Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th 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 listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us that as Christians, all of us are called to love one another, and all of us must have a living faith that bears fruit, the fruits of our faith and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise our faith is empty, dead and meaningless. We have to then look at the Gospel passage today in order to understand this better.

In the Gospel, we heard of how the Lord Jesus and His disciples travelled and encountered a fig tree, that was found to be without any fruits at all. The Lord cursed the barren and fruitless tree, and went on His way. Eventually, when they all returned to the same place a few days later and saw the fig tree, it had withered and died, the entire tree, showing us what will happen to us should we be found empty and fruitless in our faith.

What does it mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that if our faith is limited to just a formality or merely a religious certificate, and even if we attend the Sunday Masses but merely to fulfil the Sunday obligations without appreciating, understanding and embracing the importance of the Holy Mass, then I am afraid that our faith is still mostly empty, meaningless and dead.

St. James said in his Epistle that faith without good works is dead. This is exactly what I meant by saying that we should not have an empty, fruitless and meaningless faith. Faith that exists just by itself, and not made alive and real through concrete actions and devotions, especially love, is useless and empty. And this is an important matter that all of us as Christians must realise, or otherwise, we will end up leading an empty and fruitless Christian life.

Perhaps, we should follow the examples of St. Justin the Martyr, whose memory we commemorate today. St. Justin the Martyr was a shining example of Christian discipleship and he showed all of us what it truly means to be fruitful in our faith. He was a brilliant man who lived in the era of the pagan Roman Empire, and was a renowned and intellectual pagan philosopher, who was searching for the true meaning of life and wisdom.

However, it ended up that no matter how much knowledge and wisdom he gained, he was unable to satisfy his desire and the emptiness he felt in his mind and heart. Instead, that led him to encounter the Lord through the Christian faith, and after having discussed and debated about the faith, he ended up being persuaded of the truth and the wisdom of the Christian faith, found only in the Lord’s teachings, and became a convert.

Henceforth, St. Justin ministered to many of the faithful, through his great intellect, wisdom and knowledge, spreading the faith to many parts of the Empire. Many souls were saved because of his works and teachings, and he tirelessly spent his effort trying to bring the truth to more and more people. However, he encountered many challenges and difficulties, to the point of being arrested after one of the pagan philosophers who debated with him reported him to the authorities because of his Christian faith.

Despite all efforts spent on trying to make him to abandon his faith in the Lord, and even when his intellect impressed many of his torturers and jailers, including even the Roman Emperor, St. Justin remained strongly and firmly attached to his faith, and remained dedicated fully to the Lord, choosing martyrdom over abandoning his Lord and Master. This, brothers and sisters in Christ, is the kind of faith and dedication that each and every one of us must have, a fruitful and living faith.

Let us all therefore, devote ourselves anew to the Lord, not just through exterior observances of the faith, but also through our love and care for one another, showing true Christian charity, even to those who are suffering around us. It is through this that all of us lead a genuine Christian life, and by loving one another we also love the Lord our God. He Himself showed us a vision of the Last Judgment and said, that whatever we have done to the least of our brethren, we are doing it for the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore turn to the Lord with all of our hearts, and focus our attention on Him from now on. Let us all make the Lord as the centre and heart of our lives. May the Lord be with us all in this journey of life, and may He continue to empower us to live faithfully day after day. Amen.

Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 11 : 11-25

At that time, Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the Temple. And after He had looked all around, as it was already late, He went out to Bethany with the Twelve. The next day, when they were leaving Bethany, He felt hungry. In the distance, He noticed a fig tree covered with leaves; so He went to see if He could find anything on it.

When He reached it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. Then Jesus said to the fig tree, “May no one ever eat your fruit!” And His disciples heard these words. When they reached Jerusalem, Jesus went to the Temple, and began to drive away all the people He saw buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the stools of those who sold pigeons. And He would not let anyone carry anything through the Temple area.

Jesus then taught the people, “Does not God say in the Scriptures : My House will be called a House of Prayer for all the nations? But you have turned it into a den of thieves.”

The chief priests and the teachers of the Law heard of this, and they tried to find a way to destroy Him. They were afraid of Him, because all the people were astonished by His teaching. When evening came, Jesus left the city.

Early next morning, as they walked along the road, the disciples saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter then said to Him, “Master, look! The fig tree You cursed has withered.” And Jesus replied, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and have no doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.”

“Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be done for you. And when you stand to pray, if you have anything against anyone, forgive.”

Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 95 : 10, 11-12a, 12b-13

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Friday, 1 June 2018 : 8th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 Peter 4 : 7-13

The end of all things is near; keep your minds calm and sober, for prayer. Above all, let your love for one another be sincere, for love covers a multitude of sins. Welcome one another into your houses without complaining. Serve one another with the gifts each of you received, thus becoming good managers of the varied graces of God.

If you speak, deliver the word of God; if you have a special ministry, let it be seen as God’s power, so that, in everything, God may be glorified, in Jesus Christ. To Him, belong glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

My dear people, do not be surprised at the testing, by fire, which is taking place among you, as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, you should be glad to share in the sufferings of Christ, because, on the day His glory is revealed, you will also fully rejoice.

Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us heard today the very clear call from the prophet Hosea upon the people of God, for them to repent from their sins and to return to the faith of their forefathers. This is made in the context of the wickedness of the people who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, which had been ransacked and crushed by their enemies, because of their sins and wickedness, their refusal to obey the Lord and His laws.

The prophet Hosea promised the same promise that God has frequently told His people, that He would not abandon them to the darkness, but He would reconcile all of them to Himself, and therefore, they would once again be His people and receive again the fullness of His love and blessings. God loved all of them and did not wish to see them perish in the hands of their enemies or falling into the eternal damnation in hell.

That was the reason why, He gave them His laws and sent His prophets to their midst, so that they might seek repentance and to be forgiven from all their waywardness and from all the sins that they had committed. But the people continued to harden their hearts and refused to believe in Him or His prophets, and they continued to worship the pagan idols and did more wicked deeds, killing the prophets and messengers sent to their midst.

As a result, the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, and all the people of God were scattered. Many of them were brought off to faraway lands in Assyria and Babylon as slaves and exiles, losing the lands promised to them and their ancestors. All of these were caused by their lack of faith and obedience, and because of those sins, that they refused to repent from, they have received the just punishment for their actions.

But again, God still loved all of His people, despite all of their sins, their stubbornness and constant refusal to obey His laws and commandments. He continued to send prophets after prophets, and messengers after messengers who spoke of God’s forgiveness and mercy which He would show to His people should they turn their hearts and minds back to Him and abandon their ways of sin.

And that was why He sent us His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour and Redeemer. Through Christ, the Lord revealed the fullness of the truth about Himself and His love for us all. He revealed that all that He had done for His people, are all because of His enduring and everlasting love for them. He revealed to them that His Law is indeed about love, and first of all, love which is shown to Him, above all other things, and then love shown to others, to our brothers and sisters in our midst.

But at the time of Jesus, again the people hardened their hearts. At that time, they misunderstood the Law and misused it to serve their own selfish intentions. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law used the Law to advance their own careers and prestige in the society. Instead of bringing the people closer to God, they closer off the kingdom of God from the reach of man. They have been entrusted with the task to bring the people to love God more in their lives, but they have failed in that endeavour.

Thus the Lord Jesus wanted to remind us all Christians, all of us who love Him and accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, that we have to obey His Law with understanding, that is by loving God and putting Him first and foremost in our lives, without anything else in the way or as distractions in our worship of God. Then, we must also love one another, our fellow brethren, by showing genuine care and concern, compassion and love for those who need them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us emulate the examples of St. Frances of Rome, holy woman and servant of God whose feast we celebrate today. St. Frances of Rome was a saint renowned for her charity and good works among God’s people as a lay associate of the Benedictines religious order. She was remembered for her prayerful life and devotion, and for her loving care towards her peers, opening her house as an emergency hospital for multitudes of people when a great plague struck her hometown.

Are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. Frances of Rome? Are we able to love the Lord Our God and love one another with the same intensity as she had done and shown us? This is the challenge that we are all called to do in this season of Lent, to renew our faith and spiritual life, that each and every one of us will no longer live our lives according to our past sinfulness, but instead, will find a new existence filled with God’s love and grace.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us to live faithfully in accordance with His will. May God bless us all and our journey of faith this Lenten season. Amen.

Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 12 : 28b-34

At that time, a teacher of the Law came up and asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?”

Jesus answered, “The first is : Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment : You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.”

The teacher of the Law said to Him, “Well spoken, Master; You are right when You say that He is one, and there is no other besides Him. To love Him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.”

Jesus approved of this answer and said, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask Him any more questions.

Friday, 9 March 2018 : 3rd Week of Lent, Memorial of St. Frances of Rome, Religious (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 80 : 6c-8a, 8bc-9, 10-11ab, 14 and 17

Open wide your mouth and I will fill it, I relieved your shoulder from burden; I freed your hands. You called in distress, and I saved you.

Unseen, I answered you in thunder; I tested you at the waters of Meribah. Hear, My people, as I admonish you. If only you would listen, o Israel!

There shall be no strange god among you, you shall not worship any alien god, for I the Lord am your God, who led you forth from the land of Egypt.

If only My people would listen, if only Israel would walk in My ways. I would feed you with the finest wheat and satisfy you with honey from the rock.