Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial of Saint Justin, martyr

(Acts 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15)

Although there were exceptions, Christianity at first attracted mostly slaves and women – people from the lower echelons of society. These women and men were hardly unintelligent; indeed, they were sharp enough to recognize their innate inability to overcome base desires and demonic powers. Of the exceptions Justin was among the most notable. He had studied all the philosophies known in the Mediterranean region during the second century. Then one day on a seashore he met an old Christian who told him how Jesus had fulfilled the words of the prophets. His search for truth was satisfied. There was more truth to be uncovered, but Justin now knew where to dig.

St. Paul uses a different tack in addressing the Athenians in the first reading. Rather than proceed from the Scriptures, he gives them a lesson in natural religion. He first speaks of creation, then the Creator, and finally alludes to Jesus. The strategy falls on its face. The crowd in the Areopagus is not prepared to digest the idea that someone could be raised from the dead. Paul learns that all the reasoning in the world cannot move the masses to accept Christ. Rather the Christian has to proclaim with deeds of charity as much as words of wisdom that Jesus Christ provides the bread for a more abundant life.

We do well to follow both Justin and Paul. There is value in explaining how faith in Christ does not contradict reason but rather confirms most all of its conclusions. Yet we should realize that our logic will crumble if the goodness of our lives does not testify to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.