Thursday, 3 December 2020 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church commemorates the feast of the great saint, St. Francis Xavier, known widely throughout the Church especially in the mission areas of the Eastern Hemisphere, where he laboured for many years as the missionary of God to proclaim the Gospel and the Good News of God to the many people who had not yet ever heard of the Lord.

St. Francis Xavier was one of the earliest and founding members of the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. At that time, like minded men and those with fervour and zeal to reform the Church and spread the faith joined St. Ignatius of Loyola in what was soon to become a great struggle and plenty of work in advancing the cause of the Christian faith both within the Church and outside of the Church.

At that time, the Jesuits were at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation efforts throughout Christendom, particularly in Europe when they were working hard in stemming the tide of false teachings and heresies that sprung up with the reformation. Many members of the Jesuits were sent to various states and countries throughout the world in order to evangelise, preach and teach the faith to the people, and they often faced many challenges and trials.

While much of the attention was often given to the efforts of the Jesuits in Europe and in Counter-Reformation, but equally important is the Jesuits’ efforts in sending missionaries that became successful in their efforts to plant the seeds of the Christian faith in many distant places in the Far East as well as in the New World, the Americas, where St. Francis Xavier was the pioneer in this effort with his missions to India, Southeast Asia, Japan and also China. It was timely with the discovery of routes and improvement in naval technology that allowed the Christian missionaries to travel to all those places they had not been able to go to before.

St. Francis Xavier went on a long journey to India where he established the foundation of the Jesuit mission in several places, and became the lead for many more Jesuit missionaries as well as other missionaries from other religious orders in the centuries to come. He also then went to Malacca in Southeast Asia, in the present day Malaysia and travelled throughout the Indonesian archipelago, spreading the first seeds of faith and building up the first local Christian communities.

This was where the famous story of St. Francis Xavier and the crab named after him came to be, as it was told that during a great storm that hit his boat as he was travelling through the archipelago, the boat was about to sink when St. Francis Xavier prayed hard and threw his crucifix into the water with faith that God would calm the waters. Indeed, the storm stopped and the waves calmed, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had once calmed a storm before His disciples. A crab appeared, holding up the crucifix that St. Francis Xavier threw, and as he collected his crucifix and thanked the crab, he blessed it, and from there henceforth, the crab has the marking of a cross on its back.

This story, among many others showed just how tough the works of a missionary is, especially in those distant, unexplored territories that St. Francis Xavier had gone to, to the furthest reaches of Japan and East Asia, where he also established the foundation of a very successful Japanese mission where hundreds of thousands would be converted in the succeeding decades. At that time, missionaries had to endure a lot of hardships, and St. Francis Xavier was no exception.

Nonetheless, St. Francis Xavier remained firm in his conviction and in his efforts to serve the Lord, doing his very best to spread the word of God and showing by example what it means to be faithful to Him and what it truly means to be a Christian missionary. As he waited for the opportunity to enter China in Macau and Shangchuan island off the coast of China, he passed away, until the very end never ceasing to desire to work for God and His greater glory, seeking to convert many souls for the Lord in the great land of China.

St. Francis Xavier had been named as the Patron of Missions and as the role model for all the Christian missionaries, all those who dedicate themselves for the Lord and His mission to evangelise the Good News to all the peoples, of all the nations. St. Francis Xavier should also be our role model in faith because ultimately, the Lord’s commission has been given to all of us and not just to any one of us.

He told all of His disciples, ‘Go forth to the nations, and baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And with that same commandment, all of us have also been called to reach out to our neighbours and to all others, and to show them what our Christian faith is all about, not necessarily by words, but even more importantly through our actions and deeds.

After all, if we say that we believe in the Lord and preach of Him, and yet, in how we behave and act, we are doing contrary to what we believe, just like what many among the Pharisees had done, how can we expect others to believe in us? We are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers in reality. Unless we become genuine and true Christians in all things, we will have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all embrace our calling as Christian missionaries, in each and every moments of our lives. Let us all be role models of faith and be good examples of what it means to be Christians to all. Let us show by example and not just by words alone, as St. Francis Xavier had done, and let us all have the same fire and zeal in us as St. Francis Xavier had once shown.

May the Lord help us all that we may make best use of this Season of Advent to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas, as well as to strengthen our conviction to be good and exemplary Christians, from now onwards if we have not yet done so. Let us all commit ourselves ever more faithfully from now on, always and evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the memory of a great saint and servant of God, who is also commemorated as the Patron of all missions and missionaries, recalling the great contributions that this holy man had given throughout his many years of ministry to the far-off lands and regions, travelling from places to places bringing the Good News of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard or known of God.

St. Francis Xavier was a Spanish Jesuit who was also one of the founding and original members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order. He was remembered for his great missionary efforts and travels throughout many regions of Asia and the far eastern regions of Asia, from India to Southeast Asia and then even as far as Japan and many other parts of those areas, spreading the words of God to the people there.

At that time, Christendom was faced with many challenges both from the inside and from the outside, as the era of the Protestant reformation came about, causing many of the people of God to be splintered away and separated from the Holy Mother Church into the various heresies and false teachings, while the rise of the power of the Ottoman Turks threatened many parts of the Christian world from the outside.

The Society of Jesus was then founded at that time by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a courageous servant of God who gathered like minded to serve the Lord for His greater glory as is in their motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. Many people came to join the Jesuit order in the vigorous effort and campaign by the Church to stem the tide of the Protestant reformation and also to reinvigorate the faith among the people of God.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those whom St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered, and while quite a few of the Jesuits worked hard within the old Christian world, spreading the true faith to the people who have been swayed by false and erroneous teachings, there were many others led by St. Francis Xavier who ventured forth to distant lands that at that time were just recently discovered.

St. Francis Xavier represented the efforts of the Church to embrace those who have not yet heard of God’s salvation and truth, just as the Lord Himself had commanded His Apostles and disciples to do, as part of the Great Commission which He has entrusted to all of them. The Great Commission was a sending off from the Lord as He asked all of them to go forth to the many nations to bring God’s truth to them and to make them God’s own beloved people through baptism.

To that extent, St. Francis Xavier dedicated his whole life to missionary works, travelling far and wide at a time when travel was still hazardous and taking many months just to cross the oceans to reach the destinations. St. Francis Xavier thus travelled far from Europe, first of all to Goa in India, before travelling to Malacca and to the other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, laying the foundations of the Church and the faith among the many communities he visited, braving through even many storms and difficulties.

St. Francis Xavier also travelled to Macau and Japan, establishing the grounds for the faith and the Church in the latter and visiting the growing populations of Catholics elsewhere, going back and forth between India and the Far East throughout his many evangelising missions, and passed away just before he was about to enter China to evangelise there. His mortal remains and relics are now preserved in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus in Goa, India, where the faithful from all over Christendom often come to venerate this faithful and holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having gone through in quite a great detail on the life and works of St. Francis Xavier, all of us are also therefore called to reflect on his many contributions and efforts, his tireless attempts and outreach to bring the Good News to the reach of many of those who had not had the opportunity to listen to the truth of God, much as how the Apostles in the earliest days of the Church travelled to many places sowing the seeds of faith.

This is a reminder for us that the works of the Church and the Apostles were far from being completed, and rather, many of our predecessors throughout the years and many generations who had endeavoured and worked hard to continue the good works that the Lord had begun in His Church. St. Francis Xavier did just that, and showed us just what we should do with our lives in being wonderful witnesses of the Lord’s truth just as St. Francis Xavier himself had done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today we remember all those who have devoted their lives to the service of the Lord as missionaries, following in the direct footsteps of the Holy Apostles and the saints, like that of St. Francis Xavier, who is their patron. We have to pray for them and ask that the Lord will strengthen them and give them the courage and the ability to persevere through challenges and difficulties they may have to endure during their journey.

But at the same time, all of us as Christians are also then reminded of our own obligation and calling to be missionaries of the Lord, as each and every one of us as the members of God’s Holy Church are also part of the Lord’s Great Commission. We do not have to aim for great things or to think that we need to perform extraordinary deeds or laboured in the way that our holy predecessors like the Apostles and St. Francis Xavier had done.

Instead, what we need to do is to do our best in our each and every actions, in each and our every interactions in our daily living so that by our actions, words and deeds we become genuine and true witnesses of the Lord’s truth and salvation in wherever we are living, in our families and communities. Through this we can become missionaries of the Lord in our own way, working for the greater glory of God and making use of whatever goods and talents that God has blessed us with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew in us the faith which we have in the Lord and renew the zeal and love, the dedication and commitment we have towards Him, as we are shown the inspiring examples of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of mission and all missionaries. Let us all bear courageously and truthfully our faith in God in all things. May the Lord be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Saturday, 3 December 2016 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate together the feast of St. Francis Xavier, a renowned Jesuit priest and missionary, whose hard work in evangelisation throughout especially South, Southeast and East Asia had led to the foundation of the roots of the Church in the many countries existing there today, where many millions upon millions of the faithful now live, a growing and thriving Church.

And for what he had done, he was named as the Patron of Missions, as the patron saints for all missionaries and their mission areas, for his pioneering work and dedication in establishing many of the buds of the faith in those far flung areas. And he did not have it easy, because such a task at that time was indeed very monumental and challenging to be done.

First of all, St. Francis Xavier lived during a time of great difficulties in the Church, a time of turmoil, both within and outside the Church, where conflicts and wars were rampant. At that time, from outside, the Turks who reigned in the Ottoman Empire were resurgent and powerful, seizing lands after lands from Christendom, putting many of the faithful under the rule of these pagans. As a result, great suffering occurred and also a great fear arose to threaten the Church, as then, there was a real threat that the Ottoman Turks would be able to overcome all of Christendom.

And at the same time, from within, there were divisions among the faithful, where false prophets and heretical teachings arose in the population, heresies such as Hussites and later on, during the time of St. Francis Xavier, the heresy known as the Protestant ‘reformation’, where many people rebelled against the authority of the Church and established splinter groups on their own, with their own teachings that are deviant and in contradiction with the teachings of Christ through His Church.

And within the Church itself, there was plenty of corruption and immorality, where many of the members of the clergy, even to the higher ranks were corrupt and wicked. They engaged in corrupt practices, demanding money and worldly goods for the absolution of sins, a practice known as indulgence, but which was twisted and corrupted by these irresponsible Church leaders and officials.

Amidst all of these challenges and difficulties facing the Church at that time, St. Francis lived through a time of great change and renewal within the Church, known as the Counter-Reformation, spearheaded by his contemporaries, and which he was also part of, through the Society of Jesus or the Jesuit religious order which was established by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Through their hard work, the Church began to purify itself from all its excesses and corrupt practices, and brought back many to the true faith.

It was told that at first, St. Francis Xavier was reluctant to join the effort, and he had aspirations of worldly glories and achievements. Initially St. Ignatius of Loyola and some other of these saints also had similar condition, where they sought for personal glory and achievement and ignored God’s calling at the beginning. But through persistence and constant guidance, who was said to quote to St. Francis Xavier at one time the saying of Jesus, “What would it benefit a man if he gains the whole world, but lose his own soul.” Eventually, he became convinced and decided to dedicate himself to the Lord.

Henceforth, St. Francis Xavier together with the saints of the Counter-Reformation, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Canisius, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri and many others, St. Francis Xavier helped to rejuvenate the faith in many people, and he led the efforts to spread the Good News of God to those areas of the world which have yet to hear it. For at that time was a time of great discovery, the Age of Exploration, where new lands were discovered, and the Christian nations have the opportunity to evangelise to the peoples who have for the past one and a half millennia no chance to listen to the teachings of the faith.

But at that time, travel was not as convenient and easy as it is now. If it is now possible to go from one end of the earth to the other end in a mere day or less, and with relative comfort and little risk, at that time, the only available method of travel was either by land or by sea. The sea route was the faster route, but it was rife with danger, as storms and strong gales could cause the ships to be broken up and sink, and at the fastest, the journey took many months to complete.

Amidst all of these challenges, St. Francis Xavier was one of the first pioneers of the works of evangelisation in that time, bringing the Good News of the Gospel to many countries along the route of his travel, from India to the Malayan Archipelago, to the region of China and the Philippines, and as far as Japan to the furthest part of East Asia.

St. Francis Xavier visited all of these places, sometimes by himself, and sometimes with his fellow brother priests and missionaries, planting the seeds of the faith among the indigenous population, sowing the seeds for the growth of the future Church that would be established in those areas. Some welcomed him openly and willingly, while some others viewed his teachings and the Christian faith with suspect, and still some others outrightly banned the faith and persecuted its followers.

But amidst all these difficult challenges, nevertheless St. Francis Xavier persevered on, visiting many places and countries on his way, preaching to the people wherever he landed on and stopped by on, guiding the priests and missionaries and helping to delegate these faithful servants of God in their mission to bring the salvation of God to these people.

It was told that one time, St. Francis Xavier travelled in a boat with some others, and a great storm occurred, with huge waves that threatened to sink the boat. All of the people in the boat feared for their lives, save for St. Francis Xavier who prayed to the Lord fervently asking for His help. He put a crucifix into the water and the waves and the wind calmed down. But the crucifix was lost as it slipped through his fingers.

When he landed in one of the islands of the Moluccas Islands, it was told that a crab appeared from the water, with a crucifix marked on its back, and holding onto the crucifix which St. Francis Xavier had used earlier on and lost. And St. Francis Xavier thanked God and blessed the crab. This crab does exist and is indeed prevalent in the Malayan Archipelago where St. Francis Xavier once did extensive works.

There are many other miraculous works attributed to St. Francis Xavier, and this is related to what we heard in the Gospel today, that the Lord Jesus said that all those who do His work and bring the Good News to others will perform wondrous works, not necessarily be miracles, but most importantly, as St. Francis Xavier had proved and done, many millions upon millions up to this day have been saved from hell, and many among them were saints and martyrs themselves.

Today, as we all commemorate the feast of this holy and courageous, hardworking and diligent Patron saints of all missionaries and the Mission itself, let us all look again at all the examples which St. Francis Xavier had done, some of which we have discussed earlier on, and then let us ask ourselves, are we able to do what he has done, and contribute to the good works of the Church in preaching the faith to many others?

We may be thinking that in this world today, where all the peoples are easily connected to each other and where travel is so commonplace and easy that everyone would have heard of the Good News, but the reality is that, there are still many people outside the bounds of the Church, either because they rejected the Good News, or were ignorant of the Good News, or received the wrong messages because of false prophets and messengers in our midst.

And within the Church itself, there are many who have slipped away from their faith, because they were lukewarm and also for some, lazy, as they did not live out their faith with zeal, but instead, were what we often call as nominal Christians, those who call themselves as Christians, and they are indeed Christians, but in their actions in life, they do otherwise.

If we look at it, the situation today is pretty much just as how it was five and six centuries ago, at the time of St. Francis Xavier and his fellow saintly contemporaries and martyrs, all the holy missionaries who went through a great deal of suffering and persecution, difficulties and inconveniences to bring the Good News and the truth of God to many people. But because of their dedication, many were saved.

Shall we not then do the same, brethren? Shall we not follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and these saints? Jesus our Lord has given all of His disciples and followers that final command before He left them to ascend into His heavenly glory, that all of us should go to the nations, and preach the Good News to all the peoples, that all may believe in God and give themselves to be baptised in the Lord’s Name. And it is also important that we have people who have that quality in their faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what shall we do then? How do we do what the Lord had asked us? We do not have to start from very big things. We can and indeed should begin from ourselves. Live our lives faithfully with real care and mercy for our brethren, showing concern for our neighbours and those who are suffering. Let us all through our actions show one another and all the people of God, that the Lord Jesus calls all to repentance and to turn our hearts towards Him, that in the end, all may be saved through Him.

May God bless us and help us in all of our endeavours. May He strengthen our faith and show our commitment to Him, that like St. Francis Xavier and all the good workers of the faith, missionaries of the Good News, we may continue the works that they have started, and by our works, we may awaken the faith in many people who are in need of God’s salvation. May the Lord be with us all. Amen.

Saturday, 3 December 2016 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.