Memorial of Saint Justin, Martyr

1Pt 4:7-13; Ps 96:10-13; Mk 11:11-26
“Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!”

“In all things may God be glorified!” This is the motto of many holy men and women throughout the world today. This is the motto of many martyrs throughout the history of the church. This is the prayer of Saint Peter in our first reading at mass today. His sincere prayer is echoed in the responsorial psalm: “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!” When the end of the world as we know it is upon us, then the LORD will come to judge the earth. Then all peoples will say: “The LORD is king!” The LORD is king because he has made the world firmly, not to be moved, and he governs all peoples with equity. Indeed, he rules as king upon the Cross and within the heart of every believer. Soon and very soon his rule will be public and acknowledged by all creation. The sea and all the fills it will resound! The plains and all that is in them will be joyful! Then even the trees of the forest will exult! Finally, after generations of political failure and upheaval in every land and nation, the LORD will come to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice and the peoples with his constancy. Perhaps this is the kind of excitement that grabbed the hearts of the disciples who went up to Jerusalem with the Lord Jesus in today’s gospel. Perhaps this is the kind of excitement that thrills our hearts here at the Perfect Sacrifice of Praise offered by the Priest-King, Jesus the Christ. Indeed, his Kingdom is closer today that yesterday. Indeed, his Kingdom is already among us. Where the King is; there is the Kingdom!

Saint Peter warns his beloved church that the end of all things is at hand. This warning is for the church in our own day. This awareness is not to cause panic or motivate our stock piling of necessities. Rather, we are summoned to be serious about prayer. Without deep prayer of the heart, we will have no strength to bear our part. We are to be equally serious about loving service to those brothers and sisters whom we have forgiven and continue to forgive, seventy times seven times. We must be hospitable to all people, even those who are anxious and fearful about the end of all things. Indeed, we have received the Easter Gift of peace and the Holy Spirit is close at our side to guide and counsel us through whatever the future holds. All preaching must be the word of God not the agenda of the preacher. There is no time left for projects and plans; the day is at hand. Above all we must not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among us, as if something strange were happening to us. Rather, we must rejoice exceedingly to be able to share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed we too may rejoice with great exaltation.

As the New Israel born of water and the Holy Spirit into the New Covenant, we can all too easily ignore just how challenging is the gospel in our own day. Today’s gospel challenges those merchants who make God’s House into a “convenience store!” Jesus knows full well that a certain amount of buying and selling have to take place in order to meet the needs of pilgrims in Jerusalem. However, such activity could have taken place near the temple area but outside the temple. Today’s gospel also challenges the disciples on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus also knew that “it was not the time for figs.” Perhaps, Jesus intends to make a more serious comment about–the temple, the nation, the people, or even his followers. They all heard his curse on the way into the temple area, but only Peter remembered the next day and commented: “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered up.” At this point Saint Mark gives the Rabbi an opening to teach about prayer and forgiveness. Perhaps, this is the challenge for today’s disciples; we still have a lot to learn about prayer and God’s power. Even if we ask for what seems impossible for us, it is not impossible for God. Even our ability to forgive others is made possible because God has forgiven us “seventy times seven times!” Although we have just celebrated the great climax and conclusion of the Easter Season on Pentecost Sunday, we still stand in awe and wonder at just how much God loves his people and adorns his lowly with victory; “the Lord takes delight in his people!” This entire liturgy, all this praise, must still be taken into the depths of our hearts and the deserts of our lives. Still we need to taste how good is the LORD and rise from our pews to praise his glory by lives worthy of his praise–never anxious to be noticed by others inside or outside the church.