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, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the Scripture passages, we are called to reflect on the nature of our life, and how we should go about in living our lives. Our life is not just about us, or about our preoccupations in this world, all the temptations and things we possess. Rather, our lives must be based on the foundation of faith, hope and love, the three greatest virtues of our Christian lives.

In this world, we are always subjected to ever changing expectations and demands, as well as diverging customs and ways, and that was why, in the Gospel passage today, the Lord showed His dissatisfaction at the people, whose lack of the Christian virtues troubled Him, in how they treated Him and the prophets, including that of St. John the Baptist. They refused to listen to the word of God and the truth delivered to them, and instead made biased judgments on those whom the Lord had sent to save them.

The Lord however showed that the way forward for us, is not to depend on the ever changing and therefore unreliable judgments and ways of this world. To the world, there is never a satisfactory standard, as different people judge based on their own individual expectations and personal standards, and that was why, what was good for someone might be bad for another, and vice versa.

Instead, the Lord wants us to have this firm foundation of faith, of hope, and of love, as the core tenets of our lives. Faith refers to our commitment to God, and our belief in Him, in His salvation and in His saving help. Meanwhile, hope refers to the hope which we have in God’s love, in His coming deliverance and in the promise which He has made, to all of us who has kept our faith in Him, that He will grant us eternal life and glory with Him.

But all of these, as mentioned in the first reading today, in the Epistle that St. Paul wrote to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, are nothing if not based upon the foundation of the most important virtue of all, that is love. For love is the very reason for the faith and hope which we have in God. We believe in God’s love, and that is our faith, and correspondingly, we also hope for His love. The love of God is at the centre and the focus of our lives.

And from God, love has come into our lives, and we know love because God has given us His love. And love is truly the only constant in our lives, which is universal. It does not matter where we are, in whichever communities or places, love, and that is, true love, is always the same, the selfless giving of oneself and the genuine, compassionate care which one shows to another person.

Without love, then all the things we do in life are empty, meaningless. For first of all, as man, all of us exist fo the greater glory of God, to praise and worship Him Who has created us and loved us. Without God’s love, none of us would have existed. Without His love, we would have fallen into the eternal damnation because of our sins and wickedness. It was because of His love, that God sent us our Saviour, His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through Whom, He has released us from our bondage to our sins.

And it is love that makes the world move again, despite all the challenges and difficulties we mankind have encountered for countless millennia and ages. Through all the bitter trials and years of wars, conflicts, all sorts of destructions, it was love that eventually overcame all the bitterness, pain, hatred and sufferings. Indeed, there were many moments when vengeance, hatred, jealousy and all sorts of negative emotions have threatened to overcome us, but eventually love triumphed, again and again.

Without love, there can therefore be no faith, and no hope, and mankind would have always remained bitter forever. It is the warmth of love in our hearts that transformed us mankind from the people of darkness and wickedness that we were, into the people of light, and God’s beloved children. This is what each and every one of us as Christians have been called to, to be like God in all things, especially in love.

Because God is Love, and all of us who belong to God should therefore have love in our lives, in every actions we take and in everything we say and do. And today, we should follow the example of one of His saints, whose life and works were epitome of practicing love in our actions and life. And that saint is St. Januarius, Bishop of Benevento during the time of the Roman persecutions.

St. Januarius, also known as San Gennaro, was remembered for his great piety and dedication to his flock, and his commitment to the Lord became a great source of inspiration even long after he has passed away. His courageous defence of his faith and love for God allowed him to endure the sufferings and the bitterness of the great persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, infamous for its brutality and cruelty.

It was love that allowed St. Januarius to continue to be faithful despite all the challenges he had to encounter, the love for God and for his flock. He chose to endure the bitter sufferings of persecution, rather than to betray the Lord he loved, or to scandalise the faith which would end up in causing his flock to be lost to the faith and fall into hell.

To that extent, God glorified St. Januarius with the gift of His grace, that by his martyrdom and courageous display of faith, he was made saint of the Church, and with a very tangible and visible sample of holiness, by the means of the relic of his blood, which miraculously liquifies during the day of his feast, which is today.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, inspired by the courage and faith, and foremost of all, the love which St. Januarius showed us all, let us all as Christians therefore turn ourselves towards God with a renewed faith, hope and love in Him. Let us all devote our time, attention and love for Him, each and every days of our life, and not to forget our fellow brethren, in caring for the needs of those who need our love and attention, and more.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us. May He continue to love us and bless us, each and every days of our life. Let us all be renewed and become, from now on, true disciples and followers of God, the One Who is Love and perfect in love. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

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.”

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

For upright is YHVH’s word and worthy of trust is His work. YHVH loves justice and righteousness; the earth is full of His kindness.

Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance. O YHVH, let Your love rest upon us, even as our hope rests in You.