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.

Saturday, 3 December 2016 : 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.

Saturday, 3 December 2016 : 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.

Thursday, 3 December 2015 : 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 remember in our memory the great saint and missionary, St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of missions and the saint whose many works had allowed for the propagation of the faith and the spreading of the Church throughout many parts of the world, including and especially that of Asia and its many regions.

St. Francis Xavier is a role model for us all, and many still walked and followed in his footsteps even after all these years. After all, without his contributions, there would not be the Church in the many parts of Asia, such as India, Malaysia, Singapore and Indochina, Indonesian Archipelago, China and further beyond even up to Japan. This great saint is one of the many saints whose efforts spearheaded the evangelising mission of the Church to the many peoples who have not yet heard about the Lord.

And in his journeys he encountered many difficulties, challenges, and even rejections by the people to whom he was going to minister and preach. There were those who refused to listen to the word that he preached, the Good News that he had carried with him, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all these did not make St. Francis Xavier and his fellow missionaries to give up, and instead he tried all the harder.

What we heard in the Scripture readings today are the exhortations and reminders for us that as a follower and disciple of our Lord, we all have certain obligations and missions that have been entrusted to us. And one of our chief tasks is for us to be witnesses of God’s truth and the Good News of His salvation, and preach these to the people, in particular those who have not yet heard of them, or to those who have fallen and failed along the way.

And we cannot think that the works of St. Francis Xavier and all those missionaries who have toiled and laboured hard for God and for His people are done and completed. The work is always there, and there is always likely something for us to do, for the sake of those who are still lost and who are still unable to find their way to reach out to the Lord.

We are the new missionaries of our own time, just as it becomes the obligation of all the faithful to testify for their faith and become witnesses for our Lord, and be the bearers of His salvation to many more people. In this we have to heed the mission which God had entrusted to His Apostles and to the other disciples just before He was about to leave and ascend into Heaven.

His command was so that all the nations will receive the baptism of the Lord and that they will listen to the Good News and believe in all that the disciples of the Lord, as the witnesses God has appointed to be those who will be able to testify the truths that Jesus Himself had revealed to the whole world. And through us, many good works will be done for the greater glory of God and for our own salvation.

As those who have been called and chosen from the world to be the followers of Christ, we cannot profess to be ignorant of the plight of those who have not yet attained salvation in the Lord because they have not yet heard or witnessed the Good News of our God. Instead, it is our duty and obligation to show them the way to the Lord. We have to do our best, so that we may each other be able to find our way to the eternal life God had promised all of His faithful.

Therefore, as we prepare for the coming of the joyous and festive season of Christmas, let us all also take note that we should not forget about the less fortunate and those who are weak, sick and dying. Rather, let us all share whatever goods and blessings we have with one another, so that we can enjoy together and celebrate together the spirit of Christmas, that is thanksgiving for all the goodness and love God had shown us all.

Let us all imitate Him in all of our words, deeds and actions, so that in all the things we do, we will inspire many others, those who look at us, hear us and witness our acts, will see God’s works being done through us. In the footsteps of the missionaries like St. Francis Xavier, we as the new missionaries of the Lord should practice what we believe in, or else no one will believe in what we preach or teach to them.

Let us all lead by example and be inspiration to others around us, inspired by St. Francis Xavier and his works. Let us all devote ourselves, our time and our commitment to bring God’s Good News to more and more people, so that more and more souls can be saved from death and damnation, and be brought together as one people into the glory of Heaven. God bless us all. Amen.

Thursday, 3 December 2015 : 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 2015 : 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.