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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Red
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 2016 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the exchanges between Jesus and the Sadducees, an influential and powerful group in the Jewish society at the time, namely those who practiced and believed in pragmatism and rejecting spirituality and matters beyond what can be deduced with human reasoning, one of the greatest of which is the matter of the resurrection from the dead.

The Sadducees did not believe in spirits, in Angels, in all things that are beyond this world. That is why they were particularly unhappy and angry at what Jesus had been telling the people about the matters of the life after death, the afterlife, and the promise of the eternal life after the death of the physical body. That is why they confronted Him and tried to discredit Him and brought Him into trouble by asking Him a difficult question to trap Him in His own words.

But Jesus gave them a perfect answer and rebuke, when they asked about whose wife would the woman attached to seven brothers be in heaven. Jesus rebuked them for their naivety and failure to look beyond matters of this world. These thought of things that are not important, thinking of woman as mere property and marriage as a mere formality.

They could not comprehend all these because they were thinking in worldly terms. They thought of living at the moment, living for the world that is now, and they even tend to fear of what is to come when people die. That is because firstly they did not believe in life after death, and death is feared as the end of everything. But they were very wrong indeed.

Indeed, all of us Christians have that core faith and belief in God, that we believe in the life of the world to come. That is placed prominently at the very end of our Creed, the Nicene and the Apostles’ Creed, which we recite with faith at every celebrations of the Holy Mass on Sundays. And we also believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, Who suffered, died on the cross and rose again gloriously at the Resurrection.

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the hope for all of us Christians, and indeed, for all mankind, for through His own resurrection, all of us have been given an undeniable and solid proof of life beyond death, of our eventual triumph over death, and that death does not have the final say over us. We feared death because we saw it as an end, but in fact, death is not the end, rather the beginning of something new.

Today therefore, as in our first reading, as what St. Paul had written to St. Timothy, all of us are urged to stand up for our faith and live with devotion to our God. We must not fear and be afraid just because our faith and beliefs are against that of the world, or if the world persecutes us because we believe in God and His ways. This is how it is supposed to be, and what we must do as those who follow the Lord and His ways.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Justin the Martyr, a renowned servant of God whose life can indeed be inspiration for all of us. St. Justin was known especially for his many writings and works, particularly regarding the nature of God, on the nature of the Incarnation of the Logos, the Divine Word of God, Who became Man for our sake, Jesus Christ.

St. Justin explained many of the tenets and aspects of the faith through his many works, and thanks to him, many people grew firmer in their faith and many others were converted from their pagan ways. St. Justin did not fear the opposition of the world and openly preached his faith among the many communities of the faithful at that time. But the world did not remain quiet, and in the end, they persecuted the faithful, including St. Justin, who endured martyrdom for his faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. Justin was courageous in his faith and devoted his whole life to serve the Lord, even amidst persecution and challenges laid in his path by the world and the Roman authorities. But, because of his hard works and his devotion to the faith, he has led many others into salvation, by his inspiring examples, which helped to call many more people to remain faithful to God and His ways.

Shall we all therefore also follow his examples and live our faith and our lives with zeal and devotion? We should not be afraid of the world’s rejection, but rather, we should grow ever bolder and stronger in standing up for our faith and our beliefs, against the ways of this world that are against the Lord’s ways.

Let us all hold firm in our beliefs, in what Jesus had taught us all through His Church, that we may not be swayed by the falsehoods of the world. In the Risen Lord, His resurrection has given us the sure hope and the certainty of the future for us if we believe in Him and keep our faith in Him alive. May God help us to remain firmly faithful to Him at all times. God bless us all. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 18-27

At that time, the Sadducees also came to Jesus. Since they claim that there is no resurrection, they questioned Him in this way, “Master, in the Scriptures Moses gave us this law : if anyone dies and leaves a wife but no children, his brother must take the woman, and with her have a baby, who will be considered the child of his deceased brother.”

“Now, there were seven brothers. The first married a wife, but he died without leaving any children. The second took the wife, and he also died leaving no children. The same thing happened to the third. In fact, all seven brothers died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. Now, in the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife? For all seven brothers had her as wife.”

Jesus replied, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry, but are like Angels in heaven. Now, about the resurrection of the dead, have you never had thoughts about the burning bush in the book of Moses?”

“God said to Moses : ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ He is the God not of the dead but of the living. You are totally wrong.”

Wednesday, 1 June 2016 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 122 : 1-2a, 2bcd

To You I lift up my eyes, to You Whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their master.

As the eyes of maids look to the hand of their mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till He shows us His mercy.