Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are called to dedicate ourselves to the Lord while doing what is right and required according to the laws and requirements of the nations and the states of this world that each one of us belong to. As good Christians of course first and foremost we must obey the Lord and devote ourselves to Him in all things, but at the same time, as far as possible and so long as it does not contradict our faith in God, then we must also obey the laws of the land.

In our Gospel passage this was summarised well as we heard the Lord speaking to the chief priests and the Pharisees who wanted to trap Him with His own words and responses to their queries, with regards to the matter of paying the taxes due to the Romans. At that time, the Romans were the rulers and the overlords of the land, including that of the Jewish state and territories throughout Judea and Galilee, and taxes is an important sign of control as well as submission to the Roman rule.

Naturally, many among the Jews resented the imposition of taxes as they did not want to be ruled by the Romans, regardless of what benefits that had brought them. They wanted to be free and this led to efforts to free the land from Roman rule, even through the use of force and struggle as done by the Zealots and other extremist freedom fighters at the time. If the Lord had told the chief priests to pay the taxes to the Romans, then the latter could have undermined the Lord’s authority and credibility by portraying Him as a traitor to the people and country.

On the other hand, had the Lord told the chief priests that the people should not pay any taxes, then immediately the latter could have then handed Him to the Romans for inducing a sedition and treasonous action among the people by refusing to pay the obligatory Roman taxes. The Romans took any attempt at betrayal and treason very seriously, and throughout its earlier history, they had treated treason as very grave threat and crime against the state punishable by death. This is what the Lord eventually suffered as the chief priests later on would hand Him over to the Romans with the false accusation that Jesus wanted to proclaim Himself King of the Jews.

Hence, the Lord then wisely answered the queries of the chief priests by saying that one ought to give to God what belongs to God and then give to man and country what belongs to those. And this is the truth that cannot be refuted by any of those who tried to accuse the Lord wrongly, as when one paid their taxes, they did so with the coins issued by the Romans, stamped with the image of the Emperor. As such, those coins did belong to the state and the Emperor, just as our own modern day currency also belong to the state, and in fact in a lot of places, it is illegal to deface or damage a piece of currency be it a paper money or coinage.

Meanwhile, what does it mean by giving to God what belongs to God? It means that we ought to give of ourselves, dedicating our own time, effort and attention to the Lord. Why is that so? That is because we are all God’s own people, His own beloved ones, and we all belong to Him. Hence, it is only right that we give ourselves to God wholeheartedly and commit ourselves to Him thoroughly, as best as we are able to, in every moment and at all times.

This is therefore what we are all challenged to do as Christians, to be faithful and obedient to God while trying our best to be law-abiding citizens of this world as much as we are able to do. And while this is not something that is easy to be done, we should gain the courage and strength to do what we can to remain faithful to the Lord while managing the expectations of the world. Of course, first and foremost we have to obey the divine Law first, but as long as the local and human laws do not contradict the divine Law, we can obey those as well.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Justin the Martyr, a renowned early Church Father and philosopher who was once a pagan but then after a fateful encounter with a wise old Christian man, came to know of the Lord and His infinite wonders, and then he chose to become a Christian afterwards. He established a well-known school of philosophy in Rome, gaining quite a few followers, many among whom also decided to become Christians. Through his writings, it was told that he managed to get the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, another famous philosopher, to end the persecution of Christians by the Roman state.

While later on St. Justin would be arrested and martyred together with some of his followers, after a dispute with another philosopher who then incited the authorities to arrest him, St. Justin showed us through his works and interactions, with pagan philosophers and even with the Emperor himself, that it was indeed possible to be fully faithful and committed to God and yet also live in harmony as a law-abiding member of the community and the state. In fact, it was this harmonious coexistence that often gave rise to various opportunities at evangelisation of the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on this matter, let us all seek to follow the examples set by St. Justin the Martyr and our many other holy predecessors that we may also be first and foremost be wholeheartedly committed to the Lord and love Him with all of our heart, but at the same time also doing our best to live harmoniously with the world, and do our best to reach out to our fellow brothers and sisters in our community. Through our exemplary faith and actions, our sincerity in loving one another, may God’s Name ever be glorified, and may He bless us all in our every efforts and good works, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 12 : 13-17

At that time, the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the elders sent to Jesus some Pharisees with members of Herod’s party, with the purpose of trapping him by his own words. They came and said to Jesus, “Master, we know that You are truthful; You are not influenced by anyone, and Your answers do not vary according to who is listening to You, but You truly teach God’s way. Tell us, is it against the Law to pay taxes to Caesar? Should we pay them or not?”

But Jesus saw through their trick and answered, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a silver coin and let Me see it.” They brought Him one and Jesus asked, “Whose image is this, and whose name?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they were greatly astonished.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 111 : 1-2, 7-8, 9

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.

For his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is confident, he needs not fear, he shall prevail over his foes at the end.

He gives generously to the poor, his merits will last forever and his head will be raised in honour.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021 : 9th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Tobit 2 : 9-14

That same night, after I had buried the body, I returned home. I washed myself and went out into the courtyard to sleep against the wall; my face was uncovered because of the heat. I did not see that there were sparrows on the wall of the courtyard and, as my eyes were open, the hot droppings from the sparrows fell into my eyes and formed a white film on my eyes.

I went to find doctors to attend to me for medical treatment but the more ointments they smeared on my eyes, the more blind I became because of the film. Finally I became totally blind. I suffered from blindness for four years. All my brothers were burdened because of me. Ahikar kept me for two years before he departed for Elymiade.

My wife Anna worked hard at a woman’s task, weaving. On the seventh day of the month of March she cut the cloth and delivered it to her employers. They paid her wages and gave her, over and above, a young goat for food. When she returned home the kid began to cry. I said to her, “Where does the little kid come from? Did you steal it? Return it to its owners for we are not allowed to eat anything that is stolen.”

But she said, “It is a gift which has been given to me in addition to my wages.” “I do not believe it. I tell you to return it to its owners.” I was ashamed of her. She replied, “What about your own almsgiving and your good deeds? I have to put up with all this from you.”

Saturday, 1 June 2019 : 6th 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 listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us all of the truth which all of us have received from none other than God Himself, through the very words of Our Lord Jesus as written in the Scriptures and through the inspiration given to the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord by the Holy Spirit. Through this truth, we have received the true meaning of what it means for us to be followers of the Lord.

In the first reading today we heard about the passion and the courage by which Apollos, one of the Lord’s disciples, went about many places making testimonies and preachings, leveraging on his great charisma and popularity to attract many people to the faith. Although Apollos did not have the full knowledge of the truth, but his passion and commitment to do what the Lord had called him to do was truly remarkable.

And we heard how some of the disciples came to Apollos and instructed him in the fullness of the truth as passed onto them by the Apostles and through the Holy Spirit. This was exactly what the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel passage we heard today, of the moment when He would reveal everything to His disciples and no longer speaking in veiled language and parables.

The Lord revealed His truth to His disciples and by sending them the Holy Spirit, He explained the meaning of this truth, which was then preserved through the Church, by the hard work and the commitment of the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord, who committed themselves to the propagation of the truth and the conservation of those same truths as recorded in the Scriptures and supplemented by the Apostolic traditions of the Church.

When the Apostles and the disciples went on with their evangelisation and missionary works, they stood up for the truth of God, even in the midst of opposition from the world, from all those who did not want the truth to be propagated. And many of them had to suffer and endure persecutions because of their defense of those truths. They went to prison, were tortured and not few were martyred for their faith.

Today, we celebrate the feast of one of those many martyrs of the truth of God. St. Justin the Martyr was a renowned Roman martyr and saint who was one of the early teachers of the faith who was once an intelligent pagan that has great eloquence in knowledge and philosophy. He became a Christian when he encountered an old Syrian Christian man who opened his eyes and mind to the truth of God.

From then on, St. Justin rededicated himself to the service of the Lord and made use of his great intellectual skills and knowledge to the purpose of the propagation of the Christian truth and faith. Many more people were themselves converted to the truth of God through the many works of St. Justin, as he travelled from places to places spreading God’s truth to everyone whom he encountered.

He was imprisoned and made to suffer by his enemies, the pagan philosophers who opposed him and sent him to the Roman authorities who tortured him and some other of the saints, eventually ended with his beheading. But even through his suffering and martyrdom, St. Justin continued to inspire many more people and more of the faithful throughout the centuries, to remain strongly attached and to stand by the truth of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how about us then? Are we able and willing to stand up to the truth of God in the same way as St. Justin and many of our committed predecessors had done? We ourselves have received the same truth from God through His Church, and just as the Apostles and the disciples had laboured hard in order to continue the spreading of the truth, we too have the same charge and responsibility to do the same.

Let us all devote ourselves anew therefore to the way of the Lord’s truth, by being sincere and being as committed as possible, in all the things we say and do, to be exemplary in everything we act so that everyone who witness us, our words and all of our actions will see God’s truth being fully alive and shown in our own lives and actions. May God be by our side always and strengthen us in our faith and in our understanding of His truth. Amen.

Saturday, 1 June 2019 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

John 16 : 23b-28

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My Name, He will give you. So far you have not asked in My Name; ask, and receive, that your joy may be full.”

“I taught you all this in veiled language, but the time is coming when I shall no longer speak in veiled language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. When that day comes, you will ask in My Name; and it will not be for Me to ask the Father for you, for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and you believe that I came from the Father.”

“As I came from the Father, and have come into the world, so I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.”

Saturday, 1 June 2019 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 46 : 2-3, 8-9, 10

Clap your hands, all you peoples; acclaim God with shouts of joy. For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared; He is a great King all over the earth.

God is King of all the earth; sing to Him a hymn of praise. For God now rules over the nations, God reigns from His holy throne.

The leaders of the nations rally together with the people of the God of Abraham. For in His hands are the great of the earth, God reigns far above.

Saturday, 1 June 2019 : 6th Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Acts 18 : 23-28

After spending some time at Antioch, Paul left and travelled from place to place through Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples. A certain Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived at Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and an authority on the Scriptures, and he had some knowledge of the way of the Lord.

With great enthusiasm he preached and taught correctly about Jesus, although he knew only of John’s baptism. As he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, Priscilla and Aquila heard him; so they took him home with them and explained to him the way more accurately.

As Apollos wished to go to Achaia, the believers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly strengthened those who, by God’s grace, had become believers, for he vigorously refuted the Jews, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.

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.”