Monday, 12 November 2018 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the important traits of God’s chief servants and the leaders and elders among the communities of the faithful, then named as overseers and elders. They were the ones who would in time become the first bishops of the Church, as those who were entrusted with the responsibility over the faithful in a certain geographical area.

In what St. Paul shared to St. Titus in his Epistle to him, he mentioned the characteristics of those who are to be chosen as bishops to lead the Church of God, to build up the foundations of the Church in the areas where at that time, it was still growing rapidly. St. Titus himself was also a bishop of the Church, one of the first among those whom the Apostles including St. Paul appointed as their successors in the government and management of the Church.

The bishops must have good qualities of the faith and also in leadership by example. They could not be those who were corrupt and wicked in their ways, or else the faith and the Church would be scandalised. They must be men of good character and showed great commitment to the Lord, which are important traits that all those who are serving the Lord ought to have in their lives and in their ministry.

These are important requirements for those who were called and chosen to be the good shepherds imitating the examples of the one, true Good Shepherd of all, Our Lord Jesus Christ. And they were given enormous responsibilities, that involves the very fate of many souls of man, which if not carefully and correctly managed, could cause those souls to be lost to God forever.

That was what the Lord Jesus mentioned when He said in the Gospel that, those who caused scandal for the faith, the Church and the faithful by their actions were truly not deserving of the Lord and His grace, for by their actions, deeds and maybe words, they have caused others, especially the vulnerable ones like children and others, to fall away from the faith, or to suffer the consequences of the former’s actions.

And sadly, this is what has happened in our Church throughout its long history, and even to this very day. There are scandals facing the Church, its priests, even bishops and the leaders that caused discomfort, pain and suffering among the members of the Church and the faithful, and this has caused some among the faithful to lose faith in God and His Church, and left the true faith behind.

Today, we ought to pray for the Church, for us all the faithful who believe in God, the members of His Church, and especially also for all those who have been called and chosen to become the shepherds of the faithful, that is the priests and bishops. Let us all pray for them, that they may remain faithful and committed to the service of God, and not to be tempted by Satan, the great enemy, who no doubt is trying to destroy the Church and us by attacking and tempting the holy priests and bishops.

We pray that they may have the courage to live up to their faith and calling, and following in the examples of the holy Apostles and martyrs, and especially today we celebrate the feast of a holy servant of God and courageous martyr of the faith, St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, who was an Eastern Catholic bishop living during the contentious time when the foundations for the Eastern Catholic churches were made, at the time when some of the prelates from the breakaway Eastern Orthodox Church wanted to restore communion and unity with Rome and the Pope.

Thus, historically, through the Union of Brest in the year of Our Lord 1596, some of the Eastern prelates and priests declared their obedience to the Roman Catholic Church, the true Church of the Apostles and the Church of God, together with a number of the faithful. But tensions and problems did not end there, and in fact, they began to foster and create difficulties for those who have decided to reunite with the Roman Pontiff.

St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was counted among these courageous prelates who as the bishop and Archeparch in the Ruthenian area of the church, among which there were still many who refused to accept the reunion with the Roman church, and hence, it gave St. Josaphat a lot of problems and difficulties, each of which he took upon patiently and with great faith. In the end, he faced martyrdom in the hands of angry mob who refused to believe in the truth of God.

But his courage and perseverance should be an inspiration to each and every one of us, and especially for those who have been called and chosen to the holy orders. Therefore, let us all pray together as one Church, calling upon God to be with His Church, to protect us and to guide us in our journey, that we will remain faithful and strong despite the challenges we may encounter on our way. May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us all in our endeavours. Amen.

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