Saint Andrew Dũng-Lac and his Companions, Martyrs – Readings

Commentary on Wisdom 3:1-9; Psalm 125; Matthew 10:17-22

The Gospel reading is from Matthew. It is from the teaching that Jesus gives to his disciples before sending them out on their mission to do the same work he was doing. The reading gives a description of the kind of reception that they can expect in their missionary work.

It is a description of the experiences that Christians were already undergoing in parts of the Church when this gospel was written. And, it is a description of persecution that has taken place right through the history of the Church down to our own days.

Jesus warns his disciples that they will be hauled before courts and flogged. They will be called before kings and governors. And it will be an opportunity to give witness to their faith and loyalty to Christ and his Gospel. They are not to worry about what they will say. The right words will come when they need them, and this promise has been fulfilled many times.

One of the saddest features of these persecutions is that it will divide families – brother will betray brother, parents their children and vice versa. In short, they will be hated by many, not because of their criminal or immoral behaviour, but simply because of their allegiance to Christ and his Way. But those who hold out to the end will win a life that will never end.

The 117 martyrs we remember today, not to mention a much larger number of which there is now no written record, all went through the experiences listed by Jesus. Today we honour their memory and see the fruits of their sacrifices in the vibrant Church in Vietnam today.

The First Reading is from the Book of Wisdom and speaks about the fate of the dead. It is a reading often used in Requiem Masses. It applies all the more to the martyrs we commemorate today.

For “the souls of the just are in the hand of God… they seemed in the eyes of the foolish to be dead… but they are in peace.” And “if before people’s eyes they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality”.

Their sufferings were not final. “Chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed because God tried them and found them worthy of himself.” In their turn, “they shall judge nations and rule over peoples and the Lord shall be their King forever”.

For those who have heard the call, whether they are Jews or Greeks, Jesus Christ is clearly the power of God, the Word of God, the Wisdom of God. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men’s wisdom and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

In the eyes of many, these martyrs’ life would be deemed a disaster. Yet their violent death is now a source of inspiration for Vietnamese Catholics today, who can still be harassed by an unbelieving government simply because of their faith.

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