Sermon for St. Justin, Martyr – Br. David Allen
1 Cor. 1:18-25
Today is the Feast of Justin, martyred in Rome, 167 A.D.
Justin was born early in the 2nd Century, near Shechem in Samaria. He was brought up as a pagan. In his youth he began to study philosophy. He searched for a philosophy that would be true to his view of life. After some searching he adopted Platonism. But not long after he had chosen that he met an old man at the sea shore who convinced him of the truth of Christian teaching. It was a chance meeting, but one having great significance. Justin said of this encounter, “Straightway a flame was kindled in my soul!” Soon after that he was baptized. As a Christian Philosopher, wearing the robe of a philosopher he taught Christianity.
At about the middle of that century he gathered some students and formed a school of Christian philosophy in the city of Rome. During this period he began writing in defense of Christian doctrine and beliefs. Three of these writings have survived.
One of these writings was a dialogue defending Christianity against a Jewish charge of distorting the Old Testament. The other two were Apologies for Christian Faith against irrationality and disloyalty. Justin is honored as the first Christian thinker to enter into dialogue with other intellectual disciplines.
Eventually he got involved in a debate with Crescens, a philosopher of the Cynic school. Crescens became so angered at Justin for steadfastly holding to the truths of Christianity that he reported him as a teacher of ignorance and immorality. Justin and several of his students were arrested and brought before Rusticus, Prefect of the City of Rome.
They were given an opportunity to renounce their faith. This they steadfastly refused to do. They were then led to the place of execution.
What was significant about Justin and his pupils? It was the steadfastness of their faith, backed up by the sound teachings of Justin’s writings. Justin stands out among the martyrs because he had the strength of will to publish those apologies for the faith that he held, and the faith that he taught his pupils. In that faith he was steadfast unto death. By that faith he enabled the others to hold fast to their principles and their belief in our Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth.
In the Rule of Life of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, in the chapter on Life Profession, we are reminded of the grace to surrender our lives to God through our vows has been given to us in Baptism, whereby we die with Christ and are raised with him. “It is the same grace that gives strength to the martyrs to submit gladly to death as witnesses of the resurrection. … The witness of the martyrs should never be far from our minds as we go forward in the vowed life day by day.” (Loc. Cit. Ch. 39)
How strong is your faith?
Remember the faith of the Martyrs!
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