Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the matter of prayer and fasting, two of the practices of our faith which we constantly do all the time and at the prescribed times of the year. And He reminded all of us to pray and fast with the right attitude and intention, or else we are not doing what is right for us to do as Christians.

What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? First we must understand the context of what the Lord had said to His disciples at that time, as He compared the practices that the Pharisees at that time did, in showing of their piety and prayers in public, not with the intention to glorify God but glorifying themselves and seeking for attention and human praise. And that is exactly what the Lord does not want His disciples and all of us to do.

The Pharisees were influential group of people who were intelligent and educated at that time, who held sway over a lot of the people, highly respected and honoured because of their role in safeguarding and keeping the customs and practices of the Jewish people, which they came to guard zealously and strongly against anyone or anything that might threaten those practices and customs, and all the privileges that they had earned by safeguarding those customs and laws.

But at that time, their preoccupation and excessive focus on maintaining the customs and the practices of the Jewish people ended up on them focusing on the external appearances and the superficial obedience to those laws and customs, rather than truly appreciating the significance and the real substance and intention of the Law of God. They ended up practicing those customs and laws not because they truly had God in their mind, but a lot of time because they had to do them.

As Christians, all of us are reminded by today’s Scripture readings not to follow the examples of many of the Pharisees who have forgotten the true importance of the Law and the customs they practiced, doing it all for appearances and praise rather than for the true purpose that is to worship, glorify and communicate with God. We must remember that as we live through our faith life, we must practice our faith with sincerity and commitment, not just by paying lip service.

In our first reading today, St. Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians reminded us of the gifts that God has given us, His blessings and wonders, and consequently, as those whom the Lord has blessed, all of us should make good use of the gifts He has given to us, that we may truly be fruitful and bountiful in God. He said, those who have sowed meagrely will reap meagrely, and those who sowed generously will reap generously as well.

Therefore, in our lives we should be exemplary in our faith, and in our actions, in how we pray, in what we do in our daily lives we must reflect our faith and dedication to the Lord. We should put God as the focus and attention of our whole lives, and do our best to glorify Him and not ourselves. And today, we also can follow the examples showed by St. Philip Minh and his companions in martyrdom, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs.

At that time, the authorities in Vietnam were very hostile to the Christian faith and the missionaries who worked among the people proclaiming the truth of Christ. They were viewed with suspicion of collaboration with the French and other colonial powers. St. Philip Minh was among the first of the local Vietnamese to be ordained a priest and ministered among his own people before he and many others throughout those difficult years were arrested and made to suffer for their faith.

Yet, these courageous saints did not give up their faith despite the many temptations, persuasions, pressures and coercions to do so. They remained firm in their faith and dedication to the Lord. Had they placed their own safety, well-being and glory before that of the Lord, they would have abandoned God to gain the safety and acceptance of the world. But they showed all of us what it means to be true disciples and followers of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day let us all be inspired by the examples of the holy saints of God, especially St. Philip Minh and his companions, the Holy Vietnamese Martyrs. Let us all dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as they have done and do our best to be true disciples of the Lord. May the Lord bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

At that time, “Be careful not to make a show of your good deeds before people. If you do so, you do not gain anything from your Father in heaven. When you give something to the poor, do not have it trumpeted before you, as do those who want to be noticed in the synagogues and in the streets, in order to be praised by people. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“If you give something to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift remains really secret. Your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you. When you pray, do not be like those who want to be noticed. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues or on street corners, in order to be seen by everyone. I assure you, they have their reward.”

“When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father Who is with you in secret; and your Father Who sees what is kept secret will reward you. When you fast, do not put on a miserable face, as do the hypocrites. They put on a gloomy face, so that people can see they are fasting. I tell you this : they have been paid in full already.”

“When you fast, wash your face and make yourself look cheerful, because you are not fasting for appearances or for people, but for your Father, Who sees beyond appearances. And your Father, Who sees what is kept secret, will reward you.”

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 9

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears YHVH, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family; there, his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness; he is kind, merciful and upright.

He gives generously to the poor; his merits will last forever; and his head will be raised in honour.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

2 Corinthians 9 : 6-11

Remember : the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly, and there shall be generous harvests for the one who sows generously. Each of you should give as you decided personally, and not reluctantly, as if obliged. God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to fill you with every good thing, so that you have enough of everything, at all times, and may give abundantly for any good work.

Scripture says : He distributed, he gave to the poor, his good works last forever. God, Who provides the sower with seed, will also provide him with the bread he eats. He will multiply the seed for you and also increase the interest on your good works. Become rich in every way, and give abundantly. What you give will become, through us, a thanksgiving to God.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the love and mercy which God shows us all, His people, whom He had created out of love. This is one fact which all of us should not forget, especially as we live our Christian life modelling ourselves on Our God Himself, Who has loved all, despite everyone having betrayed Him, disobeyed Him and He was filled with love and compassion for us.

In the first reading today, we heard about the prophet Elijah chastising king Ahab of Israel for his very wicked act in disposing of Naboth, the owner of a vineyard, whose land was desired by the king. Both the king and his queen, Jezebel, plotted to frame Naboth wrongly of blasphemy against God, and had him stoned. The king was then free to seize the belongings of Naboth, especially his vineyard.

This action, including Ahab and Jezebel’s many other wicked acts, and especially their persecution of the faithful people of God and promotion of the worship of Baal and other pagan gods that led Israel to sin, made God very angry against Ahab and his whole family, that the prophet Elijah pronounced today, the judgment of God on his family. Ahab and his whole family would perish in a tragic manner.

The moment Ahab heard this, as the Scripture mentioned, he immediately tore his royal robes, took it off and wore sackcloth as a sign of mourning and repentance. And God told Elijah that He saw his sincerity at wanting to be forgiven, and He withdrew some of His anger against him and his family. However, He would still mete out the punishment against them despite being postponed to a later time.

In this, as we heard from the Psalm 50 being sung today, we heard of God’s loving mercy and desire to forgive us our sins should we desire to be reconciled with Him. That psalm was the psalm composed by David when he sinned against God and regretted of his sin, and indeed, he repented and turned himself wholeheartedly to God. He was forgiven, and indeed, God’s promise to him was held.

What is the difference between Ahab and David? In David’s case, he was truly repentant, and made every effort to turn himself back to God. However, in Ahab’s case, although he was repentant, but it was likely that he did so out of fear for God’s anger and punishment, as he had experienced before through the prophet Elijah. Yet, Ahab and his family continued to sin and refused to fully repent their wickedness.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus told His disciples and the people whom He taught, that it is important that as His followers, we must be loving and forgiving just as He has loved us. He taught us to love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute and hate us. This is true Christian love, and one that we should be imitating from the Lord, Who Himself forgave His enemies and those who persecuted Him right from the cross.

But of course repentance is important for one to be forgiven, just as we have seen earlier with the contrasting examples of king Ahab and king David. Yet, it is indeed, right for us as Christians, to be generous in our mercy and forgiveness, for the Lord, Our God, Himself generously give us His mercy, and always extends out His hand to welcome us back into His embrace.

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Philip Minh and his companions, the holy martyrs of Vietnam, who were persecuted over two centuries by the authorities, similar to how the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. They were hated, made to suffer, arrested, and forced to abandon their faith on the pain of death. However, the Christians and the missionaries, both foreign and local ones persevered in their faith and continued to spread the Good News despite the dangers involved.

The actions of the missionaries and their love for everyone, including even those who persecuted them became exemplary among many, and in truth, even more people turn to the faith and became Christians, even among those who used to persecute the faithful. Despite the growing persecution against the faithful at that time, local clergy including St. Philip Minh and foreign missionaries alike stood together with the faithful flock entrusted to them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the courage and zeal, and the love shown by the holy martyrs of Vietnam should become inspiration to all of us, to live more and more faithfully day after day, and to turn ourselves to God and put Him at the centre of our lives. Let us all be forgiving and merciful, be compassionate in all of our actions and dealings with one another, that God’s love be truly shown in us, and many more would come to believe through us.

May the Lord bless us all, and may the holy martyrs of Vietnam intercede for us always, that all of us sinners still living in this world, may come to the loving embrace of God, and receive the fullness of God’s inheritance and grace. May God be with us all, now and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 5 : 43-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples and to the people, “You have heard that it was said : Love your neighbour and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you : love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and He gives rain to both the just and the unjust.”

“If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.”

Tuesday, 19 June 2018 : 11th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Philip Minh, Priest and Martyr, and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 50 : 3-4, 5-6a, 11 and 16

Have mercy on me, o God, in Your love. In Your great compassion blot out my sin. Wash me thoroughly of my guilt; cleanse me of evil.

For I acknowledge my wrongdoings and have my sins ever in mind. Against You alone, have I sinned.

Turn Your face away from my sins and blot out all my offences. Deliver me, o God, from the guilt of blood; and of Your justice, I shall sing aloud.