Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are brought to attention of the sufferings of the followers of Christ just as the Lord Himself had suffered at the hands of those who opposed Him and refused to believe in Him. And because of this, we have to keep our faith in God strong and keep up our hope in Him even as we face trials and challenges in this life.

The Lord wants us all to be strong and to keep the faith, and because of that He has constantly reassured us through His servants, the Apostles and the saints, whose lives become our inspiration and strength, that we may continue to follow Him with zeal. And today, in particular, we recall the glorious life and inspirational faith of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, holy bishop of the Lord and martyr of the Church.

St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was a monk of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a few hundred years ago, at the time when the Christian faithful were divided between those who obeyed the Pope and are in communion with him, both the Roman Rite and the ones following the Eastern Orthodox communion with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

By that time the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople had been separated due to the Great Schism for over five hundred years, and the sum of mutual distrust, political circumstances and greed by others involved in the matter led to increasingly distant and hostile relationship between the two sides, and consequently, the faithful also ended up becoming ever more divided and hostile against each other.

St. Joseph Kuntsevych was a monk who eventually rose to the position of leadership within the Church as an Archbishop. At that time, a significant majority of the local Ruthenian population in the region now known as Belarus and Ukraine sought to be reconciled with the Pope led by the Metropolitan of Kiev and other bishops, who worked towards reconciliation that culminated in the Union of Brest.

Through that Union many communities of the faithful were led by their bishops and the clergy into full communion and reconciliation with the Pope and therefore becoming once again a member of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. However, this did not mean that the reunification of the Church occurred smoothly, as there were significant opposition from some segments of the faithful, both the clergy and laity alike.

It was in that situation that St. Josaphat Kuntsevych became a leader and shepherd for his flock, despite the rising tensions and clashes between those who were supportive of the Union and those who opposed the Union. He had the difficult job of trying to resolve the tensions and differences between the feuding factions of the faithful. Nonetheless, he dedicated himself as best as possible and did what he could to steer the faithful through to the right path despite the challenges.

And this was also accompanied by his personal holiness, exemplary conduct and life, constantly mortifying the flesh and resisting the temptations to sin. Nonetheless, amidst the rising sectarian tensions and violence eventually it led to the martyrdom of this faithful and holy man of God, as the townspeople who were opposed to the Union with the Pope rose against St. Josaphat and attacked him, tortured him and threw his dead body into the river.

As we can see from this case, St. Josaphat Kuntsevych showed us that being faithful to God is often not an easy task and is likely to be a challenging journey. But we must not lose hope or faith in God as the Lord will be with us, guiding us in our journey together towards Him. We must remain faithful, no matter what challenges we may encounter, that when the Lord comes again, we can confidently say that we have kept the faith, and will be worthy of His eternal glory.

May God bless us all and guide us, strengthen us in our journey that we may draw ever closer to Him, with each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

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