St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions


HOMILY WEEK 14 02 – Year II

Idol-free Living:

Optional Memorial of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

(Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13; Ps 115; Mt 9:32-38)


There is a sign at Fountain Park pool that says, “Keep this an idle-free zone.”

Today, we are called to live in an idol-free zone; to trust the one true God with our lives, and to pray for more missionaries to spread that message.

The first reading describes the idolatry of the people. One definition of an idol is a false god having an overly great influence on one’s life. Any addiction can be a false god – especially the addiction to money, fame and power. Even in the gospel, the opponents of Jesus ridiculously claim he is also in idolatry, casting out demons by the ruler of demons.

The reading also adds infidelity to their idolatry. They ignore the Word of God, and are set on doing their own will – having Kings and Princes without God’s knowledge, and relying on their own efforts to make themselves holy, or on sacrifices – a religion of externalism that is superficial and does not reach the heart.

One could say addiction is a form of idolatry – worshipping a false god. So much so that it is advisable for an addict who wants to marry to go for treatment first, as that addiction could invalidate a marriage. How can one promise a life-time of fidelity to a loved one, if one is already married to a chemical or a process activity that will always come first in the addict’s life?

Addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. On a personal note, it took time for me to recognize work-a-holism as idolatry. I had to be told bluntly I was breaking the first commandment. It also took time to recognize doing my will in God’s name in my ministry was infidelity – even treason. According to T. S. Elliot in Murder in the Cathedral, to do the right thing for the wrong reason is great treason.

We can question ourselves: is there any idolatry or infidelity in our lives at the moment?

The psalm is just the opposite: calling us to trust in the Lord, but also stating Israel trusts in God who is in heaven, and not an earthly idol.

In the Gospel, we see the one true God Incarnate, the one in whom we are to trust, who is without addiction, in action. What Jesus does in the gospel is just the opposite of an addicted life: teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom where there is no addiction, and healing the sick. Jesus then remarks the people are like sheep without a shepherd, and we are to pray for more laborers – more missionaries who will trust him and be faithful to him by being like him – teaching, proclaiming the Good News of freedom, and performing a ministry of healing.

The 19th century was a time of Christian persecution in China. Imperial edicts imposed the death penalty for evangelization as well as for the education and ordination of priests. Fr. Augustine Zhao Tong was a Chinese diocesan priest who had been a soldier. While escorting a missionary priest from France he converted and was baptized. He then studied at a seminary and was ordained. In 1815, he and 119 companions were tortured and martyred. They were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The Eucharist calls us to place our complete faith in Jesus, his Word and his Body and Blood as our one true God, and to let go of any false gods in our lives.

May our celebration empower us to trust in God completely, imitate Jesus in teaching, proclaiming, caring and healing, and pray for more labourers who will do the same.


Updated: July 8, 2024 — 10:45 pm

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