Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs
Statue of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, the first Korean Catholic priest.
Reading 1 PRV 21:1-6, 10-13
wherever it pleases him, he directs it.All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes,
but it is the LORD who proves hearts.To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.Haughty eyes and a proud heart–
the tillage of the wicked is sin.The plans of the diligent are sure of profit,
but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty.
Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue
is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.
The soul of the wicked man desires evil;
his neighbor finds no pity in his eyes.
When the arrogant man is punished, the simple are the wiser;
when the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
The just man appraises the house of the wicked:
there is one who brings down the wicked to ruin.
He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself also call and not be heard.
Responsorial Psalm PS 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
And I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Alleluia LK 11:28
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 8:19-21
The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.”
He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers
are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
Commentary on Luke 8:19-21 From Living Space
The mother and brothers of Jesus come looking for him but they cannot get to him because of the crush of people in the house where he is speaking. Jesus was in Capernaum at the time and Nazareth was about 50 km (30 miles) away. The mention of ‘brothers’ would commonly indicate cousins and not just siblings. When the message is passed in to Jesus, he says to all: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
The story is told in harsher terms in Mark. He has Jesus say, for instance: “Who is my mother; who are my brothers and sisters?” It is suggested there that their purpose was to take him away. On the one hand, they thought he was mad and an embarrassment to the family and, secondly, that he might get them into trouble with the authorities because of the provocative things he was saying and doing such as questioning traditional interpretations of the Law. (We see a similar embarrassment on the part of the parents of the man born blind in John chap. 9. They refuse to speak to the authorities about their son: “He is big enough; he can speak for himself.”)
Luke’s account is softer and just focuses on the saying of Jesus. In fact, Luke has taken this passage out of its context in Mark (3:31-35) and turns it into a conclusion to his short section on the parables. And he modifies Mark’s “Anyone who does the will of God is my brother and sister” to match the end of his parable of the sower (the seed that falls in rich soil represents those “who have heard the word and take it to themselves”, v.15) by having Jesus say: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
To a society which regarded itself as God’s chosen people merely by birth and an external ritual like circumcision Jesus asserts that belonging to God has little to do with blood or race but only with the relationship one establishes with God.
There is a lot of meaning in the words of the message: “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside…” It was clear from their behaviour that they were not, like the seed falling on fertile soil, ‘hearing’ him and so they were outsiders. Those who really ‘hear’, no matter who they are or where they come from, are ‘insiders’ and belong to the family of Jesus.
Of course, we know elsewhere, especially from Luke’s gospel, that Mary is not being condemned here – whatever about other family members. In fact, this is where her greatness really lies. Clearly it partly lies in her being chosen to be the mother of God’s Son but perhaps even more in her saying ‘Yes’ (“Let it happen to me according to your word”), in her unswerving faithfulness to that ‘Yes’ and in her standing by her Son to the very end when all the rest had fled.
When, on another occasion, she was indirectly praised for being the mother of such a Son, Jesus had spoken in words very similar to today: “No, blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
Our discipleship, too, is not determined by our being born into a Catholic family or just by being baptised or by observing the external requirements of our religion but by our total commitment to the Gospel and to an unconditional following of Jesus. Only then can we truly be said to be his brother or sister.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: EZR 6:7-8. 12. 14-20; LK 8:19-21 In the first reading, we read of the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon. The first thing they did was to rebuild the Temple. For the Jews, the Temple was what gave them a sense of identity, namely, that they are the people of God. Indeed, for the Jews, the Kingdom and the Temple were sacred to them. That is why many of the psalms are devoted to the king and to Jerusalem where the Temple of God is. Similarly, we regard ourselves as the New Temple of God and each individual as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We call ourselves Christians and are proud to be known as Christians. Yet, for many, they are just Catholics or Christians in name but not in fact. Just being called “Christians” or going to Church will not change us or give us life. This was what happened to the Israelites and Jews. They were clinging to their race and status as the People of God. But Jesus warned them “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Only such people belong to the people of God.Secondly, we note that the Jews progressed from founding their identity in the Temple to the Word of God. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were deeply ritualistic people. They were meticulous in offering sacrifices at the Temple of Jerusalem. Their lives were centered on the Temple. This explains why they felt so lost without the Temple. Their only thought was to return home to rebuild the grandiose and magnificent Temple once built by King Solomon when Israel was in its glory. Hence, we can imagine the joy of the people when the Temple was at last restored, as we read in the first reading, even though it was not as grand as before. “The Israelites – the priests, the Levites and the remainder of the exiles – joyfully dedicated this Temple of God; for the dedication of this Temple of God they offered one hundred bulls … Then they installed the priests according to their orders in the service of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as is written in the Book of Moses.”Nevertheless there was a gradual, subtle shift from focusing on the Temple to the Word of God. This was because during the period of exile, without the Temple, their only worship was focused on the Word of God. Thus, by the time of Jesus, the Synagogue grew in importance. God wanted to teach the people that true worship is more than just offering sacrifices and rituals. The temptation for offering such sacrifices, which were certainly meaningful if properly interiorized’ at the same time caused those who reduced these sacrifices to mere rituals to become extraneous participants. This is true also of many Catholics attending Church services as mere spectators, or “out-standing” Catholics, who do not fully participate in the service. These have reduced faith to the performance of rituals and fulfillment of some obligations. But their hearts and minds are far from the celebration. To be sure, one of the reasons for the new translation of the Mass is to bring about a greater and more solemn participation through a more accurate translation of the original texts, aided by chanting. It is hoped that in time to come, everyone, regardless which church they attend, can worship, pray and sing as one community, rather than be mere observers.Yet, our spiritual life cannot be reduced to mere worship and vocal prayers alone. This accounts for the apparent dichotomy of those who attend daily Mass and community prayers and worship, yet live lives that have not changed much over the years. Why is this so? Why is it that their lives produce no fruits even though they are daily communicants of the Eucharist? Such people are really people of good will. They come for services regularly, attend retreats, help out in Church, etc. But like many of our Church volunteers and members in organizations, their spiritual life is weak. And so is their moral life. Many are in fact living a double life, apparently very active in Church activities but living a sinful life outside the Church. We do not see an increase in virtues, in a change of lifestyle, in compassion, humility, forgiveness, tolerance and charity. The truth is that spiritually they have not grown. Indeed, the warning of Jesus is pertinent. “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’ St Teresa of Avila reminds us that progress in prayer life must be seen by the fruits. Regardless of whatever spiritual exercises we do, if we do not bear fruits of charity, it means that we are not praying rightly or fervently.
Consequently, in today’s gospel, Jesus spoke of one’s true identity as those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Just as we find our family identity through the family, so to find our spiritual identity, we must be rooted in the Word. No progress in spiritual life is possible if we abandon daily and diligent meditation on the Word of God.
When we speak of meditation, we are not even referring to discursive meditation on the Word of God alone. There are some who might have realized the importance of meditation on the Word of God for spiritual growth. But quite often, they only use their head to attempt to penetrate the meaning of the Word of God. They are keener on gaining insights into the Word of God to understand themselves better, which is certainly noble. But of course there are some who fall in love with their “insights” so much so that they feel intellectually superior to others.
For this reason, discursive meditation must move towards the level of affective prayer and ending with the prayer of simplicity. All spiritual writers and mystics invite us to arrive at the prayer of simplicity in order that our wills are moved by the intellect. Otherwise, it remains merely a cerebral exercise. The purpose of meditation is not solely to gain insights. This could be done by attending a course, a seminar or just reading some theological and spiritual books. The ultimate goal of meditation is to enlighten the intellect so that it can then offer to the will something good to acquire. So the intellect is to activate the will to desire the truth as good. In other words, discursive meditation is but the first step to help a person to surrender his will to the Lord so that he can then experience the love of God and make a real commitment to Him, a commitment that comes not from the head but from a heart that is so in love with God as a person. Only affective prayer that engages in a colloquy with the Lord can effect such a transformation of the heart. And when the heart and mind coalesce, knowledge and love are united in the prayer of simplicity; one experiences the joy of being one with God in mind, heart and soul. This prayer of simplicity is but the first step towards mystical prayer.
Finally, when all is done, we must make some resolutions at the end of the meditation. Without making resolutions, we are in danger of falling either into intellectualism or sentimentalism. As St James warns us, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man, who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:23-25) Hence, it is necessary for us to conclude all our meditation with resolutions that spring not from some intellectual conclusion after the meditation, but from a heart so moved to desire to live out the truths revealed to us by the Lord about ourselves or the needs of people around us. Not only do we make resolutions but we must, throughout the day, pause at least once or twice, to reexamine ourselves by periodic examen. Without these frequently recollections it would be difficult to put what we meditate into practice. Most of all, we must not simply contemplate on the Word, but put it into practice whenever the opportunity arises.
Indeed, we cannot find our identity simply by worshipping in the Temple of God. Rather, we are called to be the Temple of God. We are all called to be who we are, namely, as the people of God. God dwells in us only when we abide in His Word. This is what Jesus promised us. He said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Jn 14:21) Again Jesus reiterated, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (Jn 14:23) Truly, if we abide in Him, He will abide in us and the Holy Spirit will transform us into the Temple of God. In this way we no longer just worship in the temple or in church, watching the priest offering the Eucharistic sacrifice, or even just hearing the Word of God; we become active participants of the sacrifice, offering ourselves in union with Jesus as a living sacrifice to the Father.
The gospel presents to us Mary as the exemplar of one who has truly become the dwelling place of God. Indeed, Jesus said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” It is therefore appropriate that God sees it fitting to bestow on Mary the honour of being the mother of the Son of God. She, as the gospel says, was full of grace, for she has always meditated on the Word of God, pondered over it and lived it out in her life. So with the psalmist we pray, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord. And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem.” This house of God is no longer a physical place alone, but truly the heavenly Jerusalem where God dwells. We are now the dwelling place of God because God lives in us.
The gospel today is very short and yet very powerful. Jesus goes to the heart of discipleship. In the final analysis, relationship with the Lord is not a matter of being physically related to Him or nominally related. This is what the Lord is warning us today. In His time, the relatives of Jesus, although biologically related to Him, did not know Jesus. They thought He was mad and overboard in His love for God. Hence, they came to seek Him out to bring Him home. This is understandable as they were not the disciples of Jesus. They did not hear Him nor were they with Him, unlike the disciples. So they were outsiders although they were His blood relations. This is how many of us feel towards our own relations. We no longer meet with our relatives, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews, unlike in those days when we lived together in the Kampong and spent time together frequently, especially during family celebrations. Nowadays, if we do meet, it is perhaps for a short while during festive occasions or funeral wakes. So if we do not even know our immediate family members well, as everyone is busy with their work and activities, much less do we know our extended family members.
Obviously none of us are also His blood relatives. But we act like them because although baptized, we do not have any real relationship with the Lord. He is a stranger to us. We hardly spend time with the Lord. Catholics who hardly pray and read the scriptures cannot be said to be the relations of Jesus. What kind of relationship is that when we hardly communicate with Him? Indeed, this is my fear for our Catholics. We have the numbers, the quantity, but we do not have the quality. We have so many Catholics but so few are taking their faith seriously. Less than one third are going to our services. Less than 10% are active in Church ministry. I seriously wonder how many Catholics take the trouble to educate themselves in the faith, go for faith formation, either by attending courses or through reading up on the faith; and most of all, spend minimally half an hour a day in quiet prayer and contemplation of the Word of God. Without such a relationship with the Lord, how can one claim that he or she knows the Lord?
In the gospel, Jesus makes it clear that spiritual relationship through baptism, even blood relationships, does not qualify us to be His relatives. In no uncertain terms, He said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice”. Indeed, even the biological motherhood of Mary did not qualify her to be the mother of our Lord. It would be a mistake to think that Mary is so privileged to be the mother of the Saviour without first recognizing that she was first and foremost a woman of grace. She was graced by God right from the start to live a holy life, a life of total dedication in doing the will of God. It was her complete devotion to God’s will and God’s word that made it also possible for her to embrace God’s call to be the mother of the Saviour.
What does it mean to be known as a mother, brother and sister of our Lord? Suppose you were related to someone great or important, how you feel? Indeed, it would be a great honour, but with it comes the responsibility. We do not want to destroy or harm the reputation of that person. So it is important that we conduct ourselves well because others see us as related to that dignitary. Otherwise we will bring disrepute to that person or at least to his or her office. So, too, if we call ourselves the mother, brother and sister of our Lord, then we need to conduct ourselves accordingly. We do not want to bring shame to our family just as we do not want any member of our family to get into crime and bring shame to the family. But isn’t this is what we are doing, when we do not live as Christians do, when we act contrary to what is expected of a Christian? Many have left the Church or are skeptical of the Catholic faith because of the bad examples of Catholics.
If our Catholics are not living out their Catholic life, it is simply because they are nominal Catholics or just practicing Catholics, which means “Sunday Catholics.” Their relationship with the Lord is superficial. It is more one of need and fear; not of love and intimacy. Most Catholics come to Church not to praise Him and thank Him but to ask for favours and protection. Many come out of fear and obligation without any love in their hearts. With such a disposition, it is a matter of time when the storms of life will break in and they will leave the Church. This is not surprising because in truth their hearts have already left the Church, waiting for the body to go as well.
Without hearing the Word of God, how could one model himself or herself in the ways of the Lord? How can one put His word into practice unless we have first heard Him? Although we are Catholic, our direction and values are that of the world’s and not from the Bible. The way we live our lives is not much different from that of the world. Such Catholics put the Church to shame just as some members of our family do when they do evil and scandalous things that put us to shame. Do you want the world to know that your father is a robber, your brother, a rapist, your sister, a swindler? But that is what our spiritual family members, our fellow Catholics are doing to the family of God!
The psalmist reminds us that we can only be happy when we walk the way of the Lord. “They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God’s law! Make me grasp the way of your precepts and I will muse on your wonders. I have chosen the way of truth with your decrees before me. Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart. Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight. I shall always keep your law for ever and ever.” Conversely, the book of Proverbs warns us, “Haughty eye, proud heart, lamp of the wicked, nothing but sin. To make a fortune with the help of a lying tongue, such the idle fantasy of those who look for death. The wicked man’s soul is intent on evil, he looks on his neighbour with dislike. He who shuts his ear to the poor man’s cry shall himself plead and not be heard.”
But how do we hear the Word of God if not through personal prayer and meditation on the Word of God? We need to make time before work or during lunch break to be with the Lord, or at least in the evening when we can quieten ourselves after a long day. Instead of watching TV and doing all the mundane things, we could make time to withdraw and be with the Lord, basking in His presence. With the Lord, we purify our self-awareness and motives as well. The book of Proverbs reminds us, “A man’s conduct may strike him as upright, the Lord, however, weighs the heart. The hardworking man is thoughtful, and all is gain; too much haste, and all that comes of it is want. When a mocker is punished, the ignorant man grows wiser, when a wise man is instructed he acquires more knowledge.” But this is only the first level of coming to a deeper relationship with the Lord. We find the Lord not only in prayer but in the community of faith. Faith is communitarian even if it is personal.
Catholics must also come back to the family of God if we wish to remain true to our Lord. Catholics needs Catholic relationships. Do you have a Catholic friend that you could share your faith with? There are many Catholics who do not have a faith relationship with any Catholic. Some do not even have good Catholic friends at work, in school or in personal life. So we can imagine what kind of influence they would be getting. But it is not enough to have friends who happen to be Catholic. We need to have a faith relationship. It is necessary to have some Catholics whom we can share our faith with and our lives in the context of prayer, reflection and personal testimonies. We need to have mentors around us to help us shore up our faith. Hence, it is important that we find a small community of Catholics that we feel belonged to and can share deeply our faith struggles, joys and pains with each other. So long as we have someone to share our faith with, we will find strength and consolation to carry on in our faith life. Be a Catholic who is in relationship and fellowship with the members of the Catholic family if we are to grow in relationship with the Lord.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in Korea and was introduced by laypeople. In 1836 Korea saw its first consecrated missionaries (members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrive, only to find out that the people there were already practicing Korean Catholics.
“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”
Andrew Kim Taegon in English, was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is the patron saint of Korea. In the late 18th century, Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in KoreaThis first native Korean priest was the son of Korean converts. His father, Ignatius Kim, was martyred during the persecution of 1839 and was beatified in 1925. After Baptism at the age of 15, Andrew travelled 1,300 miles to the seminary in Macao, China. After six years he managed to return to his country through Manchuria. That same year he crossed the Yellow Sea to Shanghai and was ordained a priest. Back home again, he was assigned to arrange for more missionaries to enter by a water route that would elude the border patrol. Kim was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His last words were: “This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”Before Ferréol, the first Bishop of Korea, died from exhaustion on the third of February, 1853, he wanted to be buried beside Kim, stating, “You will never know how sad I was to lose this young native priest. I have loved him as a father loved his son; it is a consolation for me to think of his eternal happiness.”
Paul Chong Hasang was a lay apostle and married man, aged 45. Christianity came to Korea during the Japanese invasion in 1592 when some Koreans were baptized, probably by Christian Japanese soldiers. Evangelization was difficult because Korea refused all contact with the outside world except for bringing taxes to Beijing annually. On one of these occasions, around 1777, Christian literature obtained from Jesuits in China led educated Korean Christians to study. A home Church began. When a Chinese priest managed to enter secretly a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics, none of whom had ever seen a priest. Seven years later there were 10,000 Catholics. Religious freedom came in 1883.
Paul Chong Hasang — When Pope John Paul II visited Korea in 1984 he canonized, besides Andrew and Paul, 98 Koreans and three French missionaries who had been martyred between 1839 and 1867. Among them were bishops and priests, but for the most part theywere lay persons: 47 women, 45 men.Among the martyrs in 1839 was Columba Kim, an unmarried woman of 26. She was put in prison, pierced with hot tools and seared with burning coals. She and her sister Agnes were disrobed and kept for two days in a cell with condemned criminals, but were not molested. After Columba complained about the indignity, no more women were subjected to it. The two were beheaded. A boy of 13, Peter Ryou, had his flesh so badly torn that he could pull off pieces and throw them at the judges. He was killed by strangulation. Protase Chong, a 41-year-old noble, apostatized under torture and was freed. Later he came back, confessed his faith and was tortured to death.Today, there are almost 5.1 million Catholics in Korea.
Saint Paul Chong Hasang (1794 or 1795–September 22, 1839) was one of the Korean Martyrs. His feast day is September 22, and he is also venerated along with the rest of the 103 Korean martyrs on September 20.
He was the son of the martyr Augustine Jeong Yak-Jong and a nephew of noted philosopher John Jeong Yak-Yong, who were among the first converts of Korea, who wrote the first catechism for the Roman Catholic Church in Korea (entitled “Jugyo Yoji”).
Tags: because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him, Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, Catholic Mass, Guide me Lord in the way of your commands, Kim Tae-gŏn, LK 11:28, Lk 8:19-21, Martyrs of Korea, My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it, Paul Chong Hasang, Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, Prayer and Meditation, PRV 21:1-6 10-13, Psalm 118, Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Saint Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, September 20 2016