20 September, Tuesday — Faith in action

Sep 20 – Memorial for St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Korean Martyrs; Memorial for Sts. Laurent Imbert, Bishop Jacques Chastan, Priest (martyrs of College General, Penang, Malaysia)

There are 103 martyrs in this group, consisting of priests, missionaries and lay people who died in the early days of the Church in Korea. Most were murdered during waves of persecutions in 1839, 1846 and 1867.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon’s father was a martyr. Andrew was baptised at age 15, then travelled 1,300 miles to the nearest seminary in Macao. He was Korea’s first native priest, and the first priest to die for the faith in Korea.

St. Laurent Imbert was a missionary to China. He taught at the College General, Penang from 1821 to 1822. He was named Vicar Apostolic of Korea on 26 April 1836. He and St. Jacques (or Jacob) were arrested for the crime of evangelisation, and then tortured and martyred.

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Pro 21: 1-6, 10-13
Lk 8:19-21

“…those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

It must seem like Jesus is relegating his mother and brothers with the rest of his disciples.

But the message is much more than that – it is one that guides us that kinship means little in the face of genuine faith and faith-based actions. To extrapolate that, being Catholic is not a badge that leads us past the pearly gates of heaven; but rather how we live our lives.

I find it sometimes very difficult to live a Christian life. While Matthew 6:15 guides us “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins”, the world, on the other hand, tells us “revenge is a dish best served cold”.

I remember some years back, I had to make a life-changing decision. It was a decision which some who did not know or understand me, chastised me for. Some members of the church community I was in looked at me with disdain. I remember even being ignored at the Sign of Peace during mass! A few of the leaders of this community even went to the extent of telling others their version of what had happened and how I had ‘misbehaved’.

I was angry — very angry — and yet, I was told to control my emotions and not respond or react. But I was angry and this translated into the way I reacted to my loved ones and those around me. In my self-pity, I also embarked on a route of self-destruction. No amount of counselling sessions nor confessions seemed to help.

I carried this anger and hurt for a few years.

On a later trip to Lourdes with my wife, we used to attend daily mass at the chapel next to the Grotto. The gospel reflection that day was on the Fifth Commandment – Thou shall not kill. The celebrant went on to share that ‘killing’ was more than just physically killing someone. Killing also involved tarnishing someone’s reputation.

In a weird sense, I got my peace from that homily. Not that I felt that those who had wronged me were now guilty of breaking God’s commandment; but the peace that despite their actions toward me, God had given me enough grace to not respond in kind — to maintain my dignity and act appropriately.

Don’t get me wrong, it took a few more years before I was able to smile at some of these people. But because of that homily, the anger subsided and I was able to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean you forget the hurt or how the person has hurt you. But forgiveness releases you from the burdens of anger and hate. I also acknowledge that forgiveness does not warrant you allowing the person who hurt you, to hurt you again. You just move on from the ‘friendship’.

Sometimes, ‘hearing’ the word of God is but the first small step. Putting it into practice is the harder bit. But as we strive to live our faith, we realise that life becomes simpler and easier.

Being Catholic — at least to me — is not about reciting prayers or large shows of piety. It is about living a good Catholic life with the understanding of Our Father’s teachings close to our heart.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Gerard Francis)

Prayer: We pray for the grace to live our faith as you want us to. Not outwards signs, but a genuine faith.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gift of our Faith. For it is the anchor that holds us secure in life.


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