Friday, 7 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Mark 6 : 14-29

At that time, king Herod also heard about Jesus, because His Name had become well-known. Some people said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in Him.” Others thought, “He is a prophet like the prophets of times past.” When Herod was told of this, he thought, “I had John beheaded, yet he has risen from the dead!”

For this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested, and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her, and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John; and wanted to kill him, but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him, although he became very disturbed, whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.”

And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.” The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.”

The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of his bodyguards with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother.

When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.

Friday, 7 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 17 : 31, 47 and 50, 51

This God – His way is perfect; the word of YHVH can stand fire. He is a shield for those who seek refuge in Him.

YHVH lives! Praised be my Rock! Exalted be my Saviour God. For this I extol You, o YHVH, among the nations; I will sing praise to Your Name.

He has given victories to His king; He has shown His love to His anointed ones, to David, and to his descendants forever.

Friday, 7 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Sirach 47 : 2-13

As fat is selected from the peace offering, so David was chosen from among the Israelites. He played with lions and bears as if they were lambs or young goats. He was still young when he slew a giant, to restore the honour of his people; with a sling he aimed a stone that killed the arrogant Goliath.

He invoked the Lord Most High, who gave him strength to slay a mighty warrior, and so exalt the power of his people. So they glorified him for his ten thousands and praised him as a blessing from the Lord when he was chosen king. For he wiped out his enemies on all sides and annihilated his adversaries, the Philistines, crushing their power forever.

In all that he did, he gave thanks to the Most High, and showed his love for his Maker by singing with all his heart. He placed singers accompanied by harps before the Altar to make beautiful music; he gave splendour to feasts and even greater magnificence to the more solemn occasions, exalting the Holy Name of the Lord and having the Sanctuary ring with His praises from early morning.

The Lord forgave David’s sins and established his power forever; He made a Covenant with him for the benefit of the kings and gave him a glorious throne in Israel. A wise son succeeded him and fared well because of him. Solomon reigned during times of peace, and God gave him rest from war to enable him to build a house for His Name, a Sanctuary that would stand forever.

Thursday, 6 February 2020 : 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, today through the words of the Scripture we are all reminded of the dedication with which God’s servants had served Him in the calling and in the mission that God has entrusted to them. They have been called to follow God and to serve Him, making sacrifices to walk faithfully in His path and devoting themselves to the service of the Lord. In today’s readings we heard of the responsibilities that come with the position of being God’s chosen ones.

In our first reading today from the Book of Kings we heard of the moment when king David of Israel was dying, and he spoke to his son Solomon, whom David had made to be his successor, on what it meant for him to be a king over the Israelites, the people of God. David reminded Solomon how even as king, he had to obey the Lord’s commandments and will above all else, and in fact should be exemplary in that faith as his role as king was to lead and guide the people of God as God’s vicar and representative.

And David then also reminded Solomon of God’s promises to him, that as long as Solomon and his descendants remained faithful to God and did what David had instructed him to do, God would bless them and make their reigns secure forever. Eventually, many of David’s descendants did not remain faithful to God, including Solomon himself during his old age, when they served themselves and their desires rather than serving to bring glory to God. Many of them led the people down the wrong path and sinned against God.

It is with this background that we then listened to the Lord sending out His disciples as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord sent out His disciples with clear instruction and guide that they must not trust in all sorts of worldly means but rather bring only what they absolutely needed, the barest minimum without even spares to compensate for their journey. In this manner, God reminded His disciples what it means to follow Him, and that is to be ready to face the many challenges that will come in our way.

There will be plenty of challenges and trials, as the Lord has highlighted it to His disciples. Just as there are many who would be open to listen and to accept the truth of God, there would also be many more who would not listen and reject the truth of God, preferring to trust in themselves and believe in whatever they wanted. And our predecessors had experienced all these throughout their many years in serving the Lord and being faithful to Him.

For example, today we have the memory of the faithful Holy Martyrs of Japan, especially the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, St. Paul Miki and Companions, who were martyred for remaining true to their faith despite coercions and pressures to abandon their faith. At that time, Japan was experiencing a great boom and expansion of the Christian faith as many people turned to Christianity and became believers, and even many among the nobles and lords were also converted.

The authorities, at that time under the rule of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Regent of Japan, was initially welcoming of Christians and their missionaries. However, changing political landscape and situations caused a rather abrupt turn in the treatment of Christians, as official persecution and opposition against Christians, missionaries and laity alike began in earnest. And under Hideyoshi Toyotomi, this peaked with the well-known trial and execution of the twenty-six Christians consisting of several missionaries as well as the members of the laity, including St. Paul Miki who was among the first Japanese Christians.

The persecuted Christians were brought to Kyoto where the Regent resided, and after having been condemned to their punishment of death, they were forced to march the very long journey from Kyoto all the way to the place of their martyrdom in Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki, a distance of over six hundred miles. Yet, despite knowing their fate and the suffering that they had to endure, St. Paul Miki and his companions sang the glorious hymn of the ‘Te Deum’ praising and glorifying God throughout the entire journey.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have thus heard of how these courageous and faithful servants of God lived their faith and devoted themselves to the very end, going through even challenges and troubles even in the face of certain death and suffering. Through their undying dedication and commitment, St. Paul Miki and his companions showed us what it truly means to be faithful as Christians in living our faith. Are we able to commit ourselves as these predecessors of ours had done?

Let us all reflect on these matters, and think how we live our lives from now on in responding to God’s call for each and every one of us. He has called on us to follow Him, and how will we respond to that calling? Let us all seek the Lord with a new focus, commitment and desire to love Him, inspired by the courageous faith of St. Paul Miki and his companions who braved suffering and death for God’s greater glory, putting aside our pride and desire for worldly temptations. O Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, pray for us all! And may God be with us always! Amen.

Thursday, 6 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 7-13

At that time, Jesus called the Twelve to Him, and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over evil spirits, and He ordered them to take nothing for the journey, except a staff : no food, no bag, no money on their belts. They were to wear sandals and were not to take an extra tunic.

And He added, “In whatever house you are welcomed, stay there until you leave the place. If any place does not receive you, and the people refuse to listen to you, leave after shaking the dust off your feet. It will be a testimony against them.”

So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent. They drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them.

Thursday, 6 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11ab, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours.

Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH; You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.

Thursday, 6 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 2 : 1-4, 10-12

When David was about to die, he gave his son Solomon this instruction, “I am about to go the way of all creatures. Be strong and show yourself a man. Keep the commandments of YHVH your God and walk in His ways. Keep His statutes, His commands, His ordinances and declarations written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do and wherever you go.”

If you do so, YHVH will fulfil the promise He made to me : If your sons take care to walk before Me faithfully with their whole heart and their whole soul, you shall always have one of your descendants on the throne of Israel.”

Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David. David reigned over Israel for forty years : seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father and his reign was firmly established.