Monday, 1 June 2015 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard about the parable of the vineyard tenants which was told by Jesus to the people including to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were there as well. This parable tells us that there were tenants entrusted with the care of the vineyard by its owner, and yet they refused to fulfill their part of the bargain, by acting wickedly and trying to claim the vineyard as their own.

This parable is a clear representation of the reality between God and mankind, and in what God had done to men, and how men responded to the works which God had done in them. The vineyard owner himself is a representation of the Lord, who owned this universe and this world, just as the vineyard itself represents the world we are living in. The tenants represents all of us mankind, who have been given the trust to take care of the world since the beginning of time.

In the Book of Genesis, after God had created men, He entrusted to them the world to be cared of. He entrusted them with the stewardship and guardianship of the world, that they would take care of and reign over all creations in the world, but not by their own might, but because they were supposed to be the stewards of the Lord, the true Master of the world and the universe.

But we have grown proud and we gave in to our human greed, beginning from the time when we succumbed to the temptations of Satan, who tempted us with knowledge and power. Ever since then, we have desired all things to ourselves. And in the same way, we grew wicked and disobedient to the way of the Lord. We prefer to walk on our own path, and again and again, we showed that by committing ever more sins in the sight of God and men alike.

Ever since the days of Noah, the times of the Tower of Babel, the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah, the rebelliousness of the sons of Israel on their way out of exile in Egypt, the wickedness of the kings who ruled after Solomon, and the continued wickedness, eventually culminating with the corruption and the stubbornness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who rejected Jesus, the Son of God whom the Father had sent into the world.

This was perfectly represented by the parable, where the wicked and evil tenants refused to pay their due, the rent and share of the harvest which they ought to pay to the owner. Servants after servants were sent to them, but they were rejected, tortured and even murdered, precisely as how the people of God, all mankind had constantly refused to listen to God and to His messengers, and killed His servants.

And they also refused to listen to the One whom He had sent to be the Saviour of all, the Messiah and Son of God, Jesus Christ, who foretold of His own suffering and death at the hands of the wicked when He told of this parable to His disciples. It was just as the wicked tenants plotted against the son of the owner out of their own selfish desires, they were unrepentant and rebellious.

In the first reading from the Book of Tobit, we heard how Tobit, one of the exiles of the Northern kingdom of Israel after it was conquered by the Assyrians, continued to do what is upright and good in the sight of God. This is despite all the challenges that he had to face and the mockery which he had to endure from his own people, who mocked him for tirelessly helping those who were destitute and rejected themselves.

Tobit indeed suffered, and misfortunes befell him, as he lost his sight, and people continued to mock him, friends and relatives left him behind and forgot about him, but he remained faithful and devoted to the Lord, just as another faithful man of God, that is Job, had once also experience. Both remained firm in their faith to God, and in the end, they were healed and made whole once again. They received blessings and graces even greater than what they had before.

And today, we also ought to reflect on the life of St. Justin, martyr of the Faith, who was a Roman martyr of persecution of the faithful by the Romans. He was once a pagan and a philosopher, who looked for various teachers and inspirations including from the past philosophers and teachers, but he was not satisfied with all that he had discovered for many years of his education and journey.

St. Justin eventually discovered Christ through his discussion with an elderly Christian, who opened his eyes to the greatness and the truth of the Lord. He found solace and true satisfaction in the Lord, and he changed his pursuit and focus in life to serve the Lord, the one and only God of all.

He eventually preached to many people after he became a Christian, and established a school in Rome, preaching to ever more people, until his enemies and those who feared the Faith accused him of wrongdoing and he was martyred with his followers. And through that, he was raised to the glory of heaven for shedding his blood and life for the sake of the Lord.

All these examples of holy men and servants of God show us that God will reward well all those who had placed their faith and trust in him, namely, the good and faithful tenants who do things according to what they are expected to. These will receive the inheritance and the parts intended to all others who have not been faithful, the wayward and wicked tenants.

As mentioned in the Gospel, the Lord would come just as the vineyard owner came in the end to bring justice and punishment to all the wicked tenants. This should be a reminder to all of us, not to be like the wicked tenants in our lives. Rather, we should be good tenants, namely faithful servants of God and good stewards of this world entrusted to us. We should heed the examples of the holy men, Tobit, Job, St. Justin and his companions, and many others who have devoted themselves to the Lord.

Therefore, let us all pray, that all of us may grow less attached and affected by our human desires and greed, but let us all instead grow stronger in humility, and in our faith and devotion to the Lord our God, so that at the end of all, the Lord may say to us, ‘Well done, My faithful servant. Come into the inheritance I have prepared for you.’ Let us all seek this in life. God be with us all. Amen.

Monday, 1 June 2015 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 1-12

At that time, using parables, Jesus went on to say, “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press and built a watch tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenants and went abroad.”

“In due time he sent a servant to receive from the tenants his share of the fruit. But they seized the servant, struck him and sent him back empty-handed. Again the man sent another servant. They also struck him on the head and treated him shamefully.”

“He sent another and they killed him. In the same way they treated many others : some they beat up and others they killed. One was still left, his beloved son. And so, last of all, he sent him to the tenants, for he said, ‘They will respect my son.'”

“But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him and the property will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. Now what will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

And Jesus added, “Have you not read this text of the Scriptures : ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the keystone; this is the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it?'”

They wanted to arrest Him, for they realised that Jesus meant this parable for them, but they were afraid of the crowd; so they left Him and went away.

Monday, 1 June 2015 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! Blessed is the one who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commands. His children will be powerful on earth; the upright’s offspring will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are for his family, there his integrity will remain. He is for the righteous a light in darkness. He is kind, merciful and upright.

It will be well with him who lends freely, who leads a life of justice and honesty. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered and loved forever.

Monday, 1 June 2015 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Tobit 1 : 3 and Tobit 2 : 1b-8

I, Tobit, have walked in the ways of truth and justice all the days of my life; I have given many alms to my brethren and to those of my countrymen who were deported with me to Nineveh, a city in the country of the Assyrians.

At the feast of Pentecost, the sacred feast of the Seven Weeks, they prepared a good meal for me and I sat down to eat. I saw the many dishes and said to my son : “Go and bring as many as you can find of our relatives who are in need and who remember the Lord. I will wait here for them.”

When Tobias returned, he said : “Father, one of ours has been strangled and thrown into the public square.” Before I ate anything, I hurried out and carried this man into the house and waited till sunset to bury him. When I returned home I washed myself and ate my food in sorrow. I remembered the prophecy which Amos uttered against Bethel : ‘Your feasts will be turned into mourning. All your songs will be turned into lamentations,’ and I wept.”

After sunset I went out and, after I had dug a trench, I buried the man. My neighbours mocked me, saying : “He no longer fears to be put to death for doing that; he had to flee but look he is again burying the dead.”