Tuesday, 28 September 2021 : 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, today as we listened to words of the Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on the revelation that many people from many nations, from various places would come to glorify the Lord and to praise Him. They would come to listen to Him and to welcome Him, follow Him and worship Him. All these were the revelations of what was to come through Christ and His gathering of the people from all the nations to be His disciples and to be saved through Him.

Everything was to come true as the Lord Himself had come and dwelled in our midst, gathering everyone who have faith in Him so that we may come to know of His truth and salvation. Yet, as we heard in our Gospel passage today, there were still those who refused to believe in Him and refused to welcome Him to their place. This happened due to various reasons, and in this particular case, it was because the Samaritans who stayed in that village got to know that the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem, in the land of Judea.

Back then, at the time of the ministry of the Lord, there had been longstanding animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews especially those who were in Judea and Jerusalem. The background of this animosity and conflict was not truly well-understood, but it revolved around the misunderstandings between the two groups of people, as the Jews considered the Samaritans as heathens and pagans who took over the land of the former northern kingdom of Israel in Samaria and its vicinity, in the land between Judea and Galilee. Many of the Samaritans were descendants of the remnants of the Israelites left behind in that land intermingled with others who were brought to that land to settle in.

Then, for the Samaritans, they claimed themselves to be the natives of the land, as they claimed that they had been there earlier than the Jewish people had been, and even claimed Jacob, the father of the Israelites to be their own forefather. They claimed that their worship of God at Mount Gerizim and the mountains of Ephraim was superior than the Jewish claim for worship only at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Their mixed heritage and the long distortions of history eventually led to the strive and conflict between the two peoples. This is the background with which the rejection of the Lord took place.

All these showed us the kind of attitudes that we mankind and people of God can show in the midst of us resorting to our pride and ego, and in indulging our stubborn desire for glory and power, for influence and other things and temptations that often became great stumbling blocks in our path towards God and His salvation. If only that we can trust in Him more and allow Him to lead and guide us down the right path that we may not end up in the wrong direction in life. But the question is, are we willing to listen to Him and humble ourselves before Him and others?

Today, all of us are called to reflect on our attitude in life and in how we have lived our faith thus far. Have we been truly faithful to the Lord in all the things we do and at all times throughout our lives? Or have we allowed ourselves to be lulled and swayed by our desires and greed, by our ego, pride and ambition? Today, let us all look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessors, holy martyrs who devoted themselves to the Lord faithfully and lived virtuous lives and in the end, died as martyrs in defending their faith and the integrity of their beliefs.

St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia was the renowned Duke of Bohemia whose patronage and life is still being remembered to this day, as the patron of the Czechs and many others who looked up to his virtuous examples as a Christian and as a great ruler over his people. St. Wenceslaus took over the reign over Bohemia at a time of great change and at the crossroads of the history of his people, as Christianity had just taken its roots in Bohemia back then, and many of the people including the influential ones and the nobles were still pagans.

St. Wenceslaus ruled wisely and responsibly as a just and caring ruler, managing the many challenges that he had to face, and worked hard to benefit his people and to care for them while also advancing the cause of the Lord and the Church, establishing a firm foundation of the Church and its missions throughout his dominion. However, he had a lot of opposition which festered and sought to reverse all the gains of the Christian faith, and these eventually coalesced around the brother of St. Wenceslaus, namely Boleslaus the Cruel, who orchestrated the murder of the faithful duke and servant of God.

Then, today we also commemorate the memory of the glorious Holy Martyrs of Japan in Nagasaki, St. Lawrence Ruiz and his fellow companions in martyrdom during the great and intense persecution of Christians in Japan in the early years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. St. Lawrence Ruiz, also better known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first saint of the Philippines, having actually been born in the Spanish ruled Philippine islands, and led a pretty ordinary life there until one day he was falsely accused with murder. In order to protect his life and innocence, he boarded a ship bound for Japan, in which he was arrested together with the missionaries that he had taken refuge with.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom were tortured and made to suffer a lot, persuaded, coerced and forced to abandon their faith in God under grim threat of more sufferings and death. However, this did not dampen his spirit and those others who were with him. Eventually he was martyred in the most painful way, and to the very end, he remained faithful, declaring before all his persecutioners that ‘I am a Catholic and I wholeheartedly accepted death for God. Had I have a thousand lives, all these I shall gladly offer to Him.’

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the great examples showed by these faithful holy predecessors of ours should be inspiration to each and every one of us. Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord just in the manner that those faithful martyrs had done? Can we be virtuous in life, caring and be responsible for one another just as St. Wenceslaus had done? And can we commit ourselves wholly to the Lord even in the face of great suffering and adversity in the manner of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions in martyrdom?

Let us all therefore turn towards the Lord wholeheartedly, and strive to do our best to serve Him with ever greater vigour and devotion from now on. May the Lord be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us, and bless us in our every great works and endeavours. Amen.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 : 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 : 51-56

At that time, as the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, He made up His mind to go to Jerusalem. He sent ahead of Him some messengers, who entered a Samaritan village to prepare a lodging for Him. But the people would not receive Him, because He was on His way to Jerusalem.

Seeing this, James and John, His disciples, said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 : 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 86 : 1-3, 4-5, 6-7

He Himself has built in in His holy mountain; YHVH prefers the gates of Zion to all of Jacob’s towns. Great things have been foretold of you, o City of God.

Between friends, we speak of Egypt and Babylon; and also Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia : “Here so-and-so was born.” But of Zion, it shall be said, “More and more are being born in her.” For the Most High Himself has founded her.

And YHVH notes in the people’s register : “All these were also born in Zion.” And all will dance and sing joyfully for You.

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 : 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)

Zechariah 8 : 20-23

YHVH, the God of hosts speaks, “Peoples will come from other nations, people from great cities. The inhabitants of one town will talk with those of another, and, say : ‘Come, let us go and implore the favour of YHVH, and I, too, will seek YHVH.’ Many great peoples and powerful nations will come, seeking YHVH, God of hosts, in Jerusalem and pray to Him.”

YHVH, the God of hosts assures you. “In those days, ten men of different languages spoken in various lands, will take hold of a Jew by the hem of his garment and say : We, too, want to go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

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.

Thursday, 6 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today through the words of the Scripture we are all reminded of the dedication with which God’s servants had served Him in the calling and in the mission that God has entrusted to them. They have been called to follow God and to serve Him, making sacrifices to walk faithfully in His path and devoting themselves to the service of the Lord. In today’s readings we heard of the responsibilities that come with the position of being God’s chosen ones.

In our first reading today from the Book of Kings we heard of the moment when king David of Israel was dying, and he spoke to his son Solomon, whom David had made to be his successor, on what it meant for him to be a king over the Israelites, the people of God. David reminded Solomon how even as king, he had to obey the Lord’s commandments and will above all else, and in fact should be exemplary in that faith as his role as king was to lead and guide the people of God as God’s vicar and representative.

And David then also reminded Solomon of God’s promises to him, that as long as Solomon and his descendants remained faithful to God and did what David had instructed him to do, God would bless them and make their reigns secure forever. Eventually, many of David’s descendants did not remain faithful to God, including Solomon himself during his old age, when they served themselves and their desires rather than serving to bring glory to God. Many of them led the people down the wrong path and sinned against God.

It is with this background that we then listened to the Lord sending out His disciples as described in our Gospel passage today. The Lord sent out His disciples with clear instruction and guide that they must not trust in all sorts of worldly means but rather bring only what they absolutely needed, the barest minimum without even spares to compensate for their journey. In this manner, God reminded His disciples what it means to follow Him, and that is to be ready to face the many challenges that will come in our way.

There will be plenty of challenges and trials, as the Lord has highlighted it to His disciples. Just as there are many who would be open to listen and to accept the truth of God, there would also be many more who would not listen and reject the truth of God, preferring to trust in themselves and believe in whatever they wanted. And our predecessors had experienced all these throughout their many years in serving the Lord and being faithful to Him.

For example, today we have the memory of the faithful Holy Martyrs of Japan, especially the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, St. Paul Miki and Companions, who were martyred for remaining true to their faith despite coercions and pressures to abandon their faith. At that time, Japan was experiencing a great boom and expansion of the Christian faith as many people turned to Christianity and became believers, and even many among the nobles and lords were also converted.

The authorities, at that time under the rule of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Regent of Japan, was initially welcoming of Christians and their missionaries. However, changing political landscape and situations caused a rather abrupt turn in the treatment of Christians, as official persecution and opposition against Christians, missionaries and laity alike began in earnest. And under Hideyoshi Toyotomi, this peaked with the well-known trial and execution of the twenty-six Christians consisting of several missionaries as well as the members of the laity, including St. Paul Miki who was among the first Japanese Christians.

The persecuted Christians were brought to Kyoto where the Regent resided, and after having been condemned to their punishment of death, they were forced to march the very long journey from Kyoto all the way to the place of their martyrdom in Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki, a distance of over six hundred miles. Yet, despite knowing their fate and the suffering that they had to endure, St. Paul Miki and his companions sang the glorious hymn of the ‘Te Deum’ praising and glorifying God throughout the entire journey.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have thus heard of how these courageous and faithful servants of God lived their faith and devoted themselves to the very end, going through even challenges and troubles even in the face of certain death and suffering. Through their undying dedication and commitment, St. Paul Miki and his companions showed us what it truly means to be faithful as Christians in living our faith. Are we able to commit ourselves as these predecessors of ours had done?

Let us all reflect on these matters, and think how we live our lives from now on in responding to God’s call for each and every one of us. He has called on us to follow Him, and how will we respond to that calling? Let us all seek the Lord with a new focus, commitment and desire to love Him, inspired by the courageous faith of St. Paul Miki and his companions who braved suffering and death for God’s greater glory, putting aside our pride and desire for worldly temptations. O Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, pray for us all! And may God be with us always! Amen.

Thursday, 6 February 2020 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 7-13

At that time, Jesus called the Twelve to Him, and began to send them out two by two, giving them authority over evil spirits, and He ordered them to take nothing for the journey, except a staff : no food, no bag, no money on their belts. They were to wear sandals and were not to take an extra tunic.

And He added, “In whatever house you are welcomed, stay there until you leave the place. If any place does not receive you, and the people refuse to listen to you, leave after shaking the dust off your feet. It will be a testimony against them.”

So they set out to proclaim that this was the time to repent. They drove out many demons and healed many sick people by anointing them.