Homily for the Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr
Do you and I have a desire to learn? Do we have a desire to allow the message of the Gospel to touch our hearts, leading us to a deeper encounter with the Lord? Are we willing to allow that encounter with Jesus to change our lives? Those are the fundamental questions that our Gospel raises today. The Pharisees recognized Jesus as a good teacher but they had no desire to learn from and zero desire to allow His message to change their hearts. They remained stuck in their ways.
We, too, can often remain stuck in our own ways. How many times have we come to Mass, listened to the readings from Scripture and thought something like: “Oh, that’s a nice message.” But do we allow that message to change us?
The saint that we celebrate today, St. Justin Martyr, was someone who had a deep desire to learn, he was hungry for answers to the deepest questions about life and allowed the message of Jesus to change him. He was a philosopher in the 2nd century who initially adopted the ideologies of Plato into his own life. But after an encounter with an old man who was a Christian, Justin was convinced that the answers to all of life’s questions were found in a Person: they were found in Jesus. And it totally changed his life.
In the years that followed, Justin formed a school of Christian philosophy in Rome and began writing in defense of Christian doctrine and beliefs. But many in Rome were like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time and refused to allow those beliefs to change their hearts. As a result, Justin and his students were arrested and put to death for refusing to renounce their faith.
Justin should be an example for us. His life should remind us that we all have a desire to know the answers to the questions of life. And as Christians, we believe Jesus gives us the only answers. But we have to allow Him, we have to allow His message to change our hearts. May we all ask for that grace today. May we have the courage to ask the Lord to change our hearts and to lead us to a place of deeper encounter with Him so that we can also go out and change the world.