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.

Saturday, 12 November 2016 : 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 heard in the Scripture readings the about the need for us to seek the Lord without cease, asking Him for help on this journey of life we have in this world, as He made it clear through the parable of the evil judge and the old widow.

In that parable, the old widow continued to ask the evil judge to help with her case, and even though that evil judge continually refused to do so, but eventually, faced with an adamant woman who refused to back down, he relented and did so, even if that was to end the torment she was causing him.

From here we can see that God our Lord and Master will never abandon us on purpose and He will always take care of us because of His love, but it is often that we never ask for His help in the first place. In that parable, the evil judge relented to the old widow because of her persistent demands for him to oversee her case, and as Jesus said, that if the evil judge who did not care for her, eventually wanted to help her in the end, even though for different reason, then should not the Lord be moved to help us if we have asked Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all remember what Jesus said in another occasion, ‘Seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened for you, and ask, and it shall be given to you?’ God our Father knows all of our needs and wants, He knows all the moments of our life, our every actions and deeds, all that we are doing in this world, but we ourselves need to be proactive in looking for Him, asking Him for His grace.

Too many of us are lukewarm with our faith, having our faith as just a passive observance, and for some of us, we are counted among the faithful even only on paper, meaning that while we call ourselves or label ourselves as Christians, but we do not truly believe in the Christian teachings and the ways of our Lord, and our actions and deeds are often contrary to what is expected of us Christians.

We live in a time when many of us think that faith is not important to us, and we can live in whatever ways we like, even if against the Lord’s ways. But do we realise that if we do so, we are actually bringing about scandal for our faith, for the Church, for our fellow faithful brethren and ultimately against the Lord? And the consequences for us will not be a light one.

Rather, let us today reflect on our actions and how we have lived our lives, and be inspired by what St. Josaphat Kuntsevych had done about four hundred years ago, the holy saint and martyr whose feast and memory we celebrate today. St. Josaphat Kuntsevych was once a holy man and a bishop serving the faithful of the Eastern Orthodox communion, specifically among the Ukrainians and the Russians.

At that time, the churches in Eastern and Southeastern Europe has been separated from the Mother Church in Rome for approximately five hundred years, due to the schism and separation that happened because of the unfortunate disagreement and misunderstanding between the Church of the Eastern Christendom which was centred in Constantinople, and the rest of the Universal Church under the jurisdiction of the Pope in Rome.

As a result, the communion between the two sides broke down, and the Eastern churches did not recognise the Church of Rome as the valid Church, seeing themselves as the righteous successor of the Apostles. And much grief and bitterness arose between the two Churches because of the misunderstanding and the false division among them.

And this conflict is the most difficult in places where the two Churches meet and mingle, at the region now known as Lithuania, Belorussia and Ukraine. And this was where St. Josaphat Kuntsevych led his flock, and in the occasion where an olive branch was extended between the two Churches in the Union of Brest, St. Josaphat was among those bishops who agreed to come under the true leadership of the successor of St. Peter in Rome while preserving their unique Eastern Christendom traditions.

St. Josaphat worked hard two reunite the two factions among the sheep entrusted to him as their shepherd. There were much grief and numerous difficulties in this, and many resisted the decision to reunite with the Church of Rome, resulting in violence and destruction, in killing and murder, and in much pain for the Lord and for His Church.

But St. Josaphat did not give up and continued to persevere, calling all those who have walked the wrong path to repent and to return to the truth in the Church, and for which he was martyred, when those who refused to follow his example, attacked him and murdered him in cold blood, and threw his body into the river while ransacking his church, property and all of the faithful gathered in that place.

From the examples of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, we can see how we Christians should live our lives, filled with faith, courage and strength to live that faith genuinely and with devotion. And how do we do so, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by asking the Lord our God for His daily grace and help, that we feeble men may be able to live with zeal and strength, and with courage even when we are faced with great challenges against us.

Let us today therefore ask the Lord our God, through the intercession of the holy saint and martyr, St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, that we may grow ever stronger and more devoted in faith, and let us also pray for the eventual union of the churches and all the faithful under the rightful jurisdiction of the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, Prince of Apostles, which is our Pope in Rome. May the Lord help us all, His beloved Church. Amen.

Saturday, 12 November 2016 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Luke 18 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples a parable, to show them that they should pray continually, and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain town there was a judge, who neither feared God nor people. In the same town there was a widow, who kept coming to him, saying, ‘Defend my rights against my opponent!'”

“For a time he refused, but finally he thought, ‘Even though I neither fear God nor care about people, this widow bothers me so much, I will see that she gets justice; then she will stop coming and wearing me out.'”

And Jesus said, “Listen to what the evil judge says. Will God not do justice for His chosen ones, who cry to Him day and night, even if He delays in answering them? I tell you, He will speedily do them justice. But, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

Saturday, 12 November 2016 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family, there his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness, he is kind, merciful and upright.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

Saturday, 12 November 2016 : 32nd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
3 John 5-8

Beloved, you do well to care for the brothers and sisters as you do. I mean those coming from other places. They spoke of your charity before the assembled Church. It will be well to provide them with what they need to continue their journey, as if you did it for God.

In reality, they have set out on the road for His Name without accepting anything from the pagans. We should receive such persons, making ourselves their cooperators in the work of the truth.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013 : 16th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Charbel Makhluf, Priest (Scripture Reflection)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the parable of the sower, the well-known parable in the Gospel Reading, and also the rebelliousness of Israel during their journey in the desert, in the First Reading today, complaining to the Lord that they had a much better and fulflling life in Egypt in slavery compared to their freedom in the desert.

The parable of the sower tells us that while the Word of God is truly available for all people to witness, to see, and to listen, but ultimately, it is how we as a person take in that Word of God and nurture it, that the Word of God, that is our faith, likened to the seed spread by the sower, can find good soil in our hearts and grow.

As all of you would have guessed, yes, the sower is none other than the Lord Himself, who gave His light to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ, and from Him, the teachings came down upon us through His Apostles and their successors, our bishops and priests, who are also sowers and labourers in the fields of the Lord. We are the soil, the ground on which the seeds land on, and where the seeds will be able to grow, if the conditions are met and suitable, or perish if the conditions are unfavourable for the growth of the seeds.

The seeds that fall on the path, and then eaten by the birds are likened to those of us, whose faith and devotion to the Lord are weak, and therefore, the devil came and took away the seeds of faith from our hearts. He and his angels come like the birds, eating away the seeds of faith God has planted in us, because the seeds did not take root, and therefore, the faith easily became lost. This is what happened if we keep the Lord out of our hearts and the devil may therefore enter and occupy our hearts, corrupting us to do his purpose, that is sin and evil.

The seeds that fall on the rocky ground did not manage to grow long enough before they withered because of the scorching sun, their faith grew quickly like the seeds, because the soil is shallow, just as their faith is shallow, without deep roots to sustain their faith, and their growth. When difficulties and challenges of the world present themselves, with all the temptations of the world, those whose faith is likened to the seeds that fell on the rocky ground, will quickly lose their faith, just as the seeds’ plants withered.

This one particularly most closely represent the situation portrayed in the First Reading today, and the general attitude of the people of Israel during the duration of the Exodus from Egypt. The people of Israel were easily awed and made astonished by the display of the power of God, especially by the plagues and miracles made by Moses in the power of the Lord, against the Egyptians, and during the sojourn of Israel in the desert. Yet, just like the seeds on the rocky ground, which do not manage to have deep roots on the shallow soil, the faith of Israel was indeed shallow and weak.

They were terrified and amazed by miracles and shows of power of God, but their faith did not have strong roots, and when difficulties and trials came, with hunger and the suffering in the desert, they abandoned their faith in God and even tested God, whether He could help them and deliver them from the sufferings they faced. They became angry at the Lord and His servant, Moses, and they made complaints after complaints, even after the Lord had repeatedly made visible His power and authority to the people of Israel.

Their disobedience led to great sins, and the people worshipped pagan gods, beginning from the golden calf that the people had forced Aaron to make when Moses stayed with God on His mountain for forty days and forty nights. They did not give their trust and love for God, and instead believing more in their own power, the power of men. They did not love God but love His miracles. They did not love Him but love the food He provided them. This is a lesson for all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we did not become like them, to dwell in superficial things and the things of this world, satisfying our own desires, but lacking love for God. We have to love God as the first priority in our lives.

Then, let us also be wary of the worries of the world, because like the seeds that fell on thistles, the thistles grew around the plants and killed them. They are those of us who failed to keep up our faith, because they have been bombarded by countless worries and evils of the world, which brought much stress and worry to them, so that they have ended up forgetting the Lord their God. They have been blinded by their worry that they became blind to the Lord, and choked by those worries.

Those worries of the world, of what we are to eat today, of what we are to wear today, to our work or to party, or even what are we going to do today, and where are we going today, should not be our priorities in life. Indeed, that is because these worries will tend to divert our attention, which should be given to the Lord and doing good for the people of God, into thinking solely for our own sake, which breeds strong sense of selfishness. We must be selfless, brothers and sisters, and give ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters in need of love, in need of help.

We must strive to be like the seeds that fall on rich soil, on deep ground, well watered and filled with ample nutrition, that allows the plants to grow to great heights and remain healthy. The same too should happen to us and our faith and love to the Lord. We must nurture our faith at all times, as we journey through this life, and nurture it with good works, with a healthy prayer life, and devotion to the Lord and through the intercession of His saints. If we do so, we will grow stronger in our faith, and the love that is in us will blossom, and many will feel the love of God through us.

Today, we commemorate the feast day of St. Charbel Makhluf, a Maronite monk who passed away just over a century ago. He was a devout and very pious Maronite, who joined the religious order of monkhood, to dedicate himself fully to the Lord in prayer and love. Despite a relatively uneventful life, after his death, he became a source of many miracles, both through his intercessions and his uncorrupted body.

St. Charbel Makhluf is an example for all of us Christians, the children of God, to follow, so that we too can follow his example of holy life dedicated to God and the love that he expressed in his life through his actions, that we nurture the faith that is in us through strong devotion to God and constant prayers, so that we will always keep ourselves attuned to the will of God. That we may bear much fruits, hundredfold and manyfold of what has been planted, what has been given to all of us.

May God bless us, and may He strengthen us in our faith and our love, for Him and our fellow brethren, and inspired by the example and holiness of St. Charbel Makhluf, may we bear fruits, fruits of love and compassion, the blessed fruits of the Holy Spirit, for the good of everyone, and for our salvation. Amen.

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar reaches age 80 and therefore becomes ineligible to vote in the Papal Conclave

Today, Tuesday, 26 February 2013, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, Major Archbishop Emeritus of Kyiv-Halic, and thus the former leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (Eastern Rite Catholic Church) in full communion with Rome, turns 80, and by the rules laid out in the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, can no longer participate in the Conclave to elect the new Pope.

The College of Cardinals now stand at 208 members, with 117 electors (2 will not attend the Conclave in March 2013) and 91 non-electors.

We wish His Eminence a happy birthday and pray for him that God will always guide him and strengthen him, that even in his old age and retirement, he will still be able to do great things for the greater glory of God. May God bless Cardinal Husar and the Ukrainian Church. Amen!

Ad multos annos, Your Eminence!