Monday, 6 February 2023 : 5th 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the works of God in creating the whole entire world, the entire Universe and existence that we are living in today, and we are reminded of the love with which God has created each and every one of us. He loves us all, and He creates everything because He wants us to share in the love that He has, overflowing and ever present from His Being, permeating all creation and all of existence. We are all reminded of just how wonderful all of His creations are and most importantly, of Who it is that we serve and believe in, that is none other than the Lord Himself, the Almighty Master and Lord of all Creation, and we have to carry on this belief in our daily lives, just as the saints have reminded us through theirs.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of Genesis the account of the creation of the world from the very beginning of time. He created everything from nothingness as He alone above all else and beyond all else was, is and will always exist, from before the beginning of time, as we believe in God Who is Almighty and Eternal, and each members of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At the moment of creation, as we heard in our first reading passage today, we are reminded that God was present in all things and is the One carrying out the works of creation. The Father’s will embodied the Creation, while the Son, the Word of God, is the One that made everything into being, just as the Lord spoke ‘Let there be light’, and light came to being. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is everywhere as mentioned, present at all places and in the nothingness before Creation.

God showed His might to us, by creating all things all around us, everything that we have ever known, all of the living and non-living things in this world and beyond. He made all things because He wants us all to share in His creation, and He made us all especially in His own image, to be the most beloved among all of His created beings, and we have also been given dominion over all things, as stewards and caretakers of all creation, to be the ones who are responsible over the governance over our world, to make good use of what we have been blessed with and to be kind and good to our nature and world as well. We are all reminded today of the immense nature of God’s ever present love and kindness, His compassion and good will towards us all in how He has provided for us everything we have in this world, is a constant reminder and urging for us all to stay true to our faith in Him.

In our Gospel passage today, we then heard of the short account from the Gospels, regarding the work and ministry of the Lord among His people, as the Lord Jesus Himself, the Son of God, the same Word of God, Co-Eternal with the Father, present before the beginning of time, and the One through Whom God created the whole world, has come into our very midst, taking up our human existence and nature and being born into this world, to walk in our midst in the flesh, approachable and tangible to us. Thus, through Jesus Christ our Lord, we have come to behold the whole great love of God manifested before us and present among us, and we are reminded yet again just how fortunate for us to have been created amidst the vastness of this Universe, and at the same time just how beloved we are by our Lord and Creator.

Now, through these interesting set of readings today, all of us are called to remember our responsibilities as Christians to be faithful to God and to focus ourselves and our lives on Him, as we continue to lead a more worthy Christian life in our world today. Each and every one of us are God’s beloved people, and He has revealed Himself wholly and thoroughly through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as well as through His Church and disciples, and also through the Holy Spirit Who has come down upon us and has been given to us all through the Holy Sacraments. The Lord has revealed Himself, His truth and love to us, so that we may come to love Him even more and come closer to Him, as He desires that we may all be reconciled and fully reunited to Himself, and no longer be separated from Him due to our sins and disobedience.

And as Christians, all of us are called to shine with the light of God’s truth and love, and our lives should be sources of inspiration and hope for many others, in how we live our lives centred on Him and His Law and commandments, and how our actions, words and deeds truly proclaim the glory and greatness of God, and full of the same love which God has lavished on us and which we now are expected to embody and show in our own daily living as well. We have the saints and the martyrs throughout the history of the Church to look upon for examples, and today in particular, I want all of us to look upon the great examples shown by St. Paul Miki and his Companions, the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs of Japan, who were martyred a few centuries ago in terrible persecution, and whose faith and courage inspired many ever since.

St. Paul Miki and his Companions in martyrdom lived through during difficult time to be Christians in Japan. After having enjoyed a great period of flourishing and rapid expansion, which saw hundreds of thousands being converted and brought up in the Christian faith in Japan, during the last years of the Warring Periods, the authorities then under the leadership of Toyotomi Hideyoshi began to become suspicious and hostile against Christians, and began a period of increasingly intense persecution against the followers of the Lord. Due to the misunderstandings and political rivalries at that time, and fear of the foreign influences, Christian missionaries and laymen alike were persecuted, and twenty-six of them, including St. Paul Miki, a Jesuit seminarian studying to become a priest, were arrested and condemned to death.

They were ordered to march from the Imperial Capital of Kyoto towards the city of Nagasaki in western part of Japan, where the biggest Christian population and community was, a distance of almost a thousand kilometres on foot, while being tortured and humiliated along the way. Yet, St. Paul Miki and his Companions remained firm in their faith and stayed courageous and true to their commitment to God, and it was told that they sang the ‘Te Deum’ hymn all throughout the entire journey to their martyrdom. In Nagasaki, atop the hill where a shrine now stands in their honour, the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs were crucified and impaled with lances, and were martyred for their continued dedication to God, glorifying God by their faith and life. They inspired many other Christians who remained firm in their Christian calling and devotion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the great faith and conviction of the Holy Martyrs of Japan, St. Paul Miki and his Companions, let us all therefore dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as well. Let us all commit ourselves to live our lives most worthily so that we may indeed glorify the Lord by our lives, and that we may carry out whatever vocations and calling that the Lord has called us all to do, and blessed us with the gifts and talents for. May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in our journey of faith through life. St. Paul Miki and Companions, Holy Martyrs of Japan, pray for us! Amen.

Monday, 6 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 53-56

At that time, having crossed the lake, Jesus and His disciples came ashore at Gennesaret, where they tied up the boat. As soon as they landed, people recognised Jesus, and ran to spread the news throughout the countryside.

Wherever He was, they brought to Him the sick lying on their mats; and wherever He went, to villages, towns or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplace, and begged Him to let them touch just the fringe of His cloak. And all who touched Him were cured.

Monday, 6 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 103 : 1-2a, 5-6, 10 and 12, 24 and 35c

Bless the Lord my soul! Clothed in majesty and splendour; o Lord, my God, how great You are! You are wrapped in light as with a garment.

You set the earth on its foundations, and never will it be shaken. You covered it with the ocean like a garment, and waters spread over the mountains.

You make springs gush forth in valleys winding among mountains and hills. Birds build their nests close by and sing among the branches of trees.

How varied o Lord, are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all – the earth full of Your creatures. Bless the Lord, my soul!

Monday, 6 February 2023 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Genesis 1 : 1-19

In the beginning, when God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth had no form and was void; darkness was over the deep and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.

God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘Day’ and the darkness ‘Night’. There was evening and there was morning : the first day.

God said, “Let there be a firm ceiling between the waters and let it separate waters from waters.” So God made the ceiling and separated the waters below it from the waters above it. And so it was. God called the firm ceiling ‘Sky’. There was evening and there was morning : the second day.

God said, “Let the waters below the sky be gathered in one place and let dry land appear. And so it was. God called the dry land ‘Earth’, and the waters gathered together he called ‘Seas’. God saw that it was good.

God said, “Let the earth produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants, fruit trees bearing fruit with seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” And so it was. The earth produced vegetation : plants bearing seed according to their kind and trees producing fruit which has seed, according to their kind. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning : the third day.

God said, “Let there be lights in the ceiling of the sky to separate day from night and to serve as signs for the seasons, days and years; and let these lights in the sky shine above the earth.” And so it was. God therefore made two great lights, the greater light to govern the day and the smaller light to govern the night; and God made the stars as well. God placed them in the ceiling of the sky to give light on the earth and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning : the fourth day.

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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Chronicles 29 : 10, 11ab, 11d-12a, 12bcd

May You be praised, YHVH God of Israel our ancestor, forever and ever!

Yours, YHVH, is the greatness, the power, splendour, length of days, glory; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is Yours.

Yours is the sovereignty forever, o YHVH; You are supreme Ruler over all. Riches and honour go before You.

You are Ruler of all; in Your hand lie strength and power. You are the One Who gives greatness and strength to all.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Kings 2 : 1-4, 10-12

When David was about to die, he gave his son Solomon this instruction, “I am about to go the way of all creatures. Be strong and show yourself a man. Keep the commandments of YHVH your God and walk in His ways. Keep His statutes, His commands, His ordinances and declarations written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do and wherever you go.”

If you do so, YHVH will fulfil the promise He made to me : If your sons take care to walk before Me faithfully with their whole heart and their whole soul, you shall always have one of your descendants on the throne of Israel.”

Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David. David reigned over Israel for forty years : seven years in Hebron and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of David his father and his reign was firmly established.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018 : 5th 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 from the Scripture passages we heard what is the meaning of becoming true disciples and followers of the Lord. Today we are all called to reflect on how each one of us can be more devoted to the Lord, by obeying Him, listening to Him and doing things He has taught us to do in the right manner and in the right way.

From the Old Testament today we heard the continuation of the reading taken from the beginning of the Book of Kings, in which if yesterday we heard about the festivities and celebrations surrounding the completion and dedication of the Temple of God in Jerusalem, built by king Solomon, then today we heard about how king Solomon prayed on behalf of the people before God.

King Solomon humbled himself before the Lord, thanking Him for all that He has done for His people, and by willingly coming down into the world to dwell among His people. He acknowledged that no matter how big and grand the house he has built for the Lord, there could be no earthly building or establishment that could have contained Him.

King Solomon beseeched God that He might listen to His people in their time of need and forgive them from their sins, so that He might turn to them when they sought after Him in sincere and genuine faith. And that grand edifice of worship that is the Temple was therefore purposed for the sole aim of the placement of God at the very centre of the lives of the people.

God must be at the centre and He must be the focus of our lives, or else we will easily slip and fall into the temptations of sin. And that was exactly what happened at the time of Jesus. In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical attitude in following and enforcing the Law, as they enforced a very strict adherence to the rule of the Mosaic law, but they did that in a way which did not promote true understanding and appreciation of the Law.

The Pharisees wanted the people to follow the rules and the obligations as set by the Law to the smallest details, but all these ended up becoming empty rules and regulations, that the Pharisees themselves were unable to fulfil. And when they did the observations of the Law, they did not do them for the purpose of glorifying God, instead they did them for their own self-advancement and personal glory.

And according to the Lord Jesus, the actions of the Pharisees were even more hypocritical and inappropriate because they say one thing about a certain Law, and yet in a different occasion, they say a different story about the same rule of the Law. He used the example of the law which dictated that all of the people had to take care of their parents, and yet, the Pharisees mentioned that the people had excuse from their obligation just if they offer a sacrifice.

Similarly, on the matter of divorce, while God specifically mentioned that the man and woman whom He has blessed and united as one through holy matrimony cannot be separated by any means, but by arguing in accordance with the rules and regulations as established by Moses and the subsequent leaders of Israel, they argued that people could divorce their wives or husbands by simple matter of administration.

It is clear that in those cases, God was no longer at the centre of their judgments and even in fact, their lives. And that is why they falter and fell into sin. Unfortunately, this has happened to us mankind many times, and if we do not learn from our past history, I am afraid it will continue to repeat again and again in many of us. King Solomon himself in his old age fell from grace, and tempted by his great glory, prestige and might, he grew proud and no longer stayed faithful in the Lord, falling into the persuasion of his many wives and concubines who persuaded him to allow pagan worship and thus bringing the whole kingdom and people of Israel into sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, perhaps we should look upon the examples of the holy men and women whose memory we must remember on this day, our devout and courageous predecessors, the Holy Martyrs of Japan, as represented by St. Paul Miki and his many other companions and fellow defenders of the faith, who suffered greatly and died defending their faith.

St. Paul Miki was one of the many Christian converts in Japan, during the late era of the Warring States and the early Tokugawa Shogunate, a few hundred years ago. During that time, great missionary efforts had caused great revolution of the faith in Japan, and hundreds of thousands of people converted to the faith. However, due to the changes in the political and social condition, what was once a flourishing faith growing under favourable circumstances quickly turned into a nightmare for many of the faithful.

Soon enough, many of the Christians were forced to choose between abandoning their faith and thus live, or to remain true to their faith and suffered and eventually to be killed. Many were forced to desecrate the holy images of Christ and the faith, under very intense scrutiny from the authorities, and the Christians living at that time in Japan truly suffered greatly, and many martyrs were made.

Many abandoned their faith for the sake of safety and security of the world, but many, including St. Paul Miki, refused to abandon their Lord and Master, and chose to suffer and die instead. St. Paul Miki and his many other fellow countrymen and foreign missionaries believing in God were persecuted after they were rounded up and arrested. They were forced to march hundreds of kilometres under the most arduous conditions from Kyoto, the capital of Japan to Nagasaki, the place of their martyrdom.

But all these did not dampen their spirits, and it was told that they sung the praises of God in the hymn, ‘Te Deum’, singing throughout their journey, in what is known as one of the most touching and courageous display of faith. They marched to their certain death, and yet, God was always foremost in their mind, and they knew that He has blessed them with life, and despite all that the world levied on them, God will triumph in the end with His saints.

And still, in the end, St. Paul Miki and the fellow priests who were part of the death march imitated Christ to the very end, by forgiving all of their persecutors and torturers, by his words, ‘After Christ’s example, I forgive my persecutors, I do not hate them. I ask God to have pity on all, and I hope my blood will fall on my fellow men as a fruitful rain.” They were then martyred for their faith in Nagasaki, in the year of Our Lord 1597.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all reflect on what we have just discussed today, and particularly, what we have just heard about the courageous faith of St. Paul Miki and his fellow companions, the Holy Martyrs of Japan. They have put their complete trust in God, and He was always foremost in their mind, despite all that they had to go through, and they followed His examples to the very end, obedient to His teachings with clear understanding.

Now then, are we able to do the same? Are we able to walk in the footsteps of the holy martyrs and faithful servants of God? Are we able to put God as the priority and the centre focus of our lives? It is imperative that we should do this, as without God at the heart of all that we do, say and act in our lives, we are bound to lose our way and fall into sin, and if we are not careful, into eternal damnation.

May the Lord, through the courage of His holy martyrs, St. Paul Miki and companions, inspire each and every one of us as Christians, that we may live ever more faithfully and devote ourselves ever more thoroughly with each and every passing day. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in faith. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 7 : 1-13

At that time, one day, the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of His disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.

Now the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands, for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when they come from the market, without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe; for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?” Jesus answered, “You shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote : ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. The worship they offer Me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules.’ You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition.”

And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregarding the commandments of God in order to enforce your own traditions! For example, Moses said : Do your duty to your father and your mother, and : Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death. But according to you, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I already declared Corban (which means “offered to God”) what you could have expected from me.’”

“In this case, you no longer require him to do anything for his father or mother; and so you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that.”