Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs



“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
yet lose or forfeit himself? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:23-26.)

Saint Cyril of Alexandria comments on these verses from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“What fear, therefore, can the saints now feel, if that which seemed to be hard proves rather joyous to them that bear it.

Even though one has wealth and abundance of possessions, yet what profit has he from them when he has lost himself? Treasures profit not the wicked, but the fashion of this world passes away; and like clouds those pleasures recede, and riches fly away from those that possess them. But righteousness delivers from death.

Those who are ashamed at him and at his words will meet with the reward they merit. He also begets in them fear as well, in that he says that he shall descend from heaven, not in his former lowliness and humiliation, like unto us, but in the glory of his Father; even in godlike and transcendent glory, with the holy angels keeping guard around him. Most miserable, therefore, and ruinous would it be to be condemned of cowardice and indolence when the Judge has descended from above and the angelic ranks stand at his side. But great and most blessed and a foretaste of final blessedness it is to be able to rejoice in labors already accomplished and await the recompense of past toils. For such as these shall be praised, Christ himself saying unto them, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” May we also be deemed worthy of these rewards by the grace and lovingkindness of Christ the Savior of us all.” (Commentary on Luke, Homily 50)



Collect
O God, Who have been pleased to increase
Your adopted children in all the world,
and who made the blood of the Martyrs
Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn and his companions
a most fruitful seed of Christians,
grant that we may be defended
by their help and profit always from their example.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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Love and perseverance are the crown of faith



Priest and Martyr

An excerpt from the Final Exhortation

Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs


My brothers and sisters, my dearest friends, think again and again on this: God has ruled over all things in heaven and on earth from the beginning of time: then reflect on why and for what purpose he chose each one of us to be created in his own image and likeness.

In this world of perils and hardship, if we did not recognize the Lord as our Creator, there would be no benefit either in being born or in our continued existence. We have come into this world by God’s grace; by that same grace we have received baptism, entrance into the Church and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name alone and not in fact? We would have come into the world for nothing, we would have entered the Church for nothing, and we would have betrayed even God and his grace. It would be better never to have been born than to receive the grace of God and then to sin against him.

Look at the farmer who cultivates his rice fields. In season he plows, then fertilizes the earth; never counting the cost, he labors under the sun to nurture the seed he has planted. When harvest time comes and the rice crop is abundant, forgetting his labor and sweat, he rejoices with an exultant heart. But if the crop is sparse and there is nothing but straw and husks, the farmer broods over his toil and sweat and turns his back on that field with a disgust that is all the greater the harder he has toiled.

The Lord is like a farmer and we are the field of rice that he fertilizes with his grace and by the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption irrigates with his blood, in order that we will grow and reach maturity. When harvest time comes, the day of judgment, those who have grown to maturity in the grace of God will find the joy of adopted children in the kingdom of heaven; those who have not grown to maturity will become God’s enemies, and, even though they were once his children, they will be punished according to their deeds for all eternity.

Dearest brothers and sisters: when he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded the Church; now he gives it increase through the sufferings of the faithful. No matter how fiercely the powers of this world oppress and oppose the Church, they will never bring it down. Ever since his ascension and from the time of the apostles to the present, the Lord Jesus has made his Church grow even in the midst of tribulation.

For the last fifty or sixty years, ever since the coming of the Church to our own land of Korea, the faithful have suffered persecution over and over again. Persecution still rages and as a result many who are friends in the household of the faith, myself among them, have been thrown into prison and like you are experiencing severe distress. Because we have become the one Body, should not our hearts be grieved for the members who are suffering? Because of the human ties that bind us, should we not feel deeply the pain of our separation?

But, as the Scriptures say, God numbers the very hairs on our head and in his all-embracing providence he has care over us all. Persecution, therefore, can only be regarded as the command of the Lord or as a prize he gives or as a punishment he permits.

Hold fast, then, to the will of God and with all your heart fight the good fight under the leadership of Jesus; conquer again the diabolical power of this world that Christ has already vanquished.

I beg you not to fail in your love for one another, but to support one another and to stand fast until the Lord mercifully delivers us from our trials.

There are twenty of us in this place and by God’s grace we are so far all well. If any of us is executed, I ask you not to forget our families. I have many things to say, yet how can pen and paper capture what I feel? I end this letter. As we are all near the final ordeal, I urge you to remain steadfast in faith, so that at last we will all reach heaven and there rejoice together. I embrace you all in love.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time



“t bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)


Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the Frist Reading proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“For what is it to hear about oneself from you but to know oneself? Who, then, can know himself and say “It is false,” unless he himself lies? But because “charity believes all things,” certainly among those whom it makes one, in intimate union with each other, I, also, O Lord, do even confess to you in such a way that men may hear, though I cannot prove to them the things I confess are true. But those whose ears charity opens to me, they believe.” (Confessions,, 10.)





Collect
Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of Your mercy,
grant that we may serve You with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen








Let each one seek not what is his but what is Christ’s



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his On Pastors (Sermon 46), 6-7.

Wednesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

I have explained what it means to consume milk. Now let us consider what it means to clothe with wool. One who gives milk gives sustenance, while one who gives wool gives honor. These are precisely the two things that pastors, who feed themselves and not the sheep, look for from the people — the benefit of having their wants supplied as well as the favor of honor and praise.

Yes, clothing can well be taken to mean honor, since it covers nakedness. For every man without exception is weak. And who is any man placed over you except someone just like yourself. Your pastor is in the flesh, he is mortal, he eats, sleeps and awakens; he was born and he is going to die. In himself he is, when you think of it, simply a man. But it is true that you make him something more by giving him honor; it is as if you were covering what is weak.

Consider the nature of the clothing that the apostle Paul received from God’s good people. He said: You have received me like an angel of God. I testify that if it were possible you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Indeed great honor was shown to him. But did he then spare sinners because of that honor, perhaps out of fear that it would be refused and that he would receive less praise when he gave blame? Had he done so, he would be among those shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep. He would then say to himself: “What has this to do with me? Let everyone do what he will; my sustenance is safe, and my honor too. I have enough milk and wool, so let each one do as he likes.” But then are things really secure for you if each one does as he pleases? I do not want to make you a leader over the people but one of them. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with him.

In recalling how they treated him, the Apostle does not want to appear forgetful of the honor they did him. Therefore he gives testimony that they received him like an angel of God, that if it were possible, they were willing to tear out their eyes and give them to him. Yet he still comes to the sheep that is ill, to the one that is diseased, to cut the wound and not to spare the diseased part. He says: Have I then become your enemy by preaching the truth? He took from the milk of the sheep, as I mentioned a short time ago, and he was clothed with their wool, but he did not neglect his sheep. He did not seek what was his but what was Christ’s.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time



“Soon afterward he journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.” (Luke 7:11.)

Saint Cyril of Alexandria comments on this verse from the Gospel proclaimed at Mass today:

“Observe how he joins miracle to miracle. In the former instance, the healing of the centurion’s servant, he was present by invitation, but here he draws near without being invited. No one summoned him to restore the dead man to life, but he comes to do so of his own accord. He seems to me to have purposely made this miracle also follow upon the former.

The dead man was being buried, and many friends were conducting him to his tomb. Christ, the life and resurrection, meets him there. He is the Destroyer of death and of corruption. He is the One in whom we live and move and are.3 He is who has restored the nature of man to that which it originally was and has set free our death-fraught flesh from the bonds of death. He had mercy upon the woman, and that her tears might be stopped, he commanded saying, “Weep not.” Immediately the cause of her weeping was done away.

Christ raised him who was descending to his grave. The manner of his rising is plain to see. “He touched,” it says, “the bier and said, ‘Young man, I say unto thee, arise.’” How was not a word enough for raising him who was lying there? What is so difficult to it or past accomplishment? What is more powerful than the Word of God? Why then did he not work the miracle by only a word but also touched the bier? It was, my beloved, that you might learn that the holy body of Christ is productive for the salvation of man. The flesh of the almighty Word is the body of life and was clothed with his might. Consider that iron when brought into contact with fire produces the effects of fire and fulfills its functions. The flesh of Christ also has the power of giving life and annihilates the influence of death and corruption because it is the flesh of the Word, who gives life to all. May our Lord Jesus Christ also touch us that delivering us from evil works, even from fleshly lusts, he may unite us to the assemblies of the saints.” (Commentary on Luke, Homily 36)



Collect
Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of Your mercy,
grant that we may serve You with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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Paul’s example



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his homily, On Pastors (46)

Tuesday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Once when Paul was in great need, in chains for his confession of the truth, his fellow Christians sent him what was necessary for his wants and needs. He thanked them with these words: You have done well to share in my needs. If is true that I have leaned to be self-sufficient in whatever circumstances I find myself. I know what it is to have plenty and I have learned how to endure privation. I can do all things in him who strengthens me. Still you have done well to send things for my use.

Just as this indicates in what sense they had done well, it also shows what Paul himself sought, namely, to avoid being numbered among those who feed themselves and not the sheep. For he does not so much rejoice at his own deliverance from need as he does at their generosity. What then was he seeking? I do not set my heart upon gifts, he says; all I seek for is the fruit of my labor. Not that I may be filled, he says, but that you may not remain empty.

As for those who cannot support themselves with their own hands as Paul did, let them take from the milk of the sheep, let them receive what is necessary for their needs, but let them not neglect the weakness of the sheep. Let them not seek any benefit for themselves, lest they appear to be preaching the Gospel for the sake of their own need and privation; rather, let them provide the light of the true word for the sake of men’s enlightenment. For they are like lamps, as it has been said: Let your belts be fastened and your lamps burning, and: No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel basket; rather, he puts it on a lamp stand, that it may give light to all who are in the house; so let your light shine before men in order that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Now if a lamp has been lighted for you in your house, would you not add oil to keep it from going out? Of course, if the lamp received the oil and failed to shine, it was obviously not fit to be put on the lamp stand and should have been discarded at once. But for the light to be kept alive it must receive fuel which is to be provided out of charity. Only let not the Gospel be for sale, with preachers demanding a price for it and making their living from it. If they sell it like that, they are selling for a pittance something that is of great value. Let them receive support in their need from the people, but payment for their stewardship from the Lord. No, it is not right for the people to give payment to those who serve them out of love of the Gospel. Payment is to be expected only from the one who also grants salvation.

Why then are they rebuked? Why are they accused? Because, when they took the milk and covered themselves with the wool, they neglected the sheep. They sought only to serve their own cause and not Christ’s.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 






Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time



“A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.” (Luke 7:2.)

Saint Ambrose of Milan offers the following insight on this verse from today’s Gospel proclamation:

“The servant of a Gentile centurion is immediately brought to the Lord for healing; this represented the people of the nations who were held in the bonds of worldly slavery, sick with deadly passions, to be cleansed by the Lord’s blessing. The Evangelist did not err in saying that he was at the point of death, for he would have died if Christ would not have healed him. He fulfilled the rule with heavenly love, he who so loved his enemies that he snatched them from death and admitted them to the hope of eternal salvation.” (Exposition on the Gospel of Luke, 5.)


Collect
Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of Your mercy,
grant that we may serve You with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





The shepherds who feed themselves



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his sermon On Pastors

Monday of the Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

Let us consider the unflattering words of God which Scripture addresses to shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep. You consume their milk and cover yourselves with their wool; you kill the fatlings, but my sheep you do not pasture. You have failed to strengthen what was weak, to heal what was sick, and to bind up what was injured. You did not call back what went astray, nor seek out what was lost. What was strong you have destroyed, and my sheep have been scattered because there is no shepherd.

This is spoken to the shepherds who feed themselves and not the sheep; it speaks of their concern and their neglect. What is their concern? You consume their milk and cover yourselves with their wool. And so the Apostle asks: Who plants a vineyard and does not eat from its fruit? Who pastures a flock and does not drink from the milk of the flock? Thus we learn that the milk of the flock is whatever temporal support and sustenance God's people give to those who are placed over them. It is of this that the Apostle was speaking in the passage just quoted.

Although he chose to support himself by the labor of his own hands and not to ask for milk from the sheep, the Apostle did say that he had the right to receive the milk, for the Lord had established that they who preach the Gospel should live from the Gospel. Paul also says that other of his fellow apostles made use of this right, a right granted them, and not unlawfully usurped. But Paul went further by not taking what was rightfully his. He forgave the debt, whereas the others did not demand what was not due them. Therefore Paul went further. Perhaps his action was foreshadowed by the Good Samaritan who, when he brought the sick man to the inn, said: If you spend any more, I will repay you on my way back.

What more can I say concerning those shepherds who do not need the milk of the flock? They are more merciful; or rather, they carry out a more abundant ministry of mercy. They are able to do so, and they do it. Let them receive praise, but do not condemn the others. The Apostle himself did not seek what was given. However, he wanted the sheep to be fruitful, not sterile and unable to give milk.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 


A question from Jesus that wrenches the disciple from complacency



εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo)
“to announce the Good News of victory in battle”

“... Jesus and his disciples set out
for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?””


θεωρέω (theoreo)
(“to perceive, discover, ponder a deeper meaning”)

From a seemingly innocuous question, to an announcement of death and the command to take up one’s Cross each day: this episode in The Gospel according to Saint Mark opens what many scholars term the core of the Marcan proclamation of Good News. Mark 8:22 through 10:52 is unit within this Gospel. It opens at 8:22 with the healing of a blind man and closes at 10:52 with sight restored to another blind man, suggesting a lesson on the necessity of seeing clearly and properly as a disciple of Jesus, living always in the mode of His Father’s Kingdom. Many key and challenging teachings of Jesus regarding the Kingdom of God are sounded in this part of the Gospel, not the least of which are three specific announcement on Jesus’ impending passion, death and resurrection that elicits various responses from disciples; disciples at this point in their lives who are apparently blind to the understanding and demands Kingdom living.


One might wonder what was in the minds of the disciples as they traveled to Caesarea Phillipi. Situated in the northern part of Israel, it is the place of Hermon Springs, the major source of water that, as it collects southward, empties into and forms the Sea of Galilee. It was and still is a place of rest and refreshment, with many people kneeling down and bringing a handful of cool spring water to their lips. Thus when Jesus asks, “Who do people say that I AM?” – perhaps the disciples thought this might be the introduction to some friendly chit-chat around the springs. They (and we) learned quickly that this was neither meaningless question nor a casual discussion. When Jesus posed the question even more seriously, “but who do you say that I am?” Jesus got to the very heart of the Gospel. This was a question the disciples began to wrestle with early in the Public Ministry (cf Mark 4:35-41): just who is this Person in the boat with us?

The question Jesus poses about His identity is essential for the disciple. Jesus certainly is not looking for a mindless, glib catechism answer that is belted out without any significance. The question is meant to shake the disciples (and us) from a self-creation or self-projection of Jesus, a Jesus that is warm, fuzzy, comfortable; in other words — ‘god’ on my terms. The various ‘images’ or ‘conceptions’ we have of Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit are images that must be continuously held up to the light of the Gospel and critiqued. Many involved in pastoral ministry and many believers will attest that the ‘faith question’ among many is not so much the existence of God but just exactly who (or [sadly] what,) is God.
  • Is God the ‘divine police officer’ looking to nail you every time you sin?
  • Is God the ‘sugar daddy’ who is able to leap tall buildings in a single bounce to give the pray-er whatever she or he wants whenever she or he calls out?
  • Is God the ‘divine watchmaker’ who has constructed a complex creation, started the pendulum swinging then leaves us to our own devices to figure things out?
  • Is God the ‘the force’ of goodness that pervades the universe as some etherial goo?
  • Is God the ‘guarantor’ who grants me an exemption from suffering, pain and death because I try to be a nice person?
  • Is God the ‘fixer’ who must suspend all the consequences (and responsibility) of mine and other’s wrongs with the wave of a wand?
  • Is God the ‘manager’ of the divine credit rewards program who hands out bonuses because I ‘rack up points’ by doing good things?
  • Do I approach God with a sense of entitlement that God must do x, y, and z for me because I am me?
These and many other images have been formed in our lives over the years in response to a plethora of circumstances and experience beyond counting. J. B. Phililips in Your God is Too Small, put it this way, “Many men and women today are living, often with inner dissatisfaction, without any faith in God at all. This is not because they are particularly wicked or selfish or, as the old-fashioned would say, “godless,” but because they have not found with their adult minds a God big enough to “account for” life, big enough to “fit in with” the new scientific age, big enough to command their highest admiration and respect, and consequently their willing co-operation.”

The grappling with Jesus identity is essential if we are to be true disciples as the original ones eventually came to be. Jesus’ identity must be accepted on His terms, not the individual’s because Jesus is clear as to Who He is: Son of God the Father Who is Love. As Son of the One-Who-Is-Love, Jesus knows acutely the result of selfishness and self-centeredness when it comes to Love: destruction. The only antidote to love in the way of the One-Who-Is-Love is the Cross. Jesus’ Cross is the singular way for authentic Love to blossom and for humanity to be remade in the image of the Son of God. This is why Jesus insists on denying oneself. It is not to make for misery, but to move us from the addiction to self and turn – in service – to the One Who Is Love, God our Father.

In this vein, the 6th century Bishop, Caesarius of Arles, counseled his flock in one of his Sermons: “When the Lord tells us in the Gospel that anyone who wants to be his follower must renounce himself, the injunction seems harsh; we think he is imposing a burden on us. But an order is no burden when it is given by one who helps in carrying it out. To what place are we to follow Christ if not where he has already gone? We know that he has risen and ascended into heaven; there, then, we must follow him. There is no cause for despair—by ourselves we can do nothing, but we have Christ’s promise. One who claims to abide in Christ ought to walk as he walked. Would you follow Christ? Then be humble as he was humble. Do not scorn his lowliness if you want to reach his exaltation. Human sin made the road rough. Christ’s resurrection leveled it. By passing over it himself, he transformed the narrowest of tracks into a royal highway. Two feet are needed to run along this highway; they are humility and charity. Everyone wants to get to the top — well, the first step to take is humility. Why take strides that are too big for you — do you want to fall instead of going up? Begin with the first step, humility, and you will already be climbing.”





Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time



“The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7.)

In commenting on these verses from today’s First Reading, Saint John Chrysostom writes:

“For the railings, and insults, and reproaches and gibes inflicted by enemies and their plots are compared with a worn-out garment and moth-eaten wool when God says, “Do not fear the reproach of people, neither be afraid of their revilings, for they shall grow old as does a garment, and like moth eaten wool so shall they be consumed.” Therefore, let none of these things that are happening trouble [you], but stop asking for the aid of this or that person and running after shadows (for such are human alliances); persistently call on Jesus, whom [you serve] . . . and in a moment of time all these evils will be dissolved.” (Letters to Olympias, 7.)


A reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel.



Collect
Look upon us, O God,
Creator and ruler of all things,
and, that we may feel the working of Your mercy,
grant that we may serve You with all our heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen