Wednesday, 6 February 2019 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God reminding us about the wonderful works that God has done in our midst, and yet at the same time, we are also presented with the sad reality of the opposition and ignorance with which many among us have in our own lives, in how we do not recognise God’s wonders and love in work within us and in the midst of our community, our society and even within our own families and circle of friends.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord’s work among the people, all the miraculous deeds and wonders He had done, healing the sick, casting out evil spirits and demons, and even raising the dead back into life, all these were doubted and even ridiculed by the people who saw all that He had performed before them. Some of them refused to believe and doubted because they thought of Him as the Son of a mere village carpenter, and they could not reconcile that fact with what they have witnessed in the Lord’s many miracles and wisdom.

All of these ultimately came about because of the prejudices and biases that were rampant among the community of the people of God, when people judged one another and treated one another according to one’s social status and standing within the society. Those who were uneducated and held difficult and yet humble jobs like carpenters, farmers, shepherds, all those who took up menial labours and went through much physical hardships, without proper compensation and were poor, all of these were often marginalised and ignored by the greater society.

The Lord called many of His disciples and followers from among these, as many of them were uneducated, with ordinary and even poor background, having no status or greatness, having no special privileges, just like Himself, born into a poor family from a poor and small, insignificant village of Nazareth in Galilee, which was equally a backwater periphery of the Jewish community and world at that time, where no one of particular honour and power was expected to come from.

The Lord gathered His disciples and followers, showing them all what they often had to endure for His sake, because of their background, and even more importantly, because of their faith and belief in God. To be His followers, the disciples of the Lord Jesus were called to be ready to be humiliated, ostracised, abandoned, rejected and left without honour, and even imprisoned and to suffer from various pains and sufferings, just as the Lord Himself has suffered the same.

That was what the first reading today, taken from the Epistle to the Hebrews spoke about, of the readiness to suffer for God’s sake, and yet, at the same time, the faithful were reminded of God’s faithfulness and unshakeable dedication to His faithful ones. God will not abandon His faithful ones to the darkness, and He will not allow them to fall into damnation, and that is why, He gave us this gift of faith, as well as love for Him.

However, the reality of life is such that we often falter when we are faced with challenges and difficulties, because we have not been able to feel and know His presence in our midst. We are often too preoccupied and too prejudiced to notice the Lord’s works and presence in our midst, just as the people who witnessed all of the Lord’s miracles and wonders still doubted in Him and refused to believe despite all that they have seen and experienced.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of saints and martyrs, whose life and devotion to God are truly exemplary, and should become our inspiration in life. St. Paul Miki and his fellow martyrs, both priests and the laity were known together as the Holy Japanese Martyrs, those who suffered and died during those years when the Japanese authorities severely oppressed the faithful in Japan, both laity and priests, both foreign missionaries and local Christians alike.

St. Paul Miki and his fellow martyrs in faith were harassed, arrested and tortured because of their faith in God, as they refused to reject the Lord and abandon Christ. When they were forced to desecrate the holy images of the Lord, His blessed Mother and His saints, they refused to do so, and remained resolute in their faith and commitment. The authorities sentenced them to death, and they were forced to march thousands of kilometres from the capital in Kyoto to their site of martyrdom in Nagasaki.

But despite all of these sufferings, challenges and difficulties, the pains and sorrows that the Japanese Christians, St. Paul Miki and his fellow martyrs had to endure, they remained firm in their faith in God, and kept that joy within them. The Lord Himself was with them, and they kept that joy of knowing just how God’s love has given them strength. St. Paul Miki and his companions endured the long and arduous journey, singing the thanksgiving hymn, ‘Te Deum’ throughout the way.

When they were martyred, the holy Japanese martyrs faced death with faith, and committed themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord. They remained true to their faith to the very end, knowing that God would always be with them, despite all the difficulties and challenges that they encountered. Now, we are called to imitate and follow the examples of those holy saints and martyrs, St. Paul Miki and his companions, who have given themselves so totally to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to commit ourselves and dedicate ourselves in the same manner? Are we able to face the challenges of this world with the same joy as the Apostles, and as St. Paul Miki and his companions had done? We are called to follow in their footsteps, and let us all pray, that from now on, we will grow ever more in our faith and love for God, and be able to dedicate ourselves, each and every days of our life. May God be with us always, and may the intercession of St. Paul Miki and his companions be our help always. Amen.

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