Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listen to the beginning of the story of Job, as we heard how that servant of God suffered under the attacks of Satan, who wanted to tempt him to abandon God out of despair and suffering. Satan said to God that Job’s faith was only strong because he was so blessed and protected by God, and should he lose them all, then he would surely abandon God and curse Him.

That was why Satan struck at Job and took away everything he had, his large family and his immense possessions, only sparing his life because God expressly forbid him from touching his life. And certainly, to Satan’s amazement, Job remained faithful, even when Satan stepped up his attacks on him and caused terrible and painful boils to appear throughout his entire body.

Job remained firm in his faith, and even though he suffered and even despaired at times, as the whole Book of Job essentially detailed out this struggle he had, especially when his close associates came to him and instead of consoling him, argued that Job must have sinned and disobeyed God to suffer such a terrible fate. Yet, even with all of these, Job remained faithful, and God, after revealing the truth about it all, blessed Job twice and more as much as he had been blessed before all the misfortune.

There were those who argued that the character Job was not really real, but rather an allegory and representation of the suffering servant of God, and how that servant persevered even through the trials and difficulties that came their way. But regardless whether Job was real or not, the fact remains that it was a reminder for each and every one of us to keep our faith in God and that despite all sufferings endured in faith, God does not forget us and will provide for us in the end, just as He did with Job.

In our Gospel today then we heard about the Lord and His disciples as they encountered some children and the Lord welcomed them warmly, and saying that unless they welcomed those children the way that He had called them and welcomed them, they would have no part in Him. And as His followers they also ought to be humble and make themselves small and insignificant, not to boast of their own might and power.

And the Lord also told His disciples not to stop another person who used His Name to do the same work as they had done, casting out demons and performing good works of healing. Through this, God wants us to know that all of us do not work for our own personal glory, or the glory of our own group or particular communities to the exclusion of others. All that is done is for the greater glory of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today therefore we have been reminded to be faithful disciples and followers of Our Lord, dedicating our time and efforts to walk in His path and to proclaim His truth and Good News in our respective communities, to do this humbly and dedicate ourselves for the glory of God, at all times. This is what we have been called to do as Christians with our lives.

And today, we should look upon the examples of St. Wenceslaus, as well as St. Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions, the Holy Martyrs of Japan. St. Wenceslaus was the Duke of Bohemia who reigned wisely and was beloved by many of his subjects, and who was instrumental in strengthening the Christian faith which at that time was still contending against the pagan beliefs of the people in Bohemia. St. Wenceslaus faced opposition from some among the nobles who supported the pagan cause.

St. Wenceslaus helped to build the strong foundation in a country that had been converted to the Christian faith just not long before, and he established not just good governance but also a strong and enduring Christian hierarchy and establishment. For all these, some among the nobles resented him, his reforms and efforts, and in complicit with St. Wenceslaus’ brother, they killed St. Wenceslaus who therefore died a martyr to his faith.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz, also known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, was a Filipino young man who had a good early life, was married and worked for the Spanish administration, before one day he was falsely accused of the murder of a Spaniard, something that is considered a capital offence back then, and which caused St. Lorenzo Ruiz to seek asylum with several priests who were on their way to Japan.

Unfortunately, at that time, Japan has already closed its borders to Christian missionaries, and the Tokugawa Shogunate then had arrested many Christian missionaries and converts, forcing many of them to choose between abandoning their faith and live, or to remain faithful and suffer a most painful death. That same fate was encountered by St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the others who were to suffer martyrdom with him. Together they were brought to Nishizaka Hill and as with St. Paul Miki and his companions forty years earlier, they were tortured, and died of martyrdom.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz and many of his companions died faithfully defending their faith, and although they might have suffered so much, but through their faith, they certainly receive eternal glory from God, the crown of everlasting life they had earned through martyrdom. The same is the also the case for St. Wenceslaus, and is reminiscent of what Job had experienced, after all of his sufferings.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore we are all reminded that we need to realise how being Christians may bring us difficulties, trials and challenges, and along this journey, we may even be tempted again and again to give up and to abandon this faith. But we must not lose faith, brothers and sisters! We must remain firm in faith and look forward beyond all the obstacles, and realise that in the end of it all, there will be great things awaiting us, true happiness and glory that is in God alone.

May the Lord help us and guide us in this journey of faith, just as He has strengthened Job, St. Wenceslaus, St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions, and many other saints and martyrs, all those who dedicated their lives to God, so that we may also be strong in our faith and dedication. May He bless our good endeavours and works, all for His greater glory, in each and every moments of our lives. Amen.

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 46-50

At that time, one day, the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He took a little child and stood him by His side. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me. And listen : the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John spoke up, “Master, we saw someone who drives out demons by calling upon Your Name, and we tried to forbid him, because he does not follow You with us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him. He who is not against you is for you.”

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.

Monday, 28 September 2020 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Job 1 : 6-22

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before YHVH, and Satan came with them. YHVH asked Satan, “Where have you been?” Satan answered, “Going up and down the earth, roaming about.”

YHVH asked again, “Have you noticed My servant Job? No one on earth is as blameless and upright as he, a man who fears God and avoids evil.” But Satan returned the question, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not built a protective wall around him and his family and all his possessions? You have blessed and prospered him, with his livestock all over the land. But stretch out Your hand and strike where his riches are, and I bet he will curse You to Your face.”

YHVH said to Satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power. But do not lay a finger upon the man himself.” So Satan left the presence of YHVH. One day, while his sons and daughters were feasting in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said, “Your oxen were plowing, and your donkeys were grazing nearby when the Sabaeans came and carried them off. They killed the herdsmen. I alone escaped to tell you.”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came, “God’s fire fell from the sky and burnt all your sheep and the shepherds as well. I alone have escaped to tell you.” He had hardly finished speaking when another messenger arrived, “Three raiding teams of Chaldeans have killed your servants and carried off your camels. I alone have escaped to tell you.”

He was still speaking when another messenger came and said to Job, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking in the house of their eldest brother when suddenly a great wind blew across the desert and struck the house. It collapsed on the young people and they all died. I alone have escaped to tell you.”

In grief Job tore his clothes and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshipped, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked shall I return. YHVH gave, YHVH has taken away. Blessed be His Name!”

In spite of this calamity, Job did not sin by blaspheming God.

Saturday, 28 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures we have heard about how God has revealed to us the greatness of His love and all that He has planned for each and every one of us. He wants us to know that no matter what challenges and difficulties, tribulations and trials we may have to face, as long as we remain true to our faith in Him and as long as we continue to do His will, we have nothing to fear.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zechariah, there were two main message that the Lord revealed to the people through Zechariah. First of all, it was a reminder of the punishment and consequences due to the sins which the people of God had committed at that time, and how their livelihood, their cities, represented by Jerusalem and its Temple would be destroyed by their enemies.

And yet, God also revealed to them the second of His intentions, and that is the salvation which He promised to them all, despite of their sinfulness and rebelliousness, how He would redeem them and gather them back from the nations, and how many more people will come to glorify God and praise His Name. This is a revelation that God’s love for us all is so great that despite our sins and wickedness, He is still willing to love us and forgive us our trespasses.

This is where I want to bring our attention to the Gospel passage today, in which the Lord Jesus spoke clearly before His disciples on the matter of how He would be betrayed to His enemies, and made to suffer for all of mankind’s sake. It was one of the several reminders and revelations which God had made to His disciples on the upcoming of His own Passion, suffering, death and eventually resurrection.

In what we have heard in our Gospel passage today, we have heard just how great God’s love is, that the ultimate proof of this love He has for us, is none other and nothing less than what He Himself has willingly done for us, by taking up the Cross willingly, and bearing for our sake, all of the punishments, consequences and terrible sufferings that we should have endured because of our sins.

Christ bore those sufferings willingly, to be betrayed and rejected, to be humiliated and treated far less than what befits any human being, to be oppressed and tortured, to be ridiculed and made to bear the burden of the Cross, all because of His great and undying love for each and every one of us. Every single one of us mankind are precious to God, and therefore, even though we have disobeyed Him, but His love for us brought Him to reach out to us and call us to redemption through Him.

Therefore, because God has been so faithful to the Covenant which He had made with us, and because He has devoted Himself so thoroughly for our sake, and provided for us so great a gift and path towards forgiveness and redemption, we should be grateful and therefore, endeavour and do our best to follow the path which Our Lord Himself has shown us, to be righteous and faithful in all things.

And today, as we celebrate the feast day of saints whose lives were truly holy and great in faith, we should then be inspired by them and gain the courage and the zeal to live our lives with greater faith and devotion to God from day to day, gradually so that we will draw ever closer to God. Today we celebrate both St. Wenceslas of Bohemia, a holy martyr of the faith, and also the Holy Martyrs of Japan, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions.

St. Wenceslas of Bohemia was the Duke of Bohemia during the early years of Christianity in Bohemia, a region now known as Czechia. He was a great ruler and a noble man in action and deed, caring genuinely for his people and supporting the Church and missionary works wholeheartedly. Opposed against him and his efforts were the pagan nobles and forces who remained against the Christian faith, and those plotted with the brother of the saint, eventually led to his assassination.

St. Wenceslas died as a martyr defending his righteous faith and total dedication to the Lord and His good works among the people. His righteousness and just rule inspired so many other people not just at his age and time, but even more so down throughout the centuries. His courage and zeal and incorruptibility inspired many other rulers and those in positions of power on how to be a good Christian ruler.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz, also known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz was a Filipino who fled to Japan when he was wrongly accused of murder. He boarded a ship that was bound for Japan, and reached there at a time when the Christian faith, once abundant and freely practised and growing rapidly, had been persecuted greatly by the change in the authorities’ mindset and opinion of the Christian faith.

St. Lawrence Ruiz, together with many Christians in Japan at that time suffered because they had to endure rejection, oppression and painful sufferings being under constant threat of arrest from the authorities. Many were martyred and killed for their refusal to abandon their faith. St. Lawrence Ruiz himself, together with missionaries and local Christians were executed with painful methods in Nagasaki, but they all refused to abandon their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now having heard of the inspiring faith and lives of St. Wenceslas of Bohemia, as well as St. Lawrence Ruiz and his companions, the Martyrs of Japan, how can we follow in their examples? How can we live our lives with faith just in the manner they have lived theirs? Let us think about this and let God transform our lives just as He had done so with those faithful saints and martyrs we are commemorating today. May the Lord continue to guide us and may He bless us all in our every good endeavours, always. Amen.

Saturday, 28 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 9 : 43b-45

At that time, while all were amazed at everything Jesus did, He said to His disciples, “Listen, and remember what I tell you now : The Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of men.” But the disciples did not understand this saying; something prevented them from grasping what He meant, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

Saturday, 28 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Jeremiah 31 : 10, 11-12ab, 13

Hear the word of YHVH, o nations, proclaim it on distant coast lands : He Who scattered Israel will gather them and guard them as a shepherd guards his flock.

For YHVH has ransomed Jacob and redeemed him from the hand of his conqueror. They shall come shouting for joy, while ascending Zion; they will come streaming to YHVH’s blessings.

Maidens will make merry and dance, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness, I will give them comfort and joy for sorrow.

Saturday, 28 September 2019 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslaus, Martyr, and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Zechariah 2 : 5-9, 14-15a

Raising my eyes again, I saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered, “I am going to measure Jerusalem, to find its width and its length.”

As the Angel who spoke to me came forward, another Angel met him and said, “Run and tell this to that young man : ‘Jerusalem will remain unwalled because of its multitude of people and livestock.’ For this is the word of YHVH : I, Myself, will be around her like a wall of fire, and also within her, in glory.”

“Sing and rejoice, o daughter of Zion, for I am about to come, I shall dwell among you,” says YHVH. “On that day, many nations will join YHVH and be My people.”

Friday, 28 September 2018 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslas, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes or Qoheleth, telling us one after another, about the fact that there is time for just everything and anything we do, and this is a very good reminder to each and every one of us that we live not on our own time and terms. In reality, we live in accordance to God’s plan and time, and it is His will that shall be done, and not ours.

This is also related to what we heard in the Gospel passage today, which mentioned the time when the Lord Jesus asked His disciples about the truth of His identity. He asked them who they think that He was, and they mentioned at first all sorts of identities that the people at the time would have thought Who Jesus was, be it a prophet or a servant of God brought back from the dead.

St. Peter then managed to give Him the truth, that He is indeed the Son of the Living God, God’s own Messiah and Saviour, Whom He sent into the world for the salvation of all mankind. However, in the same Gospel passage, immediately after the Lord received St. Peter’s answer, He also told them not to tell anyone about the truth just yet, and revealed to them what must have been uncomfortable truth, that He, as the Messiah, would have to suffer rejection and persecution, and die before He would rise in glory.

Yet, that was what the disciples had to know, that they were not following in the wake of the glorious conquest of the Messiah King, unlike what the Jewish people at the time widely believed, that the Messiah would be the One Who would redeem them and liberate them from the tyranny and the power of the Romans and all of their foreign oppressors, and Who would restore unto them the glory and the majesty of the kingdom of David.

The truth and reality is such that, the Messiah would be a humble and suffering Messiah, Who would be the One persecuted and killed, that by His sufferings, He might gather to Himself all the sufferings intended for us, and because of that, redeem us all from the fate of eternal damnation and destruction. This happened through the crucifixion and later on, the resurrection in glory of the Lord.

Nonetheless, the suffering was truly a great one, so much so that the Lord Himself in His humanity was seriously tempted to give up, as when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane in great anguish and sorrow. But Christ obeyed the Father’s will perfectly and completely, saying that ‘Not My will be done, but let it be Your will that is done’, entrusting Himself to the work of salvation of the cross, despite the pain and suffering that action would bring Him.

In this example, we saw how Jesus showed us the perfect selflessness of God’s servant, putting everything to the will of God, His Father. It was all according to His will and not His own selfish desires, affirming what we have heard in the Book of Ecclesiastes today, all according to God’s plan and not our own plan. His desires and will, and not our desires and will that will be done.

Unfortunately, many of us still lived in the manner unlike what the Lord Himself had shown us. We are so busy pursuing our many desires and worldly concerns, that we end up in the state of worry and fear, uncertainty and also unhappiness, and even anger because we have not gotten what we wanted, or that things do not go according to how we wanted it to be. We put ourselves and our wants even before our obedience and obligations to God.

We worry and we spend so much time trying to gather for ourselves many things of this world, be it glory, fame, influence, wealth, material possessions, and many others. The concerns we have for all these things often fill up our minds and cause us to lose the focus which we really should have for the Lord. And it is when we are distracted that we are most vulnerable to the works of Satan, who is always trying to bring about our downfall, through sin.

This is why, we must actively restrain ourselves, in all the matters of the world, and strive that we should not fall into temptation and sin. And we need to take proactive efforts in order to overcome the pressures, coercions and temptations to sin. Otherwise, we will easily falter in this important journey that is our own lives. And that is why we should follow the examples which our holy predecessors had shown.

Today we celebrate the feast of the holy martyrs, St. Wenceslas of Bohemia and the holy martyrs of Japan, St. Lawrence or Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom. St. Wenceslas was one of the earliest Christian rulers of the land known as Bohemia, the present day Czech Republic, over a thousand years ago. He was remembered for being a righteous and just ruler, who ruled the people with fairness and supported the Christian faith.

However, he encountered much opposition from the nobles and the powerful lords in his lands, who resisted the efforts that St. Wenceslas has done in reforming the governance of the country as well as resenting the popularity which St. Wenceslas enjoyed among the people. St. Wenceslas pushed on with the reforms and good works regardless, and in the end, he had to suffer the effect of rejection, when those same nobles plotted with his brother to murder him.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz is the first native saint of the Philippines, who was falsely accused of murder and hence, had to seek refuge away from his own homeland, and ended up in Japan at the time when Christians and missionaries were persecuted for their faith by the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled over the country then. St. Lawrence Ruiz was among the many Christians who were arrested and tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith.

But St. Lawrence Ruiz refused to abandon the Lord and his faith in Him, and therefore, with many others of the faithful, he was martyred and as a result, gained entry to the glory of God in heaven. His great courage and commitment to God, his righteousness and devotion, together with the justice and goodness shown by St. Wenceslas should be inspirations for us to follow, in how we as Christians live up our faith in our daily lives.

Now, are we willing and ready then to take up our cross and follow Our Lord? The Lord is calling on us to be faithful to Him, and often, this will require from us dedication and necessary sacrifices, in order for us to be able to follow Him wholeheartedly. And it often requires us to get rid of our own personal pride and human desires in order for us to be able to walk in the path of Christ. That is why we must follow the perfect obedience and humility that Our Lord Himself showed to the will of His Father.

May the Lord, through the intercession of His holy saints, St. Wenceslas, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his many companions, martyrs of the faith, awaken in us the love which we ought to have for Him, so that in everything we say and do, we will always strive to do our best to love God and to glorify Him. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all and our endeavours and good works. Amen.

Friday, 28 September 2018 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Wenceslas, Martyr and St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Luke 9 : 18-22

At that time, one day, when Jesus was praying alone, not far from His disciples, He asked them, “What do people say about Me?” And they answered, “Some say, that You are John the Baptist; others say, that You are Elijah; and still others, that You are one of the Prophets of old, risen from the dead.”

Again Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus spoke to them, giving them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. And He added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”