Daily Archives: February 5, 2020

6 February, Thursday – Fathers and Sons

6 Feb – Memorial for Sts. Paul Miki and Companions, martyrs (in Japan)

Paul Miki (1562-1597) was one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan. He was born into a rich family and educated by Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and preached the gospel for his fellow citizens. The Japanese government feared Jesuit influences and persecuted them. He was jailed among others.

He and his Christian peers were forced to walk 600 miles from Kyoto while singing Te Deum as a punishment for the community. Finally they arrived at Nagasaki, the city which had the most conversions to Christianity, and he 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. Alongside him died Joan Soan (de Goto) and Santiago Kisai, of the Society of Jesus, in addition to 23 clergy and laity, all of whom were canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1862.

On 15 August 1549, St. Francis Xavier, Father Cosme de Torres, SJ, and Father John Fernandez arrived in Kagoshima, Japan, from Spain with hopes of bringing Catholicism to Japan. On Sep 29, St. Francis Xavier visit Shimazu Takahisa, the daimyo of Kagoshima, asking for permission to build the first Catholic mission in Japan. The daimyo agreed in hopes of creating a trade relationship with Europe.

A promising beginning to those missions – perhaps as many as 300,000 Christians by the end of the 16th century – met complications from competition between the missionary groups, political difficulty between Spain and Portugal, and factions within the government of Japan. Christianity was suppressed. By 1630, Christianity was driven underground.

The first Martyrs of Japan are commemorated on Feb 5 when, on that date in 1597, 26 missionaries and converts were killed by crucifixion. 250 years later, when Christian missionaries returned to Japan, they found a community of Japanese Christians that had survived underground.

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1 Kings 2:1-4,10-12

As David’s life drew to its close he laid this charge on his son Solomon, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong and show yourself a man. Observe the injunctions of the Lord your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his customs and his decrees, as it stands written in the Law of Moses, that so you may be successful in all you do and undertake, so that the Lord may fulfil the promise he made me, “If your sons are careful how they behave, and walk loyally before me with all their heart and soul, you shall never lack for a man on the throne of Israel.”’
So David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the Citadel of David. David’s reign over Israel lasted forty years: he reigned in Hebron for seven years, and in Jerusalem for thirty-three.
Solomon was seated upon the throne of David, and his sovereignty was securely established.
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Mark 6:7-13
Jesus made a tour round the villages, teaching. Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.
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Be strong and show yourself a man.

These days, it’s difficult to be a man. I’m not talking about a high achieving, career successful man. I am talking about a man of integrity, a man who upholds values, a man who is secure in God and himself that he is able to become the cornerstone of a family, a man who will bravely rise up to the responsibilities of heading a family as God envisioned a Catholic family to be.

Today’s reading shares with us the conversation between David and Solomon as David instructs Solomon how to go about his responsibilities as the next king. I would imagine that Solomon received a lifetime of instruction from David to prepare him for his new role. He would have received lessons, and would have learned, not just from talking with his father, but with seeing how a leader is like. This is how a man learns. He learns by observing other men.

Unfortunately, with the breakdown of marriage, or with many failed marriages, many men have grown up without a father figure. We now have grown men who have the sense of responsibility and commitment of teens, or even younger. Our cultural set-up also leads to emasculating men. The ‘feminist’ movements have undermined gentlemanliness by scoffing at men who offer seats or who open doors for the ladies. Helicopter parenting doesn’t allow them to learn to face unpleasant situations and rise up and be better. They are denied of the challenges they need to develop and strengthen their character.

And it’s a scary place to be. After all, the key tasks of men in our society are to lead and to protect, and these also map onto our spiritual lives. Without well-formed men, we can’t have well-formed fathers. Without well-formed fathers, it makes it difficult for us to understand our Father’s love for us. We end up struggling to understand how we can depend on God, how God is our provider, how God is our protector.

So what can we do? I think, firstly, we have to pray for God’s guidance, and we have to pray for the men in our lives. We also have to pray for wisdom so that our actions, words, and thoughts help build up men. We also have to be discerning when we enter marriage and include in our decision how the husband will be like as a father. For the gentlemen, may they be role models all their lives even if the interaction is only in the corporate setting – men catch things. For women to step back and let the men grow up, to hold our standards so men can be challenged to rise up.

We need to stop and reflect on how we are helping our gentlemen become the men God wanted them to be. We need to pray and act, because from these men, God will raise priests and fathers.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Stephanie Villa)

Prayer: Dearest Lord God, help us recognize the beauty of masculinity and help us, as a society, raise up men who are ready to become who you want them to be. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you, Lord, for the gift of manhood for it reflects your protective and providing nature. It allows us to feel secure.  

5 February, Wednesday – Who is Jesus to you?

5 Feb – Memorial for St. Agatha, virgin and martyr

We have little reliable information about this martyr who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha (d.250) lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers.

After rejecting Quinctianus’ advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that St. Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake struck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died.

Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted erupts of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551.

  • Patron Saint Index

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2 Samuel 24:2,8-17

King David said to Joab and to the senior army officers who were with him, ‘Now go throughout the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and take a census of the people; I wish to know the size of the population.’ Having covered the whole country, they returned to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. Joab gave the king the figures for the census of the people; Israel numbered eight hundred thousand armed men capable of drawing sword, and Judah five hundred thousand men.

But afterwards David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. ‘I have committed a grave sin’ David said to the Lord. ‘But now, Lord, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault. I have been very foolish.’ But when David got up next morning, the following message had come from the Lord to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, ‘Go and say to David, “The Lord says this: I offer you three things; choose one of them for me to do to you.”’

So Gad went to David and told him. ‘Are three years of famine to come on you in your country’ he said ‘or will you flee for three months before your pursuing enemy, or would you rather have three days’ pestilence in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me.’ David said to Gad, ‘This is a hard choice. But let us rather fall into the power of the Lord, since his mercy is great, and not into the power of men.’ So David chose pestilence.

It was the time of the wheat harvest. The Lord sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning till the time appointed and plague ravaged the people, and from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of them died. The angel stretched out his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, but the Lord thought better of this evil, and he said to the angel who was destroying the people, ‘Enough! Now withdraw your hand.’ The angel of the Lord was beside the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he spoke to the Lord. ‘It was I who sinned;’ he said ‘I who did this wicked thing. But these, this flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me then, and on my family.’

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Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

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Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

Who do you say Jesus is? It shouldn’t matter what names people give to Jesus. But it is so easy to judge people based on their appearance, demeanour, profession, name and title, even who they associate with. Jesus gets it all the time. He is judged the moment he sits down to eat and drink with tax collectors, befriends the prostitutes and lepers, and whenever he performs miraculous healings on the Sabbath day. Perhaps he was too radical for people of his time to understand.

I’ve always been a bit of a rebel myself, so I can totally see where Jesus is going with this. I admire his guts and his ability to not be perturbed by what people think or say. In fact, he has so much wit he can surely outsmart even the shrewdest man; but he chooses not to. One thing about being a rebel is to have courage and confidence. When I was a teenager, I was up to a lot of mischief. I went out a lot, met boys a lot, had several BGR (along with both headaches and heartaches), partied and wore a lot of black despite my parents’ disapproval (black was deemed a colour that signifies mourning) – all in the name of fun. That rebel inside me had always wanted to break out and to be different. So I made plans of my own; I pursued an education overseas, studied something that my dad didn’t quite understand and thought it pointless since I would one day be married. I continued to be rebellious right up to my adulthood, doing things I knew my family would not approve of – including getting a tattoo and converting to Catholicism (which by far was the best decision I’ve made).

Now that I’m much older and (hopefully) wiser, I continue to be radical and the most radical of all is doing the things I do for God. Thanks to my Conversion Experience Retreat in 2015, I’ve received the holy courage to stand up for my faith, to dare to be different; such as to go up and give my testimony before the church congregation and to sign up as a catechist despite my fear of public speaking (I used to break out in a rash every time), to make the sign of the cross before meals no matter where I am or who I’m with (yes, even at media luncheons), and to finally make the decision to write my personal scripture reflections and share my daily faith testimonies via Facebook. This reminds me a little of what Francis de Sales did when he slipped little pamphlets explaining the Catholic doctrine under doors and perhaps this is why he is the patron saint of writers. My intent is to share with my non-believer friends what Christianity is about. I know the potential risk of losing some friends and I know that what I post on social media is not going to garner many ‘Likes’ but I have since stopped worrying about what others think. I am just going to use social media to my (and God’s) advantage and leave the rest to The Lord for however he wants to use my gift. All that matters is that I keep on writing and sowing the seeds. What’s also important is that whatever I do, I stay true to myself, as well as be authentic to my faith and my love for Jesus.

Whatever label people may have given to Jesus, whether carpenter, son of Mary, saviour, counsellor, healer, or rebel, he is above all, a God I can also call friend.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Cynthia Chew)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, show us how to be as radical as you, especially when it comes to showing others who you really are. Help us to be more like you, to not be afraid to stand up for our faith, especially when we are put to the test.   

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for agreeing to be born a man, to live in the humblest circumstances, to suffer all the persecutions and to die for us on the cross just so that we have a chance to be reunited with you in the kingdom of heaven.