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.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 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 we listened to the narrative of the Lord as the Good Shepherd of all the faithful and as the One to guide all the people towards the salvation and eternal life found in God alone. Through Christ, the Lord has gathered all of us to Himself, and He has done this for us so that each and every one of us may be saved, and not fall into eternal damnation.

The Lord offered Himself as the worthy sacrifice and also acting as the High Priest in offering this gift that through His offering all of us receive the assurance of eternal life and true happiness, a joy that is everlasting and true, no longer burdened by the chains of sin. He has done all of these out of love for us, because He has seen how wretched we have been in our condition just as exemplified by our Gospel passage today.

In that occasion, the Lord saw how the people who were gathered to listen to Him were like sheep without a shepherd, without a guide and without a proper direction in life. He showed them the path towards His salvation and taught them even when He and His disciples were tired and exhausted. He dedicated Himself, truly like the Good Shepherd He is, patiently caring for the people entrusted to Him, loving them and showing them the true face of God’s love.

We have seen how God loved us so much that He willingly gave everything for our sake. Do we then appreciate the love He has shown us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Many of us often forget about God and we only remember Him when we need something from Him or require assistance from Him. When things are good for us, and when everything is fine, we quickly forget about Him and carry on living our lives in the same way and routine, again and again.

As Christians, all of us are called to live our lives with God at the centre of our lives and existence. We should do our very best to dedicate our actions and our daily living to glorify God at all times, to the very best of our abilities. We are all called to be inspiration for one another, to be exemplary in how we lead a Christ-like life, to be filled with love for God and to be filled with love for our fellow brothers and sisters.

The Lord has called us all to follow His example as the Good Shepherd, to show love and care for one another, and to be genuinely compassionate towards those who need our help and attention. He wants us to live up to our Christian calling and be genuine Christian at all times, dedicating ourselves to serve God and to stand up for our faith whenever it is necessary. That is how we inspire others to follow the Lord and be faithful as well.

Today, all of us celebrate the memory of the great saints, St. Paul Miki and his companions, the Holy Martyrs of Nagasaki, the Twenty-Six Martyrs of Japan. At that time, the Church in Japan had been going through a period of very rapid expansion that saw hundreds of thousands of people converting to the Christian faith. However, the initially supportive authorities began to be wary of the rapid expansion and powerful influence of the Church, and the then Regent of Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi began to persecute Christians throughout the realm.

St. Paul Miki was among those who were arrested for their faith, and they were tried and condemned to death in Kyoto, the then Imperial capital of Japan and the seat of the Regent. St. Paul Miki and his companions were forced to undergo the most painful journey from Kyoto to Nagasaki, halfway across Japan on foot, a distance of almost a thousand kilometres, to the place of their martyrdom. Perhaps the authorities hoped that some among them would give up and abandon their faith.

On the contrary, St. Paul Miki and his companions, the Twenty-Six Holy Martyrs took courage in God and sang the glorious hymn ‘Te Deum’ in praise of God throughout their journey, thanking and glorifying God as they marched towards their deaths. They remained faithful to the very end and faced martyrdom with courage, receiving from the Lord, their Divine Master and Good Shepherd, the crown of true and everlasting glory and happiness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing and able to follow in the footsteps of our holy and devout predecessors? Are we willing to commit ourselves to the good cause of the Lord and to spend the time and effort to proclaim the greater glory of God through our own lives, our actions and deeds? Let us all reflect on this and discern in what way we can live up to our Christian calling, in following the call and example of Our Lord, our Good Shepherd and Master. May God continue to guide us and bless us abundantly in all of our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 30-34

At that time, the Apostles returned and reported to Jesus all they had done and taught. Then He said to them, “Go off by yourselves to a remote place and have some rest.” For there were so many people coming and going that the Apostles had no time even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a secluded area by themselves.

But people saw them leaving and many could guess where they were going. So, from all the towns, they hurried there on foot, arriving ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He had compassion on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began a long teaching session with them.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Saturday, 6 February 2021 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Hebrews 13 : 15-17, 20-21

Let us, then, continually offer through Jesus a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips celebrating His Name. Do not neglect good works and common life, for these are sacrifices pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are concerned for your souls and are accountable for them. Let this be a joy for them rather than a burden, which would be of no advantage for you.

May God give you peace, He Who brought back from among the dead Jesus our Lord, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, Whose Blood seals the eternal covenant. He will train you in every good work, that you may do His will, for it is He Who works in us what pleases Him, through Jesus Christ, to Whom all glory be forever and ever. Amen!

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.