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.

Thursday, 13 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to pay attention to our actions and interactions in life, in how we spend our time with those whom we encounter throughout our lives. It is because each and every one of our actions can truly have a great impact on those on whom we have interacted with, and which in fact can be a great opportunity at evangelisation.

In the Gospel passage today, the Lord challenges each and every one of us, just as He had done with His disciples. He asked each and every one of them to go the extra mile in the giving of themselves and in the love that they and indeed, all of us, must show in our actions and deeds. We cannot just do what the world and its people and ways have shown us, but we must be truly exemplary in our Christian faith.

And what the Lord Jesus asked of us is often something that is very difficult for us to do, as He asked us to actually forgive our enemies and all those who have persecuted us and caused us much pain. He called upon us to love our enemies and to not take revenge and retribution against those who have hurt us, to pray for those who have persecuted us and hated us.

This is what we have been called to do, to be true Christians in faith and in love, that in everything we do, we show the example of this love which the Lord, Our God, Himself has shown us. The Lord asked for kindness and love to be shown to those who have not shown the same love and kindness towards us, and He Himself led by example, by extending His care and love even to the people who would abandon Him and betray Him, and even to those in His own hometown of Nazareth that rejected Him.

And nothing can beat the fact that the Lord forgave even His enemies and all those who persecuted Him, tortured Him and cast Him as a criminal, from the cross, by praying that all of them be forgiven their sins, because they did not know what they were doing. The Lord showed His mercy and forgiveness even as He suffered grievously for our sake, bearing the burden of our sins and our punishments.

But although this is what we have been called to be, to be those who forgive our brethren’s faults, mistakes and slights against us, it is usually easier said than done. Many of us, even among us Christians, keep grudges and jealousies, hatreds and anger in our hearts and minds, against all those who we do not agree with, against all those who have caused us pain and suffering, and against those who have something that we do not have.

We bicker and even fight among ourselves, within our Church communities and ministries. How many of us have seen members of Church communities and ministries gossiping and talking bad things behind the back of each person they did not like? There were also surely many occasions when we spread lies and untruths just so that we may discredit our rivals and competitors.

This is the sad and unfortunate reality of our faith life in the Church, as many of us did not lead a life in accordance to how the Lord has commanded and taught us. But we are called to a purpose greater than all of these human and worldly bickerings, infightings and unbecoming attitudes, to be true servants and followers of God, by imitating His own examples of love and mercy.

And today, we celebrate the feast of St. John Chrysostom, one of the great Church fathers and elder, one of the Four original Doctors of the Church together with St. Ambrose, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Gregory Nazianzen. St. John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of the Imperial city of Constantinople, the eastern capital of the Roman Empire at the time. He was remembered for his great piety, his charitable love for his people and flock, and for his fervent and zealous defence of his faith against heresies and falsehoods.

Against all those who brought in their corrupt ways into the Church and the community, including that of the Roman Empress Eudoxia, the wife of the Emperor, St. John Chrysostom stood his ground against all those who abused their power and position for personal benefit, especially when such manipulations brought about the suffering of the poor and the hungry.

In the midst of all these efforts, St. John Chrysostom was persecuted and opposed, including from that of the Empress, who managed to get him to be exiled from his See of Constantinople. Yet, St. John Chrysostom never wavered throughout his life and ministry, to his very dying day, to dedicate himself for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of souls.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the courageous examples of St. John Chrysostom, holy bishop and defender of the faith, courageous and fearless, but merciful and loving towards sinners and the poor, let us all then follow his examples, to live our lives more devotedly to the Lord from now on, that we may, in each and every one of our actions, strive for the glorification of God, and for the salvation of souls.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He continue to empower us to live ever more faithfully, and be courageous to walk in His ways, each and every days of our lives. May God bless us all, and all of our endeavours and good works. Amen.

Thursday, 13 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 6 : 27-38

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “But I say to you who hear Me : Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who treat you badly. To the one who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek; from the one who takes your coat, do not keep back your shirt. Give to the one who asks, and if anyone has taken something from you, do not demand it back.”

“Do to others as you would have others do to you. If you love only those who love you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do favours to those who are good to you, what kind of grace is yours? Even sinners do the same. If you lend only when you expect to receive, what kind of grace is yours? For sinners also lend to sinners, expecting to receive something in return.

But love your enemies and do good to them, and lend when there is nothing to expect in return. Then will your reward be great, and you will be sons and daughters of the Most High. For He is kind toward the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“Do not be a judge of others and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you, and you will receive in your sack good measure, pressed down, full and running over. For the measure you give will be the measure you receive back.”

Thursday, 13 September 2018 : 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14ab, 23-24

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You.

Search me, o God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts. See if my steps are going astray, and lead me in Your eternal way.