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?

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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

Titus 1 : 1-9

From Paul, servant of God, Apostle of Christ Jesus, at the service of God’s chosen people, so that they may believe and reach the knowledge of truth and godliness. The eternal life we are waiting for was promised from the very beginning by God Who never lies, and as the appointed time had come, He made it known through the message entrusted to me by a command of God, our Saviour.

Greetings to you, Titus, my true son in the faith we share. May grace and peace be with you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I left you in Crete because I wanted you to put right what was defective and appoint elders in every town, following my instructions. They must be blameless, married only once, whose children are believers and not open to the charge of being immoral and rebellious.

Since the overseer (or bishop) is the steward of God’s house, he must be beyond reproach : not proud, hot-headed, over-fond of wine, quarrelsome or greedy for gain. On the contrary he must be hospitable, a lover of what is good, wise, upright, devout and self-controlled. He must hold to the message of faith just as it was taught, so that, in his turn, he may teach sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Thursday, 12 November 2015 : 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 we listened to the words of the Holy Scriptures which spoke to us about the Wisdom of God, and how that Wisdom is far superior to the wisdom and the intellect of men. The combined might of our intelligence and power, the greatness of our minds and achievements are nothing compared to what God can do.

Many of us think that we are capable of great things and achievements, and indeed we are able to, but lest that we think we accomplished all of them on our own accord and abilities, let us all take a step back to remember that our life is not ours to command, but it has been granted and been given to us by the One who had created us, and it was by His will and desire that we are able to live such a life in this world.

And yet, many of us conveniently forgot about this fact, and many of us thought that our glory and greatness is ours alone. We like to think in this way because for us men, it is often not in our priority to think about the Lord, and even less so to give Him thanks for all the goodness that we have received. We only remember Him when we are in trouble and in need of help, when we beg Him to help us, but otherwise, on other occasions, we forget entirely about Him.

In God lies everything that we will ever need in life, and in Him we will have everlasting and true joy. Yet, many of us are unable to find this joy or see the truth about the Lord beyond the veil of lies and untruths that Satan has placed between us and the Lord. Satan placed many temptations and good things of this world, and he played into our sense of glory and desire, so that he may seize our hearts’ focus and attention, and thus rather than glorifying God, we glorify ourselves.

Satan himself was once a great angel who fell from grace because of his vanity and pride. He was unable to restrain his pride and arrogance, and because he thought of himself as having power and majesty far greater than all the other creatures of the Lord, then he was worthy of the throne of the Creator. Thus, in his pride, Lucifer fell from grace, and instead of greatness, it was damnation and eternal suffering and shame that awaited him.

And in our pride too, and succumbing to our own desires, our ancestors have been fooled and allowed themselves to be tempted by the devil, who played along their sense of greatness and hubris, and by claiming that if they disobeyed the Lord and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would not die but instead would gain glory and greatness by becoming like God.

And they fell indeed, because in their shortsightedness, they had allowed themselves to be corrupted by their own desires, uncontrolled and untamed, and having been taken over by pride and by desire, they realised it too late that they have committed sinful things before the Lord. This is what can happen to all of us as well, and all of us must be ever vigilant in this.

We just have to look at how many people among us mankind who have thought of themselves as better than God through their actions, showing disrespect to the Lord through acts such as murder of life, alteration of Church teachings and morality, and even doubting the existence of God Himself just because they could not see Him and thus prove that He exists.

Thus was mankind fooled by their own feeble and limited intellect and capacity, all these while thinking that they were capable of truly great things on their own. Yet, in our pursuit of glory and greatness, many of us had often forgotten that it was because of God, because of His grace and blessings that we were capable of such great feats.

Let us all therefore look into the examples of today’s saint, St. Josaphat the Martyr, also known as St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, the holy martyr of Russia, and the defender of the true Faith. St. Josaphat was born into the Russian Orthodox Church, which is a branch of the Eastern Orthodoxy that split away from the Holy Mother Church about a thousand years ago out of disagreement and the eastern prelates’ desire for worldly authority, and thus they split away from the authority of the Vicar of Christ in Rome.

St. Josaphat became a religious and eventually rose to become a bishop in the Eastern Orthodoxy, and led a very pious and dedicated life to God, until the opportunity came for some of the Eastern Christians to rejoin in a renewed communion with Rome, with the Pope. He led the faithful in joining the new union with the Holy Mother Church.

But there were many oppositions and resistance from all those who refused to see the truth and follow the example of those who have reunited with the Universal Church in Rome. And over time, the opposition grew more and more vocal and even violent, harassing the faithful and even eventually the bishop, St. Josaphat himself, who in the end suffered martyrdom at the hands of these people.

St. Josaphat was murdered in cold blood by those who refused his authority and who rejected the communion with Rome, preferring to remain in heresy and damnation of their rebelliousness instead. But St. Josaphat never faltered till the end, and he continued to faithfully minister to the people of God, completely entrusting himself to the care of the Lord till the end.

In accordance with the examples that St. Josaphat had shown us, let us all also therefore dedicate ourselves more and more to the Lord, and less to ourselves, and rather than trusting solely in our own human thoughts and intellect, let us learn to put our trust in the Lord. May He bless us all always and guide us on our path. May He continue to watch over us and protect us always. Amen.

Thursday, 12 November 2015 : 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.”