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.”

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 143 : 1a and 2abc, 3-4

Blessed be YHVH, my Rock, my loving God, my Fortress; my Protector snd Deliverer, my Shield; where I take refuge.

O YHVH, what are humans that You should be mindful of them, the race of Adam, that You should care for them? They are like a breath; their days pass like a shadow on earth.

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

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)

Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) 3 : 1-11

There is a given time for everything and a time for every happening under heaven : A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting. A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones, a time for gathering stones; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing. A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for throwing away. A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.

What profit is there for a man from all his toils? Finally I considered the task God gave to the humans. He made everything fitting in its time, but He also set eternity in their hearts, although they are not able to embrace the work of God from the beginning to the end.

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the readings from the Scriptures, beginning with the vision of Ezekiel the prophet, who saw the glory of God and His Throne in heaven. He saw God enthroned in glory and all the Angels worshipping and adoring His majesty. This reading is chosen today, in tandem with the Gospel passage, to show us all that although we cannot see God directly now, but truly, He is the Lord and Master of all things, of the whole entire universe.

He is the One around Whom our lives should be revolving. He is the one true focus of our lives, and He should be at the very centre of our existence. But unfortunately, in our world today, as how it was during the time of the prophet Ezekiel and the time of our Lord’s coming, the Lord has often been forgotten and relegated to a less than important or prominent position in the hearts and minds of men.

At the time of the prophet Ezekiel, God has been so forgotten, after generations of people who refused to obey the Lord’s laws and commandments and who worshipped the pagan idols and heathen gods that they were scattered throughout the nations, carried into exile in the land of Babylon. The Temple of Jerusalem and the city were destroyed, and the kingdom of Israel and Judah were no more.

They were not able to commit themselves to the Covenant which God had made with their ancestors. They chose to find the easy way out, by looking for the idols of the people around them, which offered them worldly pleasures, prestige and all sorts of things they could not gain through the Lord, their God. Many of them wanted to be accepted by their pagan neighbours, and therefore, followed their customs and false beliefs.

At the time of the Lord Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were the ones entrusted to safeguard the Jewish customs and practices, that they zealously guarded against all sorts of perceived opposition or aberrations. To them, it was their interpretation of how the Law should be enacted and lived up to by the people that was right, and not any other versions or ways.

And they took great pride in this privileged position, to the point that they became boastful, arrogant and filled with ambition. This was what the Lord Jesus took issue with, as He rebuked them before the people, telling them not to follow their examples in how lived their faith lives. He rebuked them for their pride and their self-centredness, in wanting to be seen by others in their pious devotions and actions.

What is the problem here, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was the ego and pride that were in the hearts of man that were the problems. We were often so full of ourselves, thinking that we were the best, and we alone knew what was the best for us. Our selfish desires and wants for worldly comfort, happiness, pleasures, joys, all these temptations eventually overcome us, and fill us such that we are unable to realise how central is the Lord’s role in our lives and how insignificant our power and greatness are in the face of God’s own glory and power.

Now, the Lord Jesus Himself in the Gospel passage of this day told us of what we as Christians should do in order to prevent this from happening. First of all, as Christians we must be humble and not be proud. After all, everything that we are, our power, intellect, strength, material wealth and all else are in fact due to God’s grace and blessings. We would have nothing without God, and without Him, everything that we have, are meaningless.

For all the glory, the fame, the prestige, honour and wealth that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had gathered, all of them were merely fleeting and temporary. They were only gathering for themselves worldly treasures that could be easily destroyed at any time. And this came true when the Temple of Jerusalem itself, with the entire caste of the Pharisees and the elites of the Jewish society overthrown during a failed rebellion against the Romans just a few decades after the death and resurrection of Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of two holy man of God, saints whose life examples and actions can become inspiration for us to follow in how we live our own lives with faith. St. Louis was a famous King of France, as King Louis IX during the thirteenth century, who was remembered for his great reputation as a just and wise ruler, his commitment to the faith and the betterment of the Church, his participation in the Holy Crusade to reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom.

Although he was a great king who possessed much power and amassed great prestige and honour from his many years as ruler of the great kingdom of France, with one of the mightiest and best-equipped armies of Christendom, but St. Louis remained humble and dedicated to the mission to which he was called as king, that is to serve his people with true dedication and love. He was remembered for his great acts of justice and chivalry, his care for the poor and the oppressed throughout his kingdom.

Essentially, St. Louis followed the examples set by Christ Himself, Our Lord and King. Even though Jesus was truly King above all kings and has all authority above all authority, but He remained humble in all things, and He showed it by example, serving even His disciples by washing their feet, a job which at that time customarily done by a slave. St. Louis showed the example of Christian leadership as first shown by the Lord Himself.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph Calasanz was a Spanish priest and renowned educator, who was also the founder of the religious order known as the Piarists. He and his fellow religious was remembered for their loving care for the poor and the less fortunate, providing for their needs and giving free education for their children. He helped to establish the structures in place to provide care for these less fortunate among the community of the faithful.

The love which St. Joseph Calasanz and his fellow religious and his dedication to the less fortunate and the needy should be inspirations for us to follow, together with the faith and great commitment shown by St. Louis. Let us all therefore follow in their footsteps and turn towards the Lord, with great humility and desire to love Him more than anything else, even more than ourselves.

If we have been proud, arrogant or selfish, then perhaps it is indeed time for us to reorientate ourselves and become true Christians through which we can truly follow the Lord with all of our hearts. May the Lord continue to guide us all, as we grow in faith, in love for Him and for our brethren, and in our humility. Amen.

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Matthew 23 : 1-12

At that time, then Jesus said to the crowds and to His disciples, “The teachers of the Law and the Pharisees have sat down on the chair of Moses. So you shall do and observe all they say, but do not do as they do, for they do not do what they say. They tie up heavy burdens and load them on the shoulders of the people, but they do not even raise a finger to move them.”

“They do everything in order to be seen by people : they wear very wide bands of the Law around their foreheads, and robes with large tassels. They enjoy the first places at feasts and reserved seats in the synagogues, and they like being greeted in the marketplace, and being called ‘Master’ by the people.”

“But you, do not let yourselves be called Master, because you have only one Master, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Neither should you call anyone on earth Father because you have only one Father, He Who is in heaven. Nor should you be called Leader, because Christ is the only Leader for you.”

“Let the greatest among you be the servant of all. For whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.”

Saturday, 25 August 2018 : 20th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Louis, and St. Joseph Calasanz, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saints, Priests or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.