Readings & Reflections: Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time & St. Paul Miki & Companions, February 6,2018
The fertile missionary fields of Japan were first cultivated by Saint Francis Xavier in 1549. In 1597, the Japanese authorities, fearing foreign influence, began a campaign of persecution with the execution of Paul Miki and his companions on February 5,1597 including 16 Japanese laymen, four of whom were boys. Fearful that the missionary represented the vanguard of an impending conquest by European forces, the Shogun Hideyoshi ordered the men to be marched 400 miles from Miyako to Nagasaki, with blood streaming down their faces as a sign of their disgrace (their ears had been cut). In Nagasaki, each was bound to a cross and killed with a lance. After 1627, villagers were forced to walk over fumie, pictures of the Madonna and Child. Those who refused were exiled or killed. When repeated persecutions failed to destroy the Faith, authorities focused their energies on forcing mission priests to apostatize. A brutal torture known as “the pit” was invented for this purpose. In 1638, Japan was definitely closed to foreigners. The Japanese martyrs were canonized in 1862. Missionaries were again allowed to enter in 1865 A.D.
Heavenly Father, Today’s gospel reading challenges us to set our priorities in order. Lord, we know that your desire is essential, and is all about right relationships within family, community and religious structures. They are all about sincerity in heart. Lord, we pray that you will be patient with us and continue to bless us with your grace so that we may hear and pay attention to the life transforming values which have been witnessed to us by our Lord and Savior, our dear Jesus, and for which we believe You have created us for. Lord never allow us to be hypocritical but always sincere in all our ways. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, we pray. Amen.
1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30
Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD
in the presence of the whole community of Israel,
and stretching forth his hands toward heaven,
he said, “LORD, God of Israel,
there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below;
you keep your covenant of mercy with your servants
who are faithful to you with their whole heart.
“Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth?
If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you,
how much less this temple which I have built!
Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O LORD, my God,
and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant,
utter before you this day.
May your eyes watch night and day over this temple,
the place where you have decreed you shall be honored;
may you heed the prayer which I, your servant, offer in this place.
Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel
which they offer in this place.
Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”
The word of the Lord.
Ps 84: 3, 4, 5, 10-11
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the LORD.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my king and my God!
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
O God, behold our shield,
and look upon the face of your anointed.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
R. How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, mighty God!
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. (For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
“Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?”
He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:
This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.
You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”
He went on to say,
“How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say, ‘If someone says to father or mother,
“Any support you might have had from me is qorban”‘
(meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Sincerity vs. Hypocrisy
Today Mark’s gospel deals with the religious who came not to listen to Jesus but to investigate Him. They came to Jesus not to have a full understanding of His teachings and apply them to their lives but to reject them and find ways on how they can eliminate Him.
Sincerity vs. hypocrisy is the issue in today’s gospel. State of
one’s heart and what flows from it vs. external rituals, what is beautiful and attractive to the world and what conforms to the world are issues we all have to resolve within us.
A hypocritical person is not far from the model of the scribes and Pharisees who placed great importance in honoring one’s parents yet uses the law to nullify God’s word in favor of traditions as they cling to the matter of the “qorban” just to avoid honoring both father and mother. Just like the scribes and Pharisees, a hypocrite can look great on the outside, religious and spiritual and soft-spoken but deep down in his heart has problems.
He chooses to be rigid in his ways and uses God and His law as reason not to do what is godly and good. He indiscriminately uses the letter of the law to get his way yet he cannot apply the same measure on himself. He appears to be of God yet he is so full of vengeance. He considers himself so close to God but if you trace his actions, one could hardly see any sign of God in him. He is totally caught up in the externals of religion and one could hardly find any connection between his outside appearance and the inside of his heart, between his words and his deeds. He is busy making himself acceptable and making good impressions knowing his imperfect state yet does not have the heart to accept other peoples’ brokenness and sinfulness. He cannot follow the leadings of the Spirit but has time and again led the Spirit towards his own version of righteousness.
Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts today. Jesus is inviting us to look inward and not to be afraid at what we may see. There is serious work to be done inside all of us – no exceptions. But we won’t be working alone. The Spirit will guide our hands and give courage to our hearts. He is not putting us down when He portrayed to us how hypocritical we all have been, not only with our neighbor but also with Him.
God wants us to know that we only paid Him lip service and our hearts have been far from Him. We need to clean up our act, not cover it up. God knows the deepest sentiments of our hearts and we cannot hide from Him and the truth that binds every man. God wants us to change and it is all in our hands now.
God gave us the gift of His Son Who builds people from the inside out. He wants us to open the doors of our hearts and let Jesus in. If we do, He will make us strong inside and out and will transform us into authentic bearers of His Word whose words and deeds are one and whose heart bears the marks of Christ: authentic, humble and sincere.
Our lives should reflect our faith in Christ.
Heavenly Father make my heart your permanent dwelling place so that whatever I may say and do will flow from your goodness, love and mercy. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2 – Rejecting the commandments of God
What makes a person unclean or unfit to offer God acceptable worship? The Jews went to great pains to ensure that their worship would conform to the instructions which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. God’s call to his people was a call to holiness: “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2). In their zeal for holiness many elders developed elaborate traditions which became a burden for the people to carry out in their everyday lives. The Scribes and Pharisees were upset with Jesus because he allowed his disciples to break with their ritual traditions by eating with unclean hands. They sent a delegation all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to bring their accusation in a face-to-face confrontation with Jesus.
God’s law teaches us how to love God and neighbor in holiness and truth
Jesus dealt with their accusation by going to the heart of the matter – by looking at God’s intention and purpose for the commandments. Jesus gave an example of how their use of ritual tradition excused them from fulfilling the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. If someone wanted to avoid the duty of financially providing for their parents in old age or sickness they could say that their money or goods were an offering “given over to God” and thus exempt from any claim of charity or duty to help others. They broke God’s law to fulfill a law of their own making. Jesus explained that they void God’s command because they allowed their hearts and minds to be clouded by their own notions of religion.
Allow God’s word to purify your thoughts, intentions, and actions
Jesus accused them specifically of two things. First of hypocrisy. Like actors, who put on a show, they appear to obey God’s word in their external practices while they inwardly harbor evil desires and intentions. Secondly, he accused them of abandoning God’s word by substituting their own arguments and ingenious interpretations for what God requires. They listened to clever arguments rather than to God’s word. Jesus refers them to the prophecy of Isaiah (29:31) where the prophet accuses the people of his day for honoring God with their lips while their hearts went astray because of their disobedience to God’s laws.
If we listen to God’s word with faith and reverence, it will both enlighten our mind and purify our heart – thus enabling us to better understand how he wants us to love and obey him rather than love and follow our own unruly desires and wrong behavior. The Lord invites us to draw near to him and to feast at his banquet table. Do you approach with a clean heart and mind? Ask the Lord Jesus to cleanse and renew you with the purifying fire of his Holy Spirit.
“Lord Jesus, let the fire of your Holy Spirit cleanse my mind and my heart that I may love you purely and serve you worthily.” –
Read the source: http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2018/feb6.htm
Reflection 3 – Tradition or stubbornness
Many of us can recall the musical Fiddler on the Roof, in which a Jewish father struggled with the desire to maintain the traditions of a lifetime, even when they threatened to separate him from his beloved daughters. One by one, the traditions failed him, until he was finally forced to confront his basic beliefs and to decide what he valued most in life.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus berates the Pharisees and scribes for their blind adherence to tradition – a tradition that ignores the core teachings of their faith. How is it possible that traditions founded on a people’s belief can stray so far from the essentials of those beliefs? Are we guilty of that same distortion?
The Genesis account of Creation offers an example of another biblical fundamental that seems to suffer at the expense of tradition. When God created man and woman, he commanded them to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” In the context of the creation story, it seems clear that God intends humans to be participants in the work of creation, maintaining the goodness of the earth and cultivating it to God’s glory.
Yet over time we have assumed our dominion over the creatures of the earth to mean that we are free to bend the earth and its inhabitants to our own will. We have established traditions and lifestyles that demean the earth and drain it of its bounty. We cling to our supposed superiority and resist those who call us to a responsible stewardship of God’s creation. We have become like the Pharisees: stubborn in our adherence to our adopted ways and deaf to those who call us to return to the core of our faith.
Let us not be afraid to let go of the traditions that keep us from following God’s will. (Source: Cecilia A. Felix, Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, February 10, 2009).
Reflection 4 – We cannot contain God in a box
A marvelous stained-glass window in the chapel at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati features the holy of holies in the Temple in Jerusalem with an image of an extraordinary omnipotent God bursting out of the holy of holies, which cannot contain him. Nothing can contain God. This window echoes the words of King Solomon in today’s first reading (1 Kg 8:22-23, 27-30): “Can it be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built!”
How can our human intellect wrap itself around the reality of God? Even the greatest of theologians fail to do so. Perhaps the greatest of all Catholic theologians, St. Thomas Aquinas, said it best. Shortly before his death, Thomas was gifted with a transcendent vision. Afterward St. Thomas said of his Summa Theologica, one of the greates written works ever produced by humankind, “It’s all straw.”
As St. Thomas Aquinas understood after his vision, all theology is a meager attempt to define the indefinable – the utter magnificence of the reality that is God. Perhaps the closest any of us can get to encountering God is when we love, for God is the source of love and indeed love itself. Our God is a grand mystery who wills only the best for us. But we cannot keep God in a box. We can only stand in awe at his great mystery. (Source: Timothy J. Cronin, Weekday Homily Helps. Ohio: St. Anthony Messenger Press, February 9, 2010).
Reflection 5 – The Walking Purchase
In colonial North America, William Penn had a reputation as a benevolent Quaker who dealt fairly with Native Americans. When he returned to England, his sons stayed behind. They did not share his integrity. Soon they contrived a scheme to cheat a Delaware tribe. The sons produced an old contract in which the Indians had agreed to sell a portion of land that a man could walk in 1½ days.
When the tribe consented to honor their ancestors’ agreement, Penn’s sons were delighted. They hired three of the fastest runners they could find. One of the men covered a distance of 65 miles in 18 hours. They totally disregarded both the letter and the spirit of the agreement.
In Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees rationalized their violation of the spirit of God’s law. Jesus exposed their hypocritical practice when He cited the commandment to “honor your father and your mother” (Mark 7:10-13). They were declaring a portion of their income as “a gift to God” to keep from using it to care for their aged parents.
The Bible is not a tool to get what we want. Instead, we must ask God to help us understand its intended purpose. Let’s be sure we don’t neglect the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matt. 23:23). — Dennis Fisher
Obeying the letter of the law is good; obeying the spirit of the law is better (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 6 – Abandonment vs. Hypocrisy
“In order that abandonment might be authentic and engender peace, it must be total. We must put everything, without exception, into the hands of God, not seeking any longer to manage or “to save” ourselves by our own means: not in the material domain, nor the emotional, not the spiritual. We cannot divide human existence into various sectors: certain sectors where it would be legitimate to surrender ourselves to God with confidence and other where, on the contrary, we feel we must manage exclusively on our own. And one thing we know well: all reality that we have not surrendered to God, that we choose to manage by ourselves without giving carte blancheto God, will continue to make us more or less uneasy. The measure of our interior peace will be that of our abandonment, consequently of our detachment.
“Abandonment inevitably requires an element of renunciation and it is this that is most difficult for us. We have a natural tendency to cling to a whole host of things: material goods, affections, desires, projects, etc., and it costs us terribly to let go of our grip, because we have the impression that we will lose ourselves in the process, that we will die….
“He who accepts this death of detachment, of renunciation, finds the true life. The one who clings to something, who wishes to protect some domain in his life in order to manage it at his convenience without radically abandoning it into the hands of God, is making a very bad mistake: he devotes himself to unnecessary preoccupations and exposes himself to the gnawing sense of loss. By contrast, he who accepts to put everything into the hands of God, to allow him to give and take according to his good pleasure, this individual finds an inexpressible peace and interior freedom…. This is the way to happiness, because if we leave God free to act in his way, he is infinitely more capable of rendering us happy than we ourselves are, because he knows us and loves us more than we can ever know or love ourselves” (Fr. Jacques Pilippe, Magnificat, Vol. 16, No. 12, February 2015, pp. 146-147).
Reflection 7 – The love behind the rituals
Reflection 8 – You are a masterpiece of God!
In the Book of Genesis (1:20-2:4), God reaches the high point of his handiwork by creating you and me and every human person who was ever conceived. We are his masterpieces! Yes, even the unborn human who dies in miscarriage or abortion — God created each one as a masterpiece whom he treasures and wants to live with forever.
Do you feel like a piece of junk? That’s not his opinion of you. Okay, so you’re not perfect; big deal. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see the crud that tarnishes you; he sees the gem underneath — a beautiful, bright, multi-hued gem. Even when he looks at the most evil person on earth, he sees the goodness that he created, where it lies buried inside.
And he says, “This is very good!”
When Jesus took our crud with him to the cross, he made it easier for our gems to get cleaned up and polished. Baptism and Confession are sacraments that wash the crud from us as we give it all to Jesus. When our Father looks at you and me, he looks at us through these sacraments to see the masterpieces that he created.
So why do we have a hard time believing that God likes us? Why do we have a hard time liking ourselves? It’s because we project onto God the image and likeness of humans, specifically the people who’ve disliked us when we failed to live up to their expectations.
Our prayer life is affected by this. The Person of the Trinity to whom we entrust our prayers is Our Father. Yet, because our human fathers and other authority figures could not be trusted all the time (none are perfectly trustable), we assume that God will disappoint us, too. It’s not that we think God is incapable of answering our prayers; we just think we’re not good enough.
In truth, being “good enough” has nothing to do with it. We can’t earn his help and he doesn’t even want us to try. He gives his help freely and generously, simply because he loves us and, in the first place, because he cared enough to create us. The real reason why prayers don’t get answered is either because we’re blocking the help we need or because God is doing something far better for us and we can’t see it yet.
You’re not junk. You’re God’s masterpiece, and to deny that is to deny what Jesus did on the cross for you. It also denies that the Father said, “This is very good!” when he formed you in your mother’s womb. The Father’s creative genius is seen in all of nature, but you’re his ultimate creation! – Read the source: http://gnm.org/good-news-reflections/?useDrDate=2017-02-07
Reflection 9 – St. Paul Miki and Companions (d. 1597 A.D.)
Nagasaki, Japan, is familiar to Americans as the city on which the second atomic bomb was dropped, immediately killing over 37,000 people. Three and a half centuries before, 26 martyrs of Japan were crucified on a hill, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki. Among them were priests, brothers and laymen, Franciscans, Jesuits and members of the Secular Franciscan Order; there were catechists, doctors, simple artisans and servants, old men and innocent children—all united in a common faith and love for Jesus and his Church.
Brother Paul Miki, a Jesuit and a native of Japan, has become the best known among the martyrs of Japan. While hanging upon a cross, Paul Miki preached to the people gathered for the execution: “The sentence of judgment says these men came to Japan from the Philippines, but I did not come from any other country. I am a true Japanese. The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ. I certainly did teach the doctrine of Christ. I thank God it is for this reason I die. I believe that I am telling only the truth before I die. I know you believe me and I want to say to you all once again: Ask Christ to help you to become happy. I obey Christ. 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.”
When missionaries returned to Japan in the 1860s, at first they found no trace of Christianity. But after establishing themselves they found that thousands of Christians lived around Nagasaki and that they had secretly preserved the faith. Beatified in 1627, the martyrs of Japan were finally canonized in 1862.
Today a new era has come for the Church in Japan. Although the number of Catholics is not large, the Church is respected and has total religious freedom. The spread of Christianity in the Far East is slow and difficult. Faith such as that of the 26 martyrs is needed today as much as in 1597.
“Since Jesus, the Son of God, showed his love by laying down his life for us, no one has greater love than they who lay down their lives for him and for their sisters and brothers (see 1 John 3:16; John 15:13). Some Christians have been called from the beginning, and will always be called, to give this greatest testimony of love to everyone, especially to persecutors. Martyrdom makes disciples like their master, who willingly accepted death for the salvation of the world, and through it they are made like him by the shedding of blood. Therefore, the Church considers it the highest gift and as the supreme test of love. And while it is given to few, all, however, must be prepared to confess Christ before humanity and to follow him along the way of the cross amid the persecutions which the Church never lacks” (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 42, Austin Flannery translation).
Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1283
SAINT OF THE DAY
Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God’s invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint. Click here to receive Saint of the Day in your email.
On Feb. 6, the Catholic Church honors the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki, a group of native Japanese Catholics and foreign missionaries who suffered death for their faith in the year 1597.
During the 16th century, the Catholic faith reached Japan by the efforts of the Jesuit missionary Saint Francis Xavier (1506-1552). Jesuit outreach to the Japanese continued after his death, and around 200,000 Japanese had entered the Church by 1587.
Religious tensions led to a period of persecution during that year, during which many churches were destroyed and missionaries forced to work in secret. But few episodes of martyrdom took place during this time, and within a decade 100,000 more Japanese became Catholic despite the restrictions.
During 1593, Franciscan missionaries came to Japan from the Philippines by order of Spain’s King Philip II. These new arrivals gave themselves zealously to the work of charity and evangelism, but their presence disturbed a delicate situation between the Church and Japanese authorities.
Suspicion against Catholic missionaries grew when a Spanish ship was seized off the Japanese coast and found to be carrying artillery. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, an powerful imperial minister, responded by sentencing 26 Catholics to death.
The group was comprised of three native Jesuits, six foreign Franciscans, and several lay Catholics including some children. Sentenced to die by crucifixion and lancing, they were first marched 600 miles to the city of Nagasaki.
During the journey they underwent public torture meant to terrorize other Japanese believers in Christ. But all of the 26 held out courageously, even singing the hymn of praise “Te Deum” when they arrived at the hill where they would be crucified.
Three of the best-known martyrs of Nagaki are Saints Paul Miki, John of Goto, and James Kisai. Though none were priests, all were associated with the Jesuits: Miki was training for the priesthood, while Kisai was a lay brother and John of Goto was a catechist preparing to enter the order.
Paul Miki offered an especially strong witness to his faith during the group’s month-long march to Nagasaki, as he joined one of the captive Franciscan priests in preaching to the crowds who came to mock the prisoners.
The son of a wealthy military leader, Miki was born in 1562 and entered the Church along with the rest of his family. He joined the Jesuits as a young man and helped many Buddhists to embrace Christianity. His last act of evangelism took place as he hung on his cross, preaching to the crowds.
“The only reason for my being killed is that I have taught the doctrine of Christ,” he announced. “I thank God it is for this reason that I die. I believe that I am telling the truth before I die.”
“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.”
St. Paul Miki and his 25 companions were stabbed to death with lances on Feb. 5, 1597, at the site that became known as “Martyrs’ Hill.” Pope Pius IX canonized the Martyrs of Nagasaki in 1862. – Read the source: https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/saint/st-paul-miki-and-companions-139
|SAINT PAUL MIKI|
Statue of Miki, bearing stylised depictions of the instruments of his death, in St Martin’s Church in Bamberg, Germany.
|DIED||5 February 1597
|VENERATED IN||Roman Catholic Church|
|BEATIFIED||14 September 1627 by Pope Urban VIII|
|CANONIZED||8 June 1862 by Pope Pius IX|
|This section does not cite any sources. (September 2015)|
Paulo Miki was born into a wealthy Japanese family. He was educated by the Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and became a well known and successful preacher – gaining numerous converts to Catholicism. The local daimyō, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, began persecuting Catholics for fear of the Jesuit’s influence and intentions, and possibly that of European visitors.
Miki arrested and jailed with his fellow Catholics were later forced to march 966 kilometres (600 miles) from Kyoto toNagasaki; all the while singing the Te Deum. On arriving in Nagasaki—which today has the largest Catholic population in Japan—Miki was crucified on 5 February 1597.
He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners, stating that he himself was Japanese. Crucified alongside him were Joan Soan (de Gotó) and Santiago Kisai, also of the Society of Jesus; along with twenty-three other clergy and laity, all of whom were