Friday, 30 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us celebrate the feast of the first martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, remembering all those martyrs of the faith, who perished during the great persecution by the Roman Emperor Nero, in conjunction with what we celebrated yesterday in the great Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, both Apostles who also died in martyrdom during the same period of persecution.

At that time, the Church which the two Apostles St. Peter and St. Paul founded in the city of Rome, the capital and heart of the Roman Empire was truly flourishing with many converts from the Jewish and Gentiles communities alike. Many more people turned from their pagan gods to follow the Lord, Who have shown His glory through His Apostles and disciples, as we have heard in our Scripture passages today.

He healed them of their sickness and diseases, and caused evil spirits to go away from the people afflicted by them. He brought joy to the people much as Abraham in our first reading, faithful to the Covenant which God established with him, received his share of joy in the child whom God promised him, Isaac, his own son with his wife Sarah. And thus, the faithful God showed His love to His people, and many more people came to believe in Him.

But there were great oppositions from those who were not happy to see all these people becoming Christians, as those who believe in God. First of all, there were those who were opposed to the teachings of Christ, including those who were holding fast to the way of the Pharisees among the Jews, as well as those who were pagan in nature, the pagan philosophers and teachers who saw the Christian faith as a threat to them.

Then, the Imperial administration, the government, the Emperor and all the state officials viewed the Christian faith with suspect, particularly and primarily because, having adhered themselves completely and truly to the teachings of the Lord, refused to offer sacrifices to the Roman pagan gods and idols as well as to the Emperor, which was mandated from all the Roman citizens and subjects.

Therefore, the state carried out a great persecution of Christians, particularly in the city of Rome, when the perfect opportunity to scapegoat and blame them appeared as the Emperor Nero allegedly instigated the Great Fire of Rome, when most of the capital came down in a great fire that engulfed most of it. Christians were blamed for the fire, and many were put to death because of their faith as a result.

Many of the faithful were put to the gladitorial games in the Roman arenas, where they were thrown to the lions and wild beasts to be torn apart. Many were also put to death by beheading and by crucifixion. Yet, most if not all of these faithful people of God never feared, and they faced their death with faith, knowing that the Lord was with them, to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these should bring us to the reality of our faith, that as Christians, there will always be obstacles and challenges in our path, not least from this world and all those who belong to the world, all those who are opposed to the Lord, to His ways, His truth and His salvation. Remember, brethren, that the devil and his angels are always prowling about, waiting for us to fall into the trap of his sin, temptation and persuasion that we end up as their prey.

Therefore, let us all be inspired by the examples of the first martyrs of the Church of Rome, whose memory we celebrate on this day. Let us be inspired by their steadfast faith, and their refusal to let go of their principles and their faith, even if certainly they must have been persuaded to do so. Let us all thus stand firm in our faith, and be really obedient to the will of God, by our actions and deeds in this life.

May the Lord be with us always in our journey of life, and may He empower us all to become His faithful disciples so that in all of our actions in life, we will always bring glory to Him, and will be worthy to share in that inheritance He has granted to all of His saints and martyrs, not least those martyrs whose memory even now, we remember before Him. May God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 30 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Matthew 8 : 1-4

At that time, when Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. Then a leper came forward. He knelt before Him and said, “Sir, if You want to, You can make me clean.”

Jesus stretched out His hand, touched him, and said, “I want to, be clean again.” At that very moment, the man was cleansed from his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you do not tell anyone; but go to the priest, have yourself declared clean, and offer the gift that Moses commanded as evidence for them.”

Friday, 30 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear YHVH and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots, will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears YHVH. May YHVH praise you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Friday, 30 June 2017 : 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs)
Genesis 17 : 1, 9-10, 15-22

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, YHVH appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty. Walk in My presence and be without blame! For your part, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you, generation after generation. This is My Covenant with you, that you will keep, you and your descendants after you : Every male among you shall be circumcised.”

God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai, your wife, no longer are you to call her Sarai, but Sarah. I will bless her, and I will give you a son by her. I will bless her and from her will come nations; kings and peoples shall come from her.”

Then Abraham fell face down, and he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? And can Sarah who is ninety have a child?” And Abraham said to God, “If only You would accept Ishmael as Yours!” But God said, “Not at all! It is Sarah, your wife, who will give birth to your son and you will name him Isaac. I will establish My Covenant with him and his descendants after him forever.”

“As for Ishmael, I heard you. I will bless him and make him fruitful, and I will multiply his race. He shall be the father of twelve princes and I will make of him a great nation. But My Covenant I will establish with Isaac, the child Sarah will have this time next year.” When He had finished speaking with Abraham, God went away from him.

Thursday, 1 June 2017 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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.

Thursday, 1 June 2017 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red
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, 1 June 2017 : 7th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red
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.