Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the moment when St. Paul reached Jerusalem and caused a great uproar there as the members of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council and their supporters, both from the party of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, had gathered to persecute St. Paul and to condemn him. However, they could not agree on how they were to handle him.

St. Paul knew that they would do whatever they could to persecute him and even condemn him to death, but that was not what the Holy Spirit had guided him to do. He still had one last mission to do, to evangelise to the people in the city of Rome, the capital and centre of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was not yet time for St. Paul to be persecuted to his death. And that was why he incited the two opposing groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees to a near riot simply because he said that he was a Pharisee, and it was his belief in what the Pharisees believed that led him to be put on trial there.

St. Paul as Saul was indeed a Pharisee and a zealous one at that, before he was called by God and was redeemed, turning over a new leaf and embracing a new path in life as God’s servant. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were often at loggerheads as they were diametrically opposite in their beliefs, with the Pharisees believing firmly in the spiritual and immaterial world, the resurrection of the dead, the presence of spirits and Angels, while the Sadducees represent the secular party, those who firmly reject all those, and particularly oppose the notion of life after death and the resurrection.

That declaration by St. Paul was enough to drive the assembly into a frenzy, each group defending their own viewpoints and attacking the other, to the point that some of those same Pharisees even defended St. Paul and said before the assembly how he was innocent and not to be punished, totally contradicting their own stance earlier on. It was also proof that whatever false charges and accusations they wanted to impose on St. Paul was not valid and right in the first place. Nonetheless, St. Paul allowed the Holy Spirit to guide his path, and he was rescued by the guards who led him to the Roman governor, before whom the Apostle would claim trial and appeal before the Emperor himself, paving for his final missionary journey to Rome.

As we have heard in those readings today, including in the Gospel where we heard the Lord praying for the sake of His disciples, that they would be blessed and protected, united and kept as one flock, hence, as Christians we have to realise that in following the Lord, we may often have to endure trials and challenges, and we may have to suffer a lot just as St. Paul had experienced. Many of our predecessors throughout the history of the Church were persecuted and had to face prison and all sorts of torture in their faithful living of their lives and their dedication to God.

And these include St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, the two renowned saints who were told to have perished in the most severe persecution to ever face the Church in its early days, under the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who ordered the persecution of all Christians, the burning of all Christian texts and bibles, and the destruction of churches and Christian properties. Many martyrs were born of that persecution, and yet there were many tales of those who persisted in their faith, laying down their lives for the Lord rather than choosing apostasy.

The question is, what are we then going to do? In the face of opposition and persecution, should we then turn away from the Lord for the sake of convenience and happiness, for respite and joy? Or are we going to follow the examples of the Apostles and the saints, like St. Paul, St. Marcellinus and St. Peter among many others? The temptation for us to give in to the pressure of the world, to conform to the path of sin and abandoning our faith can be really great at times, but that should not be a reason for us to turn away from God and find the way out and seeking convenience and pleasures for ourselves.

May the Lord continue to guide each and every one of us that we may be always ever faithful to Him and strong in our convictions to walk in His path, despite the persecutions and oppositions, rejections and hardships that we may have to endure. And may all of us remain resolute in living our lives with faith to the fullest, respecting one another while at the same time, standing up courageously for our faith in God, so that each and every one of us may inspire each other in faith, that in all the things we say and do, we will help our fellow brothers and sisters to remain firm in their own faith and life. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

John 17 : 20-26

At that time, Jesus prayed to God His Father, “I pray not only for these, but also for those who through their word will believe in Me. May they all be one, as You Father are in Me and I am in You. May they be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”

“I have given them the glory You have given Me, that they may be one as We are One : I in them and You in Me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity; and the world shall know that You have sent Me, and that I have loved them, just as You loved Me.”

“Father, since You have given them to Me, I want them to be with Me where I am, and see the glory You gave Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.”

“As I revealed Your Name to them, so will I continue to reveal it, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and also may be in them.”

Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Psalm 15 : 1-2a and 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

Keep me safe, o God, for in You I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “O Lord, my inheritance and my cup, my chosen portion – hold secure my lot.”

I bless the Lord Who counsels me; even at night my inmost self instructs me. I keep the Lord always before me; for with Him at my right hand, I will never be shaken.

My heart, therefore, exults, my soul rejoices; my body too will rest assured. For You will not abandon my soul to the grave, nor will You suffer Your Holy One to see decay in the land of the dead.

You will show me the path of life, in Your presence the fullness of joy, at Your right hand happiness forever.

Thursday, 2 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Red (Martyrs)

Acts 22 : 30 and Acts 23 : 6-11

The next day the commander wanted to know for certain the charges the Jews were making against Paul. So he released him from prison and called together the High Priest and the whole Council; and they brought Paul down and made him stand before them.

Paul knew that part of the Council were Sadducees and others Pharisees; so he spoke out in the Council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, son of a Pharisee. It is for the hope of the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial here.”

At these words, an argument broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the whole assembly was divided. For the Sadducees claim that there is neither resurrection, nor Angels nor spirits, while the Pharisees acknowledge all these things.

Then the shouting grew louder, and some teachers of the Law of the Pharisee party protested, “We find nothing wrong with this man. Maybe a spirit or an Angel has spoken to him.” With this the argument became so violent that the commander feared that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He therefore ordered the soldiers to go down and rescue him from their midst and take him back to the fortress.

That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Courage! As you have borne witness to Me here in Jerusalem, so must you do in Rome.”

Wednesday, 1 June 2022 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are reminded of both the sufferings and joys we will likely experience as part of the Church, as the disciples and followers of Christ. There will always be both successes and challenges that are part of our lives as Christians, as those who profess the faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, as Our Saviour and King. But that should not dampen our spirit or desire to serve Him wholeheartedly, as each and every one of us have to trust in Him and not be afraid because He will always be by our side.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Acts of the Apostles the farewell that St. Paul spoke to the assembled faithful in Ephesus, before he was to embark on his final journey, his final mission by heading willingly to Jerusalem. St. Paul knew, by the wisdom and knowledge given to him from the Holy Spirit, that this trip to Jerusalem would be the beginning of his final mission, as he would be arrested and tried by the forces of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish High Council, and set off the chain of events that would lead to his martyrdom in Rome.

St. Paul was not deterred by the challenges, trials and sufferings that he might have to face. He has suffered quite a few times earlier on as he faced rejection and opposition by quite a few of those who refused to believe in God, the Jewish authorities and their supporters as one of the many examples. Of course he also encountered a lot of successes as well, that due to his tireless works and ministry, he had managed to spread the word of God, His Good News and truth, to more and more people, establishing firm foundations of the Church and faith in numerous places, including that of Ephesus, which we heard of today.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus as He prayed to His heavenly Father asked that all those who believed in Him ought to be protected and taken care of, that none of those whom He had gathered, those who have listened to the truth of God and received His grace and love, will be lost again from Him. Those same people to whom St. Paul and the other Apostles and missionaries had evangelised to, were these same flock and people that Christ had gathered to Himself, through His Church.

To all of the faithful, the Lord had entrusted the mission to reach out and to evangelise to more and more people, those who have not yet known Him and His truth. He has given His guidance and strength to us all, through His Holy Spirit, that He has sent and bestowed to His Apostles and disciples, and through them, through the Church, to each and every one of us, we have received this same Holy Spirit that strengthens us and gives us the courage to do what is necessary to accomplish the missions that He has given us.

We must not be afraid of the challenges and trials that we may have to face, and instead we have to be inspired by the dedication showed by St. Paul the Apostle, and many other saints who have given their all in order to make the Lord better known by those who have not yet received His truth and love. We have been given the same blessings and courage, the same gifts of the Holy Spirit as what the faithful servants of God had received, but the question is, are we willing to follow their examples?

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Justin the Martyr, a renowned early Church Father and philosopher who was once a pagan but then after a fateful encounter with a wise old Christian man, came to know of the Lord and His infinite wonders, and then he chose to become a Christian afterwards. He established a well-known school of philosophy in Rome, gaining quite a few followers, many among whom also decided to become Christians. Through his writings, it was told that he managed to get the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, another famous philosopher, to end the persecution of Christians by the Roman state.

While later on St. Justin would be arrested and martyred together with some of his followers, after a dispute with another philosopher who then incited the authorities to arrest him, St. Justin showed us through his works and interactions, with pagan philosophers and even with the Emperor himself, that it was indeed possible to be fully faithful and committed to God and yet also live in harmony as a law-abiding member of the community and the state. In fact, it was this harmonious coexistence that often gave rise to various opportunities at evangelisation of the faith.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the passages of the Scriptures today and the examples set by St. Justin the Martyr, by St. Paul and all the other saints, whose life and dedication we know of, let us all therefore commit ourselves and strive to do whatever we can, in whatever capacity and opportunities presented to us, that even in the smallest things we do, we may glorify the Lord by our lives, and show to everyone the truth of His love and grace, and bring more and more of our fellow brethren to share in the same salvation and grace that we enjoy in Christ. May God be with us always and bless us in our every good endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.