Friday, 12 November 2021 : 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 Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded of the reality of ourselves who are the servants of God, those who are under the power and authority of God, Our Lord and Master, Whose power and glory far surpasses anything else in this Universe, and Who is the One that created the entire Universe and existence as we know it. We have been called to follow Him and to believe in Him, and not to be distracted by all other things in this world.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Wisdom, we heard the author of the Book of Wisdom speaking about the folly of mankind in following and worshipping created things of this world, which were merely created things and objects. These words were directed against all those who worshipped idols and the pagans, who refused to believe in God and those who were still ignorant of His truth. At that time, most of the people except for the people of God believed in myriads of deities based on elements and things of the world.

They were amazed by the wonders and beauty, by the power and greatness of those objects and things, and as a result, they chose to worship what they thought to be their master, deity and creator, but failing to realise that no matter how great those things might have been, they were ultimately in the end, created things and were not the Creator. This is what the Lord wanted His people, all of us to know that He is the one true Lord and Master of all.

Then, we heard the passage from our Gospel today in which we listened to the Lord speaking to His disciples and the people regarding the past occasions when the people of God faced judgment and destruction because of their lack of faith, and then, He also spoke of the Judgment that is to come, which will happen at the end of time. This is one of the occasions in which the Lord mentioned what is to happen in the future, of the coming of the Lord and His salvation.

As He referred to the history of Noah and Lot, the Lord wanted all of us to know that all of us who have held true to our faith in Him and entrust ourselves in Him will not be forgotten, abandoned and will not be disappointed, for even though we may face persecution and difficulties for having believed in God, but the Lord will remember our faith and dedication, and our rewards shall be rich in Heaven and in the world that is to come. On the contrary, those who refused to believe in Him, and those who preferred to follow their own path, shall not have part in Him and His inheritance.

He reminded us all of what happened at the time of Noah, when the Great Flood or the Great Deluge happen all over the whole world, wiping out all the wicked children of mankind, all except that of Noah and his immediate family, who remained faithful to God. Then, on the matter of Lot, the unfaithfulness and wickedness of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who indulged in their vices and in their idolatrous behaviours also led to their destruction, together with the whole cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, while Lot and his family were saved.

All these serve as reminders for us not to be easily swayed and distracted by worldly temptations and idols, which can mislead us and cause us to fall into the path of sin. We may be wondering if we can fall into the sin of idolatry if we do not worship the pagan idols unlike those people in the past era during the time of the Book of Wisdom and the Old Testament, but in fact, in our lives, whenever we treat something in our lives to be greater than God, more treasured for us than God, then we have already made idols out of them.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have made idols out of money, our wealth and possessions, our addictions and even our desire for glory and fame. All these things are the ones that we often craved after, and worked so hard to gain that we have ignored and forgotten about God. Is it not the same then as those who have preferred to worship the idols than to worship God? Let us not be believers only in name and formality, and yet in our hearts and minds, God is not present at all.

Today, all of us ought to look upon the great examples set by our holy predecessor, namely St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, one of the great saints of God whose feast we are celebrating this day. He is a courageous and holy servant of God, a bishop committed to the well-being of his flock and for the salvation of souls. He was remembered for his great piety and dedication to God, his commitment to Church unity, and finally his martyrdom in defending that unity against those who refused to believe in him and the Lord’s truth.

At that time, the Church in what is today Belarus and Ukraine had been divided between those who were united to the Pope in Rome and those who refused to acknowledge the Pope and his authority, in the Eastern Orthodox communion. St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was one of the bishops and leaders of the Church there who supported and worked hard for the reunification of the churches and the faithful, which eventually led to the Union of Lublin, in which many of those who belonged to the Eastern Orthodox churches, returned to communion with the Pope while retaining their unique traditions and expression of faith.

But there were also many who were opposed to such a union, and this led to further divisions among the flock of God’s people, which St. Josaphat Kuntsevych worked hard to overcome. He laboured to bridge the divisions and heal the disunity in the faithful community of God’s people. He was martyred as his enemies and opponents roused up a rabble to strike at him and killed him, as he remained firmly faithful to the very end in defending the true faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be inspired by the faith and dedication of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych and his commitment to the Lord, Who is first and foremost in all things. Let us all strive to love the Lord all the more and commit ourselves to Him, while distancing ourselves from all those distractions and temptations that can lead us astray. May God be with us and may He strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. Amen.

Friday, 12 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 17 : 26-37

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be on the day the Son of Man comes. In those days people ate and drank and got married; but on the day Noah entered the Ark, the flood came and destroyed them all.”

“So it was in the days of Lot : people ate and drank, and bought and sold, and planted and built; but on the day Lot left Sodom, God made fire and sulfur rain down from heaven, which destroyed them all. So will it be on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

“On that day, if you are on the rooftop, do not go down into the house to get your belongings; and if you happen to be in the fields, do not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to save his life will lose himself, but whoever gives his life will be born again.”

“I tell you, though two men are sharing the same bed, it might happen that one will be taken, and the other left; though two women are grinding corn together, one might be taken and the other left.” Then they asked Jesus, “Where will this take place, Lord?” And He answered, “Where the body is, there too will the vultures gather.”

Friday, 12 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Friday, 12 November 2021 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Wisdom 13 : 1-9

The natural helplessness of humans is seen in their ignorance of God. The experience of good things did not lead them to the knowledge of Him Who is. They were interested in His works, but they did not recognise the Author of them.

Fire, wind, air, the sphere of the stars, rushing water and the lights in the sky were held as the rulers of the world. If, charmed by such beauty, they took them for gods, let them know how far superior is their sovereign. And if they were impressed by their power and activity, let them understand from this how much mightier is He Who formed them. For the grandeur and beauty of creatures lead us to ponder on their Author, greater and more magnificent.

No doubt these people are not to be blamed severely, for possibly they strayed though they searched for God and desired to find Him. They pondered over the created things that surrounded them and were captivated by the sight of such beauty. Even so they are not to be excused, for if they were able to explore the world, why did they not discover first the world’s Sovereign?

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.

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 17 : 20-25

At that time, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom of God was to come. He answered, “The kingdom of God is not like something you can observe, and say of it, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘See, there it is!’ for the kingdom of God is within you.”

And Jesus said to His disciples, “The time is at hand, when you will long to see one of the glorious days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Then people will tell you, ‘Look there! Look here!’ Do not go with them, do not follow them. As lightning flashes from one end of the sky to the other, so will it be with the Son of Man; but first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.”

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 145 : 6c-7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

The Lord is forever faithful; He gives justice to the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free.

The Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord straightens the bent. The Lord loves the virtuous, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked. The Lord protects the stranger.

The Lord sustains the widow and the orphan. The Lord will reign forever, your God, o Zion, from generation to generation. Alleluia!

Thursday, 12 November 2020 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Philemon 7-20

I had great satisfaction and comfort on hearing of your charity, because the hearts of the saints have been cheered by you, brother. Because of this, although in Christ I have the freedom to command what you should do, yet I prefer to request you in love. The one talking is Paul, the old man, now prisoner for Christ. And my request is on behalf of Onesimus, whose father I have become while I was in prison.

This Onesimus has not been helpful to you, but now he will be helpful both to you and to me. In returning him to you, I am sending you my own heart. I would have liked to keep him at my side, to serve me on your behalf while I am in prison for the Gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your agreement, nor impose a good deed upon you without your free consent.

Perhaps Onesimus has been parted from you for a while so that you may have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but better than a slave. For he is very dear brother to me, and he will be even dearer to you. And so, because of our friendship, receive him as if he were I myself.

And if he has caused any harm, or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this and sign it with my own hand : I will pay it…. without further mention of your debt to me, which is you yourself. So, my brother, please do me this favour for the Lord’s sake. Give me this comfort in Christ.

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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 17 : 1-6

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Scandals will necessarily come and cause people to fall; but woe to the one who brings them about. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck. Truly, this would be better for that person, than to cause one of these little ones to fall.”

“Listen carefully : if your brother offends you, tell him, and if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he offends you seven times in one day, but seven times he says to you, ‘I am sorry,’ forgive him.”

The Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” And the Lord said, “If you have faith, even the size of a mustard seed, you may say to this tree, ‘Be uprooted, and plant yourself in the sea!’ and it will obey you.”