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, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, 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 we are all reminded of the shortness of our lives, the temporary nature of our earthly existence, and how we are reminded not to lose ourselves in the pursuit of worldly matters and pleasures, just as we have been reminded in the past few days from this Book of Qoheleth or Ecclesiastes.

The author of this book clearly intended to remind the people of his time of the many excesses of worldly desires, their decadent lifestyle and refusal to obey the Law of God. And throughout history, we have seen how greed and attachment to desire had led to the conflicts that raged in wars and conquests, in the exploitation of the weak and the vulnerable, those who were poor and sick.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what happens when we place our own selfish desires above our faith, and when we allow all these to tempt us and sway us to indulge in all sorts of worldly and materials pursuits. And we are reminded by these readings, including from our Psalm today, ‘Make us know the shortness of our lives, that we may gain wisdom of heart.’

Yes, often we may end up becoming foolish in our endless and persistent desire for all that I have mentioned earlier. We spent so much time to worry about all those things, and spent much of our energy to gain for ourselves all these so that we can gain satisfaction. And our greed makes us to desire for even more and more, never fully satisfying or fulfilling our needs and desires.

In the end, with all these accumulated in our hands, what are we going to do with it, brothers and sisters in Christ? Even the greatest piles of money and wealth can be destroyed or vanished overnight, as how past financial crises had showed us. Many despaired after the Great Depression after losing all that they had, even when they were very wealthy earlier on. And no amount of food, luxury and other goods can be lasting to us.

In the end, we must realise as how Job did, that naked we had been born into this world, empty and without any possessions, and thus in the same manner we shall depart from this world, from our earthly existence. We shall not bring any of our worldly possessions, or fame or glory with us. What we shall receive in the end, is either eternal glory and true joy with God, or eternity of regret and suffering, especially if we have rejected God for the sake of our worldly pursuits.

It is indeed a great folly for us to reject true happiness and joy that can be found in the Lord alone. But if we are wondering why this is the case, that is because we are easily tempted, and we often look for quick happiness and pleasure that all these false happiness are offering us. That is why many of us fell and failed in our journey of faith, as we prioritise our own selfish desires rather than our faith in God.

Today, all of us should look upon the examples of our holy predecessors to help guide us in what we should do in order to be faithful to God. We celebrate the feast of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, renowned saints, who were physicians by trade and according to some traditions, were twin brothers. They lived through the difficult years for the Christian faith, as the Roman Empire and its administration persecuted all the Christians, and forced them to abandon their faith on the pain of death.

They were renowned for their services as physicians, caring for the needs of the sick and all the diseased. And most notably, they refused to accept any payment or returns for their services, which they offered voluntarily and with much love and great care for those whom they treated. It was told that miracles even happened as there were those who were miraculously healed by their intercession.

When the Christian faith was persecuted even more harshly under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, both of them were arrested and were tortured to force them to abandon their Christian faith. But St. Cosmas and St. Damian remained faithful and chose to suffer, which according to some accounts including being hung on a cross, stoned and shot by arrows and finally they were beheaded, dying a martyr’s death.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the exemplary faith of the brothers St. Cosmas and St. Damian, generous in love and compassion, putting God and their fellow brothers and sisters above their own needs and desires. Are we able and willing to follow that example? Let us all spend some time to discern carefully on these and do what we can to be ever more faithful and be genuine in how we live up to our Christian faith.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith. May He bless us and strengthen us, and empower us all to live virtuously and not be swayed or shaken by the many temptations of worldly matters. Let us all dedicate ourselves ever more faithfully to the Lord from now on and always. Amen.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, 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, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (Psalm)

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

Psalm 89 : 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17

You turn humans back to dust, saying, “Return, o mortals!” A thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has passed, or like a watch in the night.

You sow them in their time, a dawn they peep out. In the morning they blossom, but the flower fades and withers in the evening.

So make us know the shortness of our life, that we may gain wisdom of heart. How long will You be angry, o YHVH? Have mercy on Your servant.

Fill us at daybreak with Your goodness, that we may be glad all our days. May the sweetness of YHVH be upon us; may He prosper the work of our hands.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 : 25th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, Martyrs (First Reading)

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

Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) 11 : 9 – Qoheleth 12 : 8

Rejoice, young man, in your youth and direct well your heart when you are young; follow your desires and achieve your ambitions but recall that God will take account of all you do.

Drive sorrow from your heart and pain from your flesh, for youth and dark hair will not last. Be mindful of your Creator when you are young, before the time of sorrow comes when you have to say, “This gives me no pleasure,” and before the sun, moon and stars withdraw their light, before the clouds gather again after the rain.

On the day when the guardians of the house tremble, when sturdy men are bowed and those at the mill stop working because they are too few, when it grows dim for those looking through the windows, and the doors are shut and the noise of the mill grows faint, the sparrow stops chirping and the bird-song is silenced, when one fears the slopes and to walk is frightening;

Yet the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is fat and the caperberry bears fruit that serves no purpose, because man goes forward to his eternal home and mourners gather in the street, even before the silver chain is snapped or the golden globe is shattered, before the pitcher is broken at the fountain or the wheel at the mill, before the dust returns to the earth from which it came and the spirit returns to God Who gave it.

Meaningless! Meaningless! The teacher says; all is meaningless!

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue with the exhortation of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, as he tackled on the issue of the resurrection from the dead, both of the Lord’s own glorious Resurrection and also the belief that all the faithful would share in this resurrection after their death. Some segments of the community of believers disagreed with this and found it hard to believe in the resurrection.

That was why St. Paul went into great detail and with effort trying to explain the significance of resurrection and how it will truly happen for all the faithful, as the consequences of Christ’s sacrifice and death on the Cross, and through the revelation of the words of truth and the Holy Spirit that had been passed down to them and to the Church. This was made particularly against those who argued that there was no life after death.

Regardless of the reason why they did not believe in the resurrection after death, or any life after death, this refusal to believe in such a fact usually leads to the attitude of excesses and overindulging in life, as one would then believe that the earthly life was the only thing they had and nothing else, and this led one to sin and to be tempted away from the path of righteousness and into wickedness and evil, excesses and indulgence in life and in worldly pleasures.

The Lord has called us all to believe in Him and to reject these false ways and the desire to seek worldly pleasures in life. That is why He has called those Apostles and disciples through whom He has revealed His truth, and sowed the seeds of faith among innumerable people throughout history, through the Church. And this is aptly summarised in our Gospel passage today by the parable of the sower, in which the Lord sowed in the hearts of His faithful, the seeds of His faith.

This very well-known parable tells us of the seeds that is sowed by the sower, representing the Lord Himself, that fell on different places and had completely different outcomes depending on where they had landed, mainly because of the varying conditions experienced by the seeds in those places. The Lord used this parable to explain and convey His intentions because many among the people of the time were farmers, and many others would have also understood the terms used.

The seeds represent God’s truth and words, the faith which He has sowed, into the world, and which we have received. But we see how the seeds that fell on the roadside did not even have a chance to germinate and grow, as they were snatched and eaten up by the birds of the air. And this is how those who have rejected the words of God and His truth, and all these were snatched away from them, and they had nothing in them, no faith and no salvation.

Meanwhile, as we heard, those seeds that fell on the rocky ground germinated and grew, but was unable to grow deep and strong roots to keep themselves alive and in good health. This represents those who have indeed received the word of God, but put it aside and did not take it seriously, treating it without honour and are instead being busy with other things in life, and hence, the truth of God failed to take root in their lives, and did not remain in them.

And those seeds that fell on the soil where there were lots of thorns and bushes, weeds and other competitor plants, while the seeds did germinate and grow well, but they failed to grow properly and eventually perished because the budding plants were choked by those weeds and rivals that grew all around them. These represent those who did receive the truth of God, and believed, and yet, allowed temptations to get the better of them, and failed in their faith.

Only those seeds that fell on the rich soil which can germinate and grow well, healthy and good that they bore very rich fruits, many times fold of what had been planted in the first place. Those seeds were the only ones that were successful, and thus, that is what is the fate of those who have received the word of God, His truth, embraced them, believed wholeheartedly, and did what they could to provide the best and most optimum condition for the growth of their faith.

And how do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by practicing our faith sincerely, walking with faith and devotion, by showing love in each and every moments of our lives following the examples that the Lord Himself had shown us, and which His disciples had also showed in their own lives and in their dedication in service to Him. The Lord had revealed to us His love, and His truth, and all of these are things that we should keep in mind as we progress forward in life.

As long as we allow ourselves be tempted and swayed by worldly pleasures and all sorts of temptations in life, it is likely going to be difficult for us to grow in faith and to grow in our love and devotion for God, just as those seeds that fell on the wrong places failed to grow and perish, because they did not have the right and optimum conditions to grow well in. This is also why, we should look upon the life and examples set by St. Januarius, the holy martyr and Bishop of Beneventum or Benevento in southern Italy and the patron saint of the Italian city of Naples, whose feast day we celebrate today.

St. Januarius, also known in Italian as San Gennaro, was a popular saint who was remembered chiefly for the miraculous occasion of the liquefaction of the relic of his blood which happens on his feast days and on some special occasions. He was born into an influential noble family and eventually rose to become Bishop of Naples and in some accounts also the Bishop of Benevento, both in southern parts of Italy.

This happened during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who was infamous as the Emperor during whose reign the last great systematic persecutions against Christians were carried out, causing many martyrs and countless members of the faithful to suffer from those persecutions. It was told that St. Januarius was a dedicated bishop, who committed himself to the care of his flock, and despite the terrible persecutions that grew worse each day, he hid many of his flock from their persecutors during those dark years.

It was not long that St. Januarius himself was arrested, while in the midst of his visit to the Christian convicts in prison, and he together with some other Christians were martyred, in some accounts by beheading. Thus, this faithful bishop and committed servant of God, who loved both God and his fellow brothers and sisters, chose to remain faithful to the very end, and even suffer rather than to betray his faith in God.

And the actions showed by St. Januarius ought to inspire us, for despite the obvious risks that he had to take in reaching out to his suffering flock, he did so nonetheless, caring for their needs, visiting those in prison and endangering himself while doing so, as a sign of his genuine love and therefore, authentic and genuine Christian faith. This is what we are also called to do, brothers and sisters, to be genuine as Christians in our way of life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the memory of St. Januarius today, let us all discern carefully what it is that we can do in our daily lives in loving God, through our dedication and faith, through our righteous life, and in our love for our fellow brethren, that each and every one of us truly provide the best condition for our faith to grow, that these seeds of faith we have received from God may grow well, and bear rich and bountiful fruits in the end, that is the crown of glory and eternal life with God.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to live our lives with faith from now on. May He give us the courage to walk in His presence day by day, with ever greater devotion and commitment, to be true to our faith in all things. St. Januarius, holy servant of God and martyr of the faith, pray for us all! Amen.

Saturday, 19 September 2020 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Januarius, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

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

Luke 8 : 4-15

At that time, as a great crowd gathered, and people came to Jesus from every town, He began teaching them with a story : “The sower went out to sow the seed. And as he sowed, some of the seed fell along the way, was trodden on, and the birds of the sky ate it up.”

“Some seed fell on rocky ground; and no sooner had it come up than it withered, because it had no water. Some seed fell among thorns; the thorns grew up with the seed and choked it. But some seed fell on good soil and grew, producing fruit, a hundred times as much!” And Jesus cried out, “Listen then, if you have ears to hear!”

The disciples asked Him, “What does this story mean?” And Jesus answered, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to others it is given in the form of stories, or parables, so that, seeing, they may not perceive; and hearing, they may not understand.”

“Now, this is the point of the parable : The seed is the word of God. Those along the wayside are people who hear it; but immediately, the devil comes and takes the word from their minds, for he does not want them to believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are people who receive the word with joy; but they have no root; they believe for a while, and give way in time of trial.”

“Among the thorns are people who hear the word, but, as they go their way, they are choked by worries, riches, and the pleasures of life; they bring no fruit to maturity. The good soil, instead, are people who receive the word, and keep it, in a gentle and generous mind, and, persevering patiently, they bear fruit.”