Wednesday, 28 September 2016 : 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 heard from the Holy Scriptures the calling of Jesus our Lord to all of us. Yes, He Who had created us calls us to follow Him and to walk in His path. He called His disciples, His Apostles and all those who were willing to listen to Him and wanted to follow Him, and He called them to abandon their past lives and follow Him to where He is leading them to, the salvation in God.

Many followed Him and left behind their past lives, but there were also many who were reluctant to do so, as shown in today’s Gospel, when some of those who wanted to follow Jesus made excuses that they wanted to settle their worldly matters first before they would follow Him. Jesus rebuked them and reminded them that those who were not fully committed and not fully sincere in their dedication to Him will not be able to follow Him as they have not placed their faith fully in God.

And the path to the kingdom of God will be closed for them because they have themselves closed it by their own doubts, their own lack of faith, their own ignorance and lack of commitment, and not by the action of God. God wants us all to be saved, and that is why He made calls after calls, constantly urging and calling us to follow Him. Yet, we hesitate because of the many temptations and hurdles present in our life, in this world that prevented us from truly finding our way to God.

We are all called to reflect on this even as we proceed to continue our lives in this world, even as we continue to live as how we used to live everyday. Let us all ask ourselves, how have we lived our lives in faith? Have we truly been faithful to the Lord our God? Have we devoted ourselves to the ways of the Lord? Or are we distracted by our many distractions in this life? Are we distracted by all the allures and the pleasures of this life, the busy schedules of our work life that we are not able to devote ourselves?

That is why sometimes it is important for us to take a step back and find some time even amidst our busy lives and works, that we should look at our actions and see how they have been shaped either by our faith or by our lack of faith. Are we Christians in name only? Or are we true Christians ready to take up our crosses in this life and follow the lead of our Lord? These are the questions that we ought to ask ourselves.

And thus, now, let us all look at the example of the holy saints and martyrs who have followed in the footsteps of the Lord, going all out in their devotion and commitment, even to give their lives for the sake of the Lord. St. Wenceslaus the martyr was a renowned saint from the land of Bohemia in central Europe, once the Duke and ruler of Bohemia, who helped to propagate the faith in his lands, despite the opposition of the pagans and all those who still refused to believe in God.

He ruled fairly and with justice, caring for the poor and the sick, the weak and the less fortunate in his domains, and he promoted the Christian faith wherever and whenever he could. Rightly, his many enemies and opposers gathered and resisted him and his rule wherever and whenever they could, but he prevailed and pushed harder for reform and for the faith in God to be in the hearts of all his people.

Thus, those enemies of the Lord plotted against St. Wenceslaus and murdered him, a martyr of the faith, dying defending the truth that he had believed in and worked so hard for. Yet, many followed in his footsteps, and he was revered immediately as a saint after his death, as a role model to many of the faithful who came after him.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz was a Filipino who lived a few hundred years ago, who due to a false accusation, was accused of murder and thus had to flee his homeland, and eventually reached the land of Japan. At that time, the government was launching a particularly vicious oppression and attack on the Christian faith and all those who professed their faith in God.

Many of the faithful were arrested, tortured and forced to choose between abandoning their faith and living, or to keep their faith in God and perish in terrible suffering and pain. Many refused to let go of their faith and thus remained true to their faith in God, including St. Lawrence Ruiz and his fellow companions in faith. They were tortured and made to go through various torture forms and sufferings unimaginable to the human mind.

They were eventually martyred, refusing to give up to the very end, calling for others to remain strong in their faith and persevere despite of the difficulties facing them. It was told that St. Lawrence Ruiz said that when he was about to die, he proclaimed, “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God. Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him shall I offer.”

In all the examples of the holy saints and martyrs we have heard, and all others whom we are familiar with, we can see that they devoted their whole lives, their whole beings to serve the Lord, to serve His purpose and His will, and to give their whole heart, mind and soul in bringing forth the good works of God to the whole world, to all the peoples by example, by action and good deed.

We can also follow their examples and good deeds, by practicing them in our own lives. Let us all reflect on how we live our lives, and whether we have been truly faithful to God or not. Let us all walk from now on, in the path of the Lord, devoting our time and efforts for the Lord, and committing ourselves wholly to Him alone. May God help us in this endeavour. Amen.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 : 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 : 57-62

At that time, as Jesus and His disciples went on their way, a man said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

To another Jesus said, “Follow Me!” But he answered, “Let me go back now, for first I want to bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their dead; as for you, leave them, and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Another said to Him, “I will follow You, Lord, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” And Jesus said to him, “Whoever has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God.”

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 : 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 87 : 10bc-11, 12-13, 14-15

Spreading out my hands to You, I call upon You every day, o Lord. Are Your wonders meant for the dead? Will ghosts rise to give You thanks?

Is Your live and faithfulness remembered among those gone to the netherworld? Are Your wonders known in the dark, Your salvation in the land of oblivion?

But to You, o Lord, I cry for help; every morning I pray to You. O Lord, why do You reject me, why do You hide Your face?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016 : 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 9 : 1-12, 14-16

Then Job answered, “Very well I know that it is so. But how can a mortal be just before God? If one were to contend with Him, not once in a thousand times would He answer. His power is vast, His wisdom profound. Who has resisted Him and come out unharmed?”

“He moves mountains before they are aware; He overturns them in His rage. He makes the earth tremble and its pillars quake. He commands the sun, and it does not shine; He seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the skies and treads on the waves of the seas.”

“He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and every constellation. His wonders are past all reckoning, His miracles beyond all counting. He passes by, but I do not see Him; He moves on, but I do not notice Him. If He snatches away, who can stop Him? Who can say to Him, ‘What are You doing?'”

“How then can I answer Him and find words to argue with Him? If He does not answer when I am right, shall I plead with my Judge for mercy? Even if I appealed and He answered, I do not believe that He would have heard.”

Monday, 28 September 2015 : 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)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the Lord our God who proclaimed His salvation to the nations, to all of His people who had long been oppressed and under slavery, that by His own mighty power, He would deliver us all from our slavery, that is the slavery to sin and death. He had promised this to all of us, and fulfilled it perfectly through His Son, Jesus Christ.

As what He had said to the prophet Zechariah, which we witnessed in our first reading today, God was indeed angry against all of us His people, and He despised all of our sins and wickedness. That was why He cast all of us out of His grace and blessings through our ancestors, Adam and Eve, who was cast out of the bliss of the Gardens of Eden, and had no choice but to endure and to suffer the bitter sufferings in the world.

But it did not mean that the Lord did not care about us or that He was plotting our destruction. Certainly, it is within His power to completely obliterate us out of creation and the world had He followed only His justice. It was truly just indeed for us all to suffer destruction and death as a consequence for our sins, and we truly deserved to fall into hell for eternity, which had been prepared for Satan and his angels.

It was the love He has for us, the endless and boundless love that had prevented Him from casting us out completely, and He was willing to give us another chance. This is a privilege that He did not give even Satan, once Lucifer, who was condemned once and for all for his rebellion against God, and cast down out of heaven to the earth. It is a privilege that we have received to be able to atone for our sins and be forgiven.

And the Lord Himself proclaimed His salvation that would come where the faithful and devoted ones would receive succour and rescue from the darkness and the suffering of this world, and this was perfectly fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah, none other than the Word of God Himself, made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. By His crucifixion, the death He suffered on the cross, He had made us all whole once again, and by His resurrection from death, He brought us all a new hope.

But, He also reminded all of us through His disciples that those who believe in Him and follow Him will also suffer as He had suffered, and the world would reject them just as it had first rejected Jesus. This is because the world is the dominion of the fallen angel, our great enemy, Satan, who had seduced the entire race of mankind into sin and disobedience against God. Certainly he would not want us to be lost to him and be saved.

That is why, today we celebrate the memory, life and death of great followers of our Lord, who had endeavoured and worked hard to spread the Good News of the Gospel, and gave their lives in the service of God in holy martyrdom. St. Wenceslaus, martyr of the faith in Bohemia, now known as the Czech Republic, and St. Lawrence Ruiz, also known as St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint and his companions, the holy martyrs of Japan.

All of them suffered the rejection of the world and the persecution and torture by those who opposed the Lord and His ways. St. Wenceslaus was the ruler of Bohemia, whose rule was particularly remembered as one that was filled with justice and righteousness, and St. Wenceslaus was very committed to his role as the leader of his people, serving them as best as he could.

St. Wenceslaus however encountered great opposition by the nobles and the rich landed members of the Bohemian society, some of whom were still pagans and unbelievers, and most importantly, they all were united in their opposition to the ways and rulership. They wanted to satisfy their own wants and wishes, and they wanted to maintain the privileges and good things they had.

Therefore, they plotted against St. Wenceslaus, and eventually managed to murder him with the help of the brother of St. Wenceslaus, who benefitted by becoming his successor as the ruler of Bohemia. However, the sin of murdering such a holy servant of God was truly great, and it was not until that brother repented and atoned for his sins that he was truly welcomed back once again into the Church of God.

Meanwhile, St. Lawrence Ruiz was a Filipino who escaped to Japan during the time about more than four hundred years ago, when he was wrongly accused of the murder of a local magistrate. He boarded a ship destined for Japan, and then over there, he joined the thriving local Christian community, which at that time was tolerated and in some places, the local lords even converted to the true faith in God.

But, good times did not last long, as the mood of the government of Japan at the time changed, and under the new Tokugawa shogunate, the Christians were no longer tolerated and instead, they were persecuted and forced to choose between denying the Lord and recanting their faith, or to die a most gruesome and painful death should they choose to remain faithful in the Lord.

St. Lawrence Ruiz and many other Christians refused to deny their Lord and Master, and they refused to abandon their faith, even under the torture and the certainty of painful death. They held their faith with great pride, and they went to their martyrdom with great faith, that the Lord who is ever loving and ever faithful to those who believe in Him, will grant them everlasting glory and life with Him.

Indeed, the example of these saints we have just heard should become an inspiration to all of us as well. The way that they have lived their lives and the way that they have stood up for their faith and for God should be examples for us all to follow as well. We have to live righteously and follow the way of the Lord as He had taught us and revealed to us through His Church, obey all of His commandments and be true disciples and true shining beacons of the Faith.

Let us all reflect on this, and try our best to implement all these in our own lives. God loves us, and He wants to save us and forgive us all of our sins and trespasses, but our sins continue to come in the way between us and Him, and the only way forward is for us to repent and change our ways, sin no more and trust in Him and follow Him with all of our might. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 28 September 2015 : 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 2015 : 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 101 : 16-18, 19-21, 29 and 22-23

O Lord, the nations will revere Your Name, and the kings of the earth Your glory. For He will answer the prayer of the needy and will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for future ages, “the Lord will be praised by a people He will form.” From His holy height in heaven, the Lord has looked on the earth to hear the groaning of the prisoners, and free those condemned to death.

Your servants’ children will dwell secure; their posterity will endure without fail. Then the Name of the Lord will be declared in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship Him.