laughed at the Lord Jesus and mocked Him when He said that the little girl, the synagogue official’s daughter was only sleeping, Jairus, the official, remained faithful and trusted in the Lord’s ability to raise up his daughter, even back from the death. Indeed, as we have heard from the Gospel, the Lord Jesus did indeed restore his daughter to life, and the Lord’s promise to His people was upheld.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in all of these, we can easily witness how we mankind have both the capacity to doubt as well as to be faithful. We have been given free will and wisdom by God, to discern carefully and to make choices and decisions, whether we want to follow Him and love Him, or whether we prefer to walk on our own path and distance ourselves from Him.

Are we therefore taking the concrete steps necessary for us to seek the Lord and find His healing, mercy and forgiveness? Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that each and every one of us have to make a decision in our lives, and before it is too late, let us all wholeheartedly and sincerely turn ourselves towards the Lord, following the examples of the woman with bleeding and the synagogue official.

And today, we also celebrate the feast of the Holy Chinese Martyrs, those who have been persecuted because of their Christian faith in China, particularly those who were martyred during the late era of the Qing Dynasty China and the vicious Boxer Rebellion just over a century ago. It was indeed very difficult for one to be a Christian at that time, since the government was not in favour of Christianity, and looked at the Christian missionaries with great suspicion.

Many of the Christians, both the local converts and the missionaries, both local and foreign ones, had to endure difficult trials, go into hiding and practicing their faith amidst persecution, enduring prison and even summary execution at the hands of their enemies. They lived in a particularly troubled and difficult time, and yet, many of them persevered in their faith, regardless of the challenges they faced.

Many of them were martyred, but they died with courage and conviction, knowing that they were sinners who were trying to seek the Lord with all of their hearts, like the woman with haemorrhage and like Jairus, the synagogue official. They had faith in God, and they remained true and anchored on that faith which they had, to the very end. And although they suffered, but as the Lord promised all of His faithful ones in our first reading today, their rewards will be great.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we follow in their footsteps and walk from now on, faithfully in Christ’s ways? May the Lord be with us, and may He continue to guide us towards Him, that we may embrace Him fully and continue to grow closer in our relationship with Him. Let us always remember God’s love and His everlasting providence, every moment of our lives. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 9 July 2018 : 14th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong, Priest and 119 Companions, Chinese Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Matthew 9 : 18-26

At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the disciples of John and the Pharisees, an official of the synagogue came up to Him, bowed before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come and place Your hands on her, and she will live.”

Jesus stood up and followed him with His disciples. Then a woman, who had suffered from a severe bleeding for twelve years, came up from behind and touched the edge of His cloak; for she thought, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed.”

Jesus turned, saw her and said, “Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.” And from that moment, the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute players and the excited crowd, He said, “Get out of here! The girl is not dead. She is only sleeping!” And they laughed at Him.

But once the crowd had been turned out, Jesus went in and took the girl by the hand, and she stood up. The news of this spread through the whole area.