Liturgical Colour : Red
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard first of all the tale of St. Paul the Apostle, who was arrested by the Jewish authorities, and was therefore put to face the court as a suspect against the allegations and false witnesses placed against him by the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the two leading power holders in the Jewish community at that time.
The Pharisees were those Jews who adhered very closely to the Jewish laws and customs as passed down through many generations from the time of Moses. They were the ones who were always trying to make the works of Jesus and His Apostles difficult by challenging them and harassing them at every available opportunity, as they saw Jesus as a threat to their power and influence in the community through His revelations and truths that undermined their own authority.
Meanwhile, the Sadducees were those who were commonly the nobles and the powerful lords in the society, who enjoyed the trust and prestige of the king Herod and his courtiers. They were the ones who enjoyed worldly power and influence, and refused to believe in anything that were supernatural or angelic in nature. That was why they were also stubbornly against Jesus and His teachings, because He taught them about the resurrection and life after death.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees were usually rivals for influence and they detested each other because of their stark differences in ideologies and beliefs. Yet, they came together because of their common hatred and opposition against the Lord’s teachings and truths, which St. Paul was preaching to the people of God. And thus, the enemies of the Lord put aside their differences and worked to destroy St. Paul.
Yet, they were not truly united in their purpose, and intense differences and conflicts still raged between them. That was why, the moment St. Paul noticed this weakness and used it to his advantage, as his time had not yet come, as he announced himself as belonging to the faction of the Pharisees, the entire audience exploded in fury, with the Pharisees and the Sadducees violently going at each other.
Why did I bring this up, and why did I go in depth into this fact? That is because in our Gospel today, our Lord Jesus was praying to His Father in heaven, at the time when He was about to go into His Passion and death. In this supposedly last prayer, He prayed for the sake of all of His disciples and all those who believe in Him, that they all may be brought into perfect unity through the Holy Spirit, so that they may be one just as the Lord Himself is one, perfectly united in the Holy Trinity, inseparable and indivisible.
That means, all of us as Christians must not be like the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who first of all, rejected the Lord and His teachings because they trusted in their own human power, intellect, influence and all the things that they thought made them great. Those in fact had become the source of their downfall, as they became proud and divided among themselves, each with their own ego and pride.
But that is not what we as Christians should do. For our ways is not the ways of this world, and we should follow what the Lord had commanded all of us to do. And what is it that He has commanded us to do, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is for us to remain united to one another, by our connection through the Church, as all of us are members of His Church, and all of us are believing in the same God and Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as Christians, all of us ought to put our complete trust in the Lord, and keep up the faith which we have in God. There had been many people who had suffered because they kept their faith, including that of St. Paul the Apostle. Many other holy saints had suffered martyrdom because they refused to let go of their faith, or to deny their Lord and Saviour before others.
St. Justin the Martyr was one of such holy saint, whose feast we commemorate today in his honour. He was a renowned philosopher and teacher of the faith, who converted from the Roman paganism to the Christian faith because the traditional beliefs of paganism and polytheism, as well as all the philosophical thoughts at that time failed to truly satisfy his desire to seek for that emptiness inside his heart to be filled, which he eventually found in the Lord, Who filled it with His love and truth.
It was told that he contributed a lot to the establishment of the early Church, as he travelled around the Empire preaching about the Lord Jesus and His salvation to many people. Eventually he was arrested by the Roman authorities upon the report from a philosopher he debated against, who was a particularly hostile opponent of Christianity.
And despite being threatened to give sacrificial offerings to the Emperor and to the Roman pagan gods, under the threat of pain, suffering and death, St. Justin stood by his faith, and declared before all that he remained true to his faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all, and if he had to die, he then died in the Name of the Lord, glorifying Him by remaining faithful to Him to the very end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Justin the Martyr has shown us all that as long as we remain united to the Lord through His Church and by the faith which we have in Him, we shall not be shaken, for the Lord Himself will safeguard us, and He will guide us along the path of justice and righteousness. And we will remain united and one, amidst all the challenges and the temptations the devil is throwing at us.
Let us all not be divided among ourselves, as what the Pharisees and the Sadducees had experienced, but instead, let us all strive to remain united to the Lord through His Church, and pray for the eventual unity and conversion of all Christians to the truth, that the bitter truth of the divisions in our Church may be healed, and all of our separated and misled brethren may seek reconciliation, and return to the Holy Mother Church. May the Lord bless us all. Amen.