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.

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.