Our Pilgrimage toward Heaven, Ninth Wednesday (II), June 1, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sant’Onofrio Church, Rome, Italy
Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Justin Martyr
June 1, 2016
2 Tim 1:1-3.6-12, Ps 123, Mk 12:18-27


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Every pilgrimage is meant to help us on the pilgrimage to heaven.
  • Historically pilgrimage to Rome was to see the principal relic at the Basilica of St. Peter, which was not even St. Peter’s remains, but Veronica’s veil. This was meant to spur us on during the pilgrimage of life to see Christ face-to-face forever.
  • Today’s readings help us to focus on the reality of heaven, what it involves and doesn’t involve, and how when we’re focused on it and God’s desire for us to get there that we receive the courage and strength to remain firmly on the path that leads to heaven.
  • Sadducees question:
    • About one flesh reality of marriage. If there were a resurrection of the flesh, to which of the seven would the wife’s flesh be united?
    • Jesus teaches us something different about heaven. No marriage and giving in marriage because there’s one marriage, the wedding feast of the Lamb and his Bride. But there is love.
    • He pointed out that God is a God of the living.
    • They didn’t know the Scriptures — the Pentateuch testified to eternal life — nor God’s power. They were trying to fit both into their own notions.
    • Jesus was trying to have everyone recalibrate their notions on the kingdom of heaven and orient the world toward it.
  • Paul likewise was focused on heaven.
    • Writing to his spiritual son, Timothy, he said that he wasn’t afraid of his many sufferings for the Gospel because “I know in whom I have believed and am confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day,” the day that will know no end, the day of the “appearance of our Savior Christ Jesus who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.”
    • He urged him to have this faith “stirred into a flame,” and live “not with a spirit of cowardice but rather of love and power and self-control.”
    • This is what we saw with the members of the early Church. If Christ rose from the dead after Crucifixion, of what should they be afraid? They knew they would rise. That’s why he was able to urge him to bear his hardship for the sake of the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.
  • Justin Martyr shows us the truth of this.
    • In the Acta of the trial of his martyrdom, we have his dialogue with the prefect, Rusticus. After Rusticus had begun his interrogation and Justin had given a brief biography of how he had searched for the truth until he had discovered that the truth had a name, Jesus, the Prefect asked him:
      • Rusticus: Listen, you who are said to be eloquent and who believes that he has the truth: if I have you beaten and beheaded, do you believe that you will then go up to Heaven?
      • Justin: If I suffer as you say, I hope to receive the reward of those who keep Christ’s commandments. I know that all who do that will remain in God’s grace even to the consummation of all things.
      • Rusticus: So you think that you will go up to Heaven, there to receive a reward?
      • Justin: I don’t think it, I know it. I have no doubt about it whatever.
    • He knew the Scriptures and the power of God. He had allowed his faith to be stirred into a flame by the holy Spirit and that filled him with a spirit of courage, power, love and self-mastery, and he was confident that the one in whom he believed, Jesus himself, would guard him all his days and bring him to life and immorality through his living and dying for the Gospel.
  • So with us. This pilgrimage is meant to strengthen us in faith, the faith of St. Peter whose tomb we visited today, the faith of St. Catherine of Siena, whom we visited on Sunday, the faith of St. Justin whom the whole Church celebrates today. This faith about heaven, about God, the God of the living not of the dead, this faith about eternal life, this faith in God’s power and wisdom. For this to occur, we like St. Timothy, must allow God to stir our faith into a bonfire that can light the world ablaze.
  • The place where that holy holocaust begins is here at Mass, where we meet the God who spoke in the burning bush, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Peter, James and John, the God of Mary, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany, the God of Justin and Humphrey and all the saints. It’s here that, as St. Ephrem the Deacon wrote in Syria in the fourth century, we “consume fire.” The greater the wood we bring the more God’s fire can do it’s thing. That fire can burn away the dead wood within us and help us to come fully alive. And when we begin to burn with that life, when we’re dead to worldly things and set our hearts on the things above, then not even the threat of death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So we come to the Lord today, the Lord to whom we lift up our eyes, the Lord who came into this world to light a fire on earth and longed for it to be kindled, and beg him to enkindle, to stir within us, the fire of his love so that through us he can renew the face of the Lord.


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 2 TM 1:1-3, 6-12

Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the Gospel,
for which I was appointed preacher and Apostle and teacher.
On this account I am suffering these things;
but I am not ashamed,
for I know him in whom I have believed
and am confident that he is able to guard
what has been entrusted to me until that day.

Responsorial Psalm PS 123:1B-2AB, 2CDEF

R. (1b) To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes.
To you I lift up my eyes
who are enthroned in heaven.
Behold, as the eyes of servants
are on the hands of their masters.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes.
As the eyes of a maid
are on the hands of her mistress,
So are our eyes on the LORD, our God,
till he have pity on us.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift up my eyes.

Alleluia JN 11:25A, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 12:18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,
came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.

Now there were seven brothers.
The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants.
So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants,
and the third likewise.
And the seven left no descendants.
Last of all the woman also died.
At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled
because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
When they rise from the dead,
they neither marry nor are given in marriage,
but they are like the angels in heaven.
As for the dead being raised,
have you not read in the Book of Moses,
in the passage about the bush, how God told him,
I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob
He is not God of the dead but of the living.
You are greatly misled.”