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.

Thursday, 20 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Priest, 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 are reminded of the reality of the persecution that has faced the Church and the faithful before, and what is indeed facing us this very moment. The first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth spoke of his early experiences among the faithful, after having converted from his old ways and embracing the Christian faith.

Even then, the reality of the persecutions and difficulties facing the Church was brought clearly before all of us, as St. Paul mentioned how some of the faithful disciples of Christ were no longer in their midst. These disciples were likely to have been martyred for their faith, under the persecutions by the Jewish authorities and the Roman governors alike.

And there was no better witness to all of those persecutions other than St. Paul himself, who as Saul was at the forefront of the persecution of the persecution of Christians under the Jewish authorities. St. Paul himself related to the Corinthians how he once persecuted the followers of Christ with great zeal and fanaticism, only to discover that whatever he had done, was against God’s will.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the moment when a sinful woman, likely a prostitute, came towards Jesus while He was having a meal in the house of a Pharisee, among many Pharisees and teachers of the Law. The woman took an expensive jar of alabaster, filled with equally precious and expensive perfume, and used it to anoint the feet of the Lord Jesus.

Through this symbolic action, the woman did not just anoint the Lord, a custom often related to the death of a person, but she also showed the people gathered, how the Lord would go on to suffer and die, persecuted by His enemies, and yet, eventually, He would triumph over them all, over Satan, sin and death, and gain eternal victory. And that act by the sinful woman, who humbled herself so much, so as to bow down before the Lord and even weeping and drying the tears-wet feet of the Lord with her hairs, showed her sincere desire to be forgiven by God and to follow Him.

And all of these, happened regardless of the surely scathing and hostile comments and actions of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were gathered there. To the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who were very particular about themselves and their piety, their appearances before people, there could not have been someone more unworthy and unclean than the woman who came to anoint the Lord’s feet.

That was why they lobbed all sorts of criticism against the woman, as well as against the Lord, through their thoughts and probably even their gestures. But the Lord stood by His faithful follower and servant, who sought Him with all of her heart, and dedicated herself so thoroughly that she was willing to humble herself before Him and in the view of many others as such.

All of these are reminders for us, that, even though challenges and difficulties may follow us, wherever we go, if we are followers of Christ, but should we remain faithful in Him, then He will bless us and protect us, and our rewards in Him will truly be rich indeed. And not the rewards of worldly riches and wealth, but instead, the promise of everlasting glory and life with Him.

This is what the holy saints and martyrs hold fast onto, whose life and courage in faith we celebrate today as well. Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Korean Martyrs, in which we remember the memory of the many martyrs of the Church, who has given their lives defending their faith as they were persecuted through many difficult years in the then Kingdom of Joseon or Korea.

Many of the missionaries who worked in Korea also faced great persecution, as the government then was fiercely hostile against the Church and the truth of Christianity. St. Laurent Imbert was one of them, a French missionary who became the first Vicar Apostolic of Korea. He was remembered for his great care for the flock entrusted to him, and for his courageous sacrifice for their sake.

St. Laurent Imbert gave himself up to the authorities and told another two priests to do the same, as the authorities were threatening to persecute even more of the faithful should the leaders of the Church community remained in hiding. He hoped that by doing so, he might be able to spare the Christian faithful from further suffering and persecution, and thus led the example of true Christian love and selflessness.

He followed in the example of the Good Shepherd, the Lord Himself, and laying down his life for his sheep. He and many other saints of the Korean martyrs have truly exhibited true Christian spirit and dedication. These are good examples that all of us should follow as well, in how we carry on living our lives. We have been called to give our best to serve the Lord in our daily living, and thus, we should give our best as well, as how the Holy Korean Martyrs have shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn towards the Lord with renewed zeal and love, and let us all devote ourselves from now on, filled with faith and commitment to live our lives in accordance with what the Lord had taught us. May all of us grow ever stronger in our love and in our desire to be with God, following the footsteps of the saints and martyrs. Holy Korean Martyrs, pray for us all. Amen.

Thursday, 20 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Priest, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 7 : 36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to share his meal, so He went to the Pharisee’s home, and as usual reclined at the table to eat. And it happened that, a woman of this town, who was known as a sinner, heard that He was in the Pharisee’s house. She brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and stood behind Him, at His feet, weeping. She wet His feet with tears; she dried them with her hair; she kissed His feet and poured the perfume on them.

The Pharisee who had invited Jesus was watching, and thought, “If this Man were a Prophet, He would know what sort of person is touching Him; is this woman not a sinner?” Then Jesus spoke to the Pharisee and said, “Simon, I have something to ask you.” He answered, “Speak, Master.”

And Jesus said, “Two people were in debt to the same creditor. One owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. As they were unable to pay him back, he graciously cancelled the debts of both. Now, which of them will love him more?”

Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, who was forgiven more.” And Jesus said, “You are right.” And turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? You gave Me no water for My feet when I entered your house; but she dried them with her hair. You did not welcome Me with a kiss; but she has not stopped kissing My feet since she came in. You provided no oil for My head; but she has poured perfume on My feet. This is why, I tell you, her sins, her many sins, are forgiven, because of her great love. But the one who is forgiven little, has little love.”

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The others reclining with Him at the table began to wonder, “Now this Man claims to forgive sins!” But Jesus again spoke to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace!”

Thursday, 20 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Priest, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 117 : 1-2, 16ab and 17, 28

Alleluia! Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. Let Israel say, “His loving kindness endures forever.”

The right hand of the Lord is lifted high, the right hand of the Lord strikes mightily! I shall not die, but live to proclaim what the Lord has done.

You are my God, and I give You thanks. You are my God, and I give You praise.

Thursday, 20 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Laurent Imbert, Bishop, St. Jacques Chastan, Priest, St. Andrew Kim Tae-Gon, Priest, St. Paul Chong Ha-sang and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Corinthians 15 : 1-11

Let me remind you, brothers and sisters, of the Good News that I preached to you and which you received and on which you stand firm. By that Gospel you are saved, provided that you hold to it as I preached it. Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.

In the first place, I have passed on to you what I myself received that Christ died for our sins, as Scripture says; that He was buried; that He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures; that He appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. Afterwards He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters together; most of them are still alive, although some have already gone to rest.

Then He appeared to James and after that to all the Apostles. And last of all, He appeared to the most despicable of them, this is to me. For I am the last of the Apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. Nevertheless, by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been without fruit. Far from it, I have toiled more than all of them, although, not I, rather the grace of God, in me.

Now, whether it was I or they, this, we preach, and this, you have believed.

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.”