Today is the required Memorial for St. Justin who took the name “Martyr.” As you know, in Greek this word means “witness.” It came to signify a witness to Christianity who gave his/her life for Christ and the Church just as St. Justin did. It is said that Justin was the first Christian philosopher. He studied various philosophies but came to realize that none of them answered the questions of existence the way that Christianity did, so he converted. He ran a School of Philosophy in Rome and used Plato’s works to bolster the Christian faith the way that St. Thomas Aquinas use Aristotle. He was one of the early Apologists in the Church; however, only two of his works have survived.
Mary is venerated under this title after her apparitions to the 3 children in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. Sometimes, we get caught up in all the supernatural things(the apparitions/3 secrets) involved and forget that the message of Fatima is very simple: a call to conversion, repentance for sins, and prayer, especially the rosary.
In the gospel for the 4th Week of Easter, Year A, we hear about shepherds. It is appropriate since the Latin word for “shepherd” is “Pastores,” we get the English word, “pastor” from it. This is what we call an ordained minister. So, the Church today prays for more workers in the vineyard, more pastors who will be like Jesus in their approach to their flock. Jesus calls all members of His flock to care for each other, but he calls some people to a life-long commitment to shepherding the flock. “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” If you think God is calling you to be a shepherd, contact your pastor and talk to Him. Pray about it; seek God’s guidance.
St. Athanasius was the long-term Bishop of Alexandria. He is best known as the champion of orthodoxy at the Council of Nicea in Ad 325 that combatted the Arian heresy that Jesus Christ was not truly God and truly man. He is often called the “Doctor of the Incarnation.” He was one of the 4 Doctors of the Eastern Church. He also wrote the life story of St. Anthony of Egypt. He is timely today, as the mystery of Jesus Christ is still under attack by modern-day “Arian types” who deny his divinity. (People like Dan Brown) He was greatly out numbered at the Council of Nicea yet won the day and stood up for orthodoxy.
Holy Saturday is a day of expectation: something wonderful is about to happen. Earth awaits. The Jesus who died on the cross on Friday will be resurrected. The bloody, suffering servant is the Lord of Life. What is the connection between us and the Risen Lord? We may be in darkness now, but the Light shall dawn.
A Short History of Good Friday Services
Until 1955, a Good Friday service was celebrated in the morning. Then, there developed what was called “Tre Ore” or “The 3 Hours” in Italian. It took place from noon to 3 p.m. (the traditional hours Jesus was on the cross. I remember not being able to watch TV during that time.) Often, there were homilies about the “7 Last Words of Jesus.” In 1955, Pope Pius XII moved the Good Friday service to the afternoon. Often, the Stations of The Cross are prayed at 3 p.m. and a special Liturgy takes place in the evening so more people can be there. The Good Friday Service now includes: a Liturgy of the Word, Special Intention Prayers, Veneration of the Cross, and a Communion Service. Everyone leaves in silence in anticipation of the Easter Vigil.
In the ancient world, “blood” was a sacred thing: it could make one ritually impure if you came in contact with it or it could cleanse an entire community. (Think blood on the doorposts on that first Passover.) Christians revealed how blood could be redemptive: the blood of Jesus was vital if we are to be saved. It was vital to consume as a way to share in His divine life: receiving the Body and Blood of Christ makes us a sacred community.