Homily for June 1, Wednesday of the VI week of Easter, Memorial of St Justin, martyr
At least one thing should be clear from today’s Gospel reading: there are profound mysteries at the very center of our faith. In this text, Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the Holy Spirit and about the Holy Trinity. The words He uses aren’t complicated, but the ideas are profound, and if we think His words through carefully, we probably end up with more questions than anything else. However, it is not hard understand that Jesus is promising His disciples that there are many things He has not yet told them, but which will be made clear to them over time though the working of the Holy Spirit.
St Paul is the beneficiary of both the teachings of Jesus and the further guidance of the Spirit. He seeks to make this new understanding of God and salvation understandable for the people to whom he preaches, whether Jew or Gentile, such as the Greeks to whom he preaches in the first reading. Sometimes he himself is fairly hard to understand – even St Peter says as much in his second letter – but Paul’s discourse in Athens is often taken as an example of great eloquence and pastoral sensitivity. Even so, only a few of the Athenians were converted to the faith, because some of the truths of Christianity, especially the resurrection of the dead, were very foreign to the Greek world view.
Today we celebrate the memorial of St Justin, who was another great teacher and apologist of the faith, roughly a century after St Paul. He grew up as a pagan, and dedicated his youth to studying philosophy in search of the truth. He found what he was looking for when he was introduced to Christianity, and he dedicated himself to explaining and propagating the Christian faith with his writings. He even went so far as to write to Roman emperors who were persecuting Christians, to convince them that Christianity was good, not evil. It is said that he met with some success in convincing the authorities to diminish the persecution, but he himself, like St Paul, eventually died as a martyr for his faith.
We are the beneficiaries of two thousand years worth of prayer, preaching, theological reflection and debate in the light of the Holy Spirit, and of lived experience of the faith, passed on by countless men and women like St Paul and St Justin. They dedicated their lives to making the faith better known and understood, and many of them lost their lives on this earth in the process, certain of receiving everlasting life.
As we remember them, it would be good for us to ask ourselves if we are taking advantage of this tremendous heritage, and if we appreciate the gift of our faith as much as they did. The mysteries of our faith remain mysteries, but we now have many ways of approaching them and gaining deeper insight into them We are not all called to be theologians or great evangelizers, but let us not forget the treasures of our faith. May God help each of us to continue to savor the truths of our faith in prayer and to nurture our faith by the things we read and watch. You never know when or how God will ask us to be witnesses to the faith as well, to ensure that this great treasure is strengthened in others and passed on to future generations.