Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to words of the Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on the revelation that many people from many nations, from various places would come to glorify the Lord and to praise Him. They would come to listen to Him and to welcome Him, follow Him and worship Him. All these were the revelations of what was to come through Christ and His gathering of the people from all the nations to be His disciples and to be saved through Him.
Everything was to come true as the Lord Himself had come and dwelled in our midst, gathering everyone who have faith in Him so that we may come to know of His truth and salvation. Yet, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, there were still those who refused to believe in Him and refused to welcome Him to their place. This happened due to various reasons, and in this particular case, it was because the Samaritans who stayed in that village got to know that the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem, in the land of Judea.
Back then, at the time of the ministry of the Lord, there had been longstanding animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews especially those who were in Judea and Jerusalem. The background of this animosity and conflict was not truly well-understood, but it revolved around the misunderstandings between the two groups of people, as the Jews considered the Samaritans as heathens and pagans who took over the land of the former northern kingdom of Israel in Samaria and its vicinity, in the land between Judea and Galilee. Many of the Samaritans were descendants of the remnants of the Israelites left behind in that land intermingled with others who were brought to that land to settle in.
Then, for the Samaritans, they claimed themselves to be the natives of the land, as they claimed that they had been there earlier than the Jewish people had been, and even claimed Jacob, the father of the Israelites to be their own forefather. They claimed that their worship of God at Mount Gerizim and the mountains of Ephraim was superior than the Jewish claim for worship only at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Their mixed heritage and the long distortions of history eventually led to the strive and conflict between the two peoples. This is the background with which the rejection of the Lord took place.
All these showed us the kind of attitudes that we mankind and people of God can show in the midst of us resorting to our pride and ego, and in indulging our stubborn desire for glory and power, for influence and other things and temptations that often became great stumbling blocks in our path towards God and His salvation. If only that we can trust in Him more and allow Him to lead and guide us down the right path that we may not end up in the wrong direction in life. But the question is, are we willing to listen to Him and humble ourselves before Him and others?
Today, all of us are called to reflect on our attitude in life and in how we have lived our faith thus far. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord in all the things we do and at all times throughout our lives? Or have we allowed ourselves to be lulled and swayed by our desires and greed, by our ego, pride and ambition? Today, let us all look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, holy martyrs who devoted themselves to the Lord faithfully and lived virtuous lives and in the end, died as martyrs in defending their faith and the integrity of their beliefs.
St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia was the renowned Duke of Bohemia whose patronage and life is still being remembered to this day, as the patron of the Czechs and many others who looked up to his virtuous examples as a Christian and as a great ruler over his people. St. Wenceslaus took over the reign over Bohemia at a time of great change and at the crossroads of the history of his people, as Christianity had just taken its roots in Bohemia back then, and many of the people including the influential ones and the nobles were still pagans.
St. Wenceslaus ruled wisely and responsibly as a just and caring ruler, managing the many challenges that he had to face, and worked hard to benefit his people and to care for them while also advancing the cause of the Lord and the Church, establishing a firm foundation of the Church and its missions throughout his dominion. However, he had a lot of opposition which festered and sought to reverse all the gains of the Christian faith, and these eventually coalesced around the brother of St. Wenceslaus, namely Boleslaus the Cruel, who orchestrated the murder of the faithful duke and servant of God.
Then, today we also commemorate the memory of the glorious Holy Martyrs of Japan in Nagasaki, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his fellow companions in martyrdom during the great and intense persecution of Christians in Japan in the early years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. St. Lawrence Ruiz, also better known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first saint of the Philippines, having actually been born in the Spanish ruled Philippine islands, and led a pretty ordinary life there until one day he was falsely accused with murder. In order to protect his life and innocence, he boarded a ship bound for Japan, in which he was arrested together with the missionaries that he had taken refuge with.
St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom were tortured and made to suffer a lot, persuaded, coerced and forced to abandon their faith in God under grim threat of more sufferings and death. However, this did not dampen his spirit and those others who were with him. Eventually he was martyred in the most painful way, and to the very end, he remained faithful, declaring before all his persecutioners that ‘I am a Catholic and I wholeheartedly accepted death for God. Had I have a thousand lives, all these I shall gladly offer to Him.’
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the great examples showed by these faithful holy predecessors of ours should be inspiration to each and every one of us. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord just in the manner that those faithful martyrs had done? Can we be virtuous in life, caring and be responsible for one another just as St. Wenceslaus had done? And can we commit ourselves wholly to the Lord even in the face of great suffering and adversity in the manner of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom?
Let us all therefore turn towards the Lord wholeheartedly, and strive to do our best to serve Him with ever greater vigour and devotion from now on. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us, and bless us in our every great works and endeavours. Amen.