Memorial of Saint Justin, martyr
(Acts 22:30.23:6-11; John 17: 20-26)
Paul’s trial before the Roman commandeer is reminiscent of a famous episode in the life of St. Justin Martyr whom the Church remembers today. Justin was a second-century philosopher who embraced Christianity. He was taken into custody for not worshipping the Roman gods. At his trial before the Roman prefect, he explained why it would be absurd for a Christian to offer sacrifices to idols. He said, “No one who is right thinking stoops from true worship to false worship.” The refusal to comply with this Roman law won for him a martyr’s glory.
Paul, of course, fares better, at least for the time being. When he is accused of preaching Jesus, He cleverly instigates a dispute among the two parties of Jews leveling the charge. One party declares Paul innocent when he puts himself on its side of the dispute. Paul, however, will not escape martyrdom. Indeed, Jesus tells Paul in this same passage that he will have to bear witness to him in Rome. There he will be beheaded.
We should be aware that Christians today are facing the same kind of martyrdom as befell St. Justin and St. Paul. Ideas matter, and some people cannot tolerate the beneficent ideas of Christianity. That should not deter us from proclaiming them. To say that Jesus is the Son of God is to declare God’s love for the world. Even if that idea offends some people, it is worth dying for.