Monday, 24 November 2014 : 34th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the readings of today remind us how to live out our lives faithfully, according to what God had taught us through the Church and through the understanding of the Sacred Scriptures. These are necessary for us, if we are to seek salvation and eternal life and grace in the Lord. What is basic is that, we need to love our Lord, and do so genuinely, with the whole of our heart’s strength, and with all of our attention and our minds’ capacities, and with all the powers of our body.

This is one of the basic commandment which Jesus taught us, the commandment of love. The other commandment is similar, namely to love one another, to love our neighbours, our brothers and sisters around us, just as much as we have loved ourselves. If we follow these commandments, then rich will be our rewards in the presence of God, as we will be found worthy by Him.

The Gospel today speaks of an elderly lady who gave two pieces of small coins as her tithe and gift to the Lord at the Temple in Jerusalem. It is customary and part of the Law that the people of God ought to give a part of their income and possession to be offered to the Lord, but what happened at that time, as described in the Gospel, showed how the gifts offered can differ in terms of benefits to us, depending on our sincerity and our desire to love God.

The elderly lady offered two pieces of coins while the rich offered lots of gifts, yet what Jesus wanted to show is that, while the elderly woman gave less, but given the fact that she had less possessions as a whole, for her to give those coins showed how much she loved God by giving those precious coins she could have saved and used to buy things for her to eat and survive this life instead.

She clearly did what Jesus taught us, that, those who seek to preserve themselves in this world will lose it, while those who have lost their lives for the sake of the Lord, they will gain eternal life as reward. The elderly woman put her trust completely in God, knowing that the Lord will give and provide her all that she needs in life, and by giving her gifts, she assured her salvation by loving her Lord and God with all of her heart.

But be warned, brothers and sisters in Christ, as this does not mean that the rich who gave their gifts to God and others are utterly condemned and hopeless, and neither the poor who gave their gifts are utterly good and blessed. The truth is that sincerity depends not on wealth and its amounts, but rather on the desire of the heart to love God.

Yes, indeed, there are rich people whose hearts are generous and loving towards both God and men, and they gave whatever they could spare and give, a lot of it, to help the poor and the least fortunate, and for various purposes in this life. Indeed, the tendency is for wealth to blind us and harden our hearts by increasing our selfishness, desire and greed, but if we are able to resist that temptation and commit to loving sincerely and genuinely, that wealth can become a great asset and potential to help others.

Wealth and possession themselves are neither evil nor good in nature. They are capable of being used for good purposes as well as evil purposes. What matters is indeed how we use them. The tendency is again of course for us to be tempted to us them for our own good, to satisfy our own selfishness, and to increase our own prosperity at the expense of others, but if we are truly capable to resisting these temptations, we can then use those that we have for the benefit of others instead.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companions, the martyrs of the faith from Vietnam, who suffered the persecution of the faithful by the authorities who were strongly opposed to the Faith. To be one of the faithful at the time would mean great difficulties and sufferings, as they had to practice their faith in secret, for fear of the government’s oppression.

St. Andrew Dung-Lac, a priest, among one of the first local Vietnamese to be ordained into the sacred priesthood, was one among many and among the first to suffer very grievous and terrible sufferings under the regime of the fiercely anti-Christian government. They were forced to undergo terrible treatments, losing their limbs and being hacked to pieces, burnt alive and other very sinister and horrible methods, so that they would recant their faith, and yet they persevered on.

Numerous people, both the local Vietnamese faithful and the French missionaries alike, as well as other missionaries, who were all suffered death very painfully and very difficulty, and yet, they have no need to fear anymore. For the Lord their God and our God, who knew perfectly what they had done, have rewarded them with the gifts and graces of eternal life and glory with Him in heaven.

Why is this so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because although they did not have anything or much to offer to the Lord, and the fact was that even though many of them were stripped of their titles and wealth, they still gave whatever was left with them as gift to the Lord, namely their own lives and the love of their hearts for the Lord. And this love is the same kind as the old woman’s offering as mentioned by Jesus, as they gave their all to God, and their offering would not be overlooked.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us heed these words of the Scripture and learn to give the wholeness of ourselves, our hearts and our love, as the elderly and poor woman, and as the Vietnamese Martyrs had once done, not holding back anything when they gave it all to the Lord. Remember, brothers and sisters, that Jesus also did not hold back anything when He suffered and died for our sake on the cross.

Let it be that through the intercession of St. Andrew Dung-Lac, and all of his companions in martyrdom, the holy Vietnamese Martyrs, we may all be able to follow their examples and be genuine and completely sincere in our faith, so that when the Lord comes again, He will find us worthy and just to receive the eternal life and glory He had promised us, and be counted among the righteous symbolised by the hundred and forty-four thousand assembled before the Lamb of God. God bless us all. Amen.

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Wednesday, 2 July 2014 : 13th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Amos 5 : 14-15, 21-24

Seek good and shun evil, that you may live. Then YHVH, the God of hosts, as you have claimed, will be with you. Hate wickedness and love virtue, and let justice prevail in the courts; perhaps YHVH, the God of hosts, will take pity on the remnant of Joseph.

I hate, I reject your feasts, I take no pleasure when you assemble to offer Me your burnt offerings. Your cereal offerings, I will not accept! Your offerings of fattened beasts, I will not look upon!

Away with the noise of your chanting, away with your strumming on harps. But let justice run its course like water, and righteousness be like an ever-flowing river.