Jun 1 – Memorial for St. Justin, martyr
He was born at the beginning of the second century in Nablus, in Samaria, of a pagan Greek family. He was an earnest seeker after truth, and studied many systems of philosophy before being led, through Platonism, to Christianity. While remaining a layman, he accepted the duty of making the truth known, and travelled from place to place proclaiming the gospel. In 151 he travelled from Ephesus to Rome, where he opened a school of philosophy and wrote defences and expositions of Christianity, which have survived to this day and are the earliest known writings of their kind. In the persecution of 165, in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he was denounced as a Christian, arrested and beheaded. The transcript of his trial by the prefect of Rome, Rusticus, has also survived: it can be found in today’s Office of Readings.
Justin treats the Greek philosophy that he studied as mostly true, but incomplete. In contrast to the Hebrew tendency to view God as making revelations to them and to no-one else, he follows the parable of the Sower, and sees God as sowing the seed of wisdom throughout the world, to grow wherever the soil would receive it. When we dispute with people who disagree with us, we would do well to assume that they too are seeking wisdom and have found truth of a kind. Since there is only one God and one Truth, it is our task not to contradict or belittle their achievement, but to show them how their strivings and searches are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. This is harder to do – not least, because we have to take the trouble to understand our own faith thoroughly – but it is ultimately more worthwhile.
…there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them. So be on your guard…
In this sharing, I want to address the issue of unity from the institutional level as well as at the level of one’s personal faith in God and the Church.
Allow me to begin my reflection on the theme of unity with this saying — “We may have all come on different ships, but we are all in the same boat now.” I once watched a documentary about Martin Luther, the so-called founder of the Reformation movement which gave birth to Protestantism. In the video, someone commented that, had Martin Luther attempted to reform the then decadent and corrupt Catholic Church at the time from within the establishment, he would have been one of the greatest saints that ever lived. Much like St Francis of Assisi, who faced similar challenges in his time, but managed to bring about tremendous changes to the Church by working with the Holy Spirit to reform and transform the church from within it. Unfortunately for Martin Luther, he missed his chance at sainthood.
Both were devout, committed Catholic monks who loved Christ and the Church deeply. Both were appalled at the systemic decay and corruption within the Church which had become greedy, prideful, self-edifying, sinful and very far away from embodying Christian virtue and morality. Both felt compelled to stand against the corruptions, excesses and vain-glory, for the deep moral decay that had taken root in their beloved Church. However, the actions of one led to great healing, renewal and transformation of the Catholic Church, the other led to a deep schism and split which till today, continues to lead countless millions of souls away from the true path of the one true, Christian, Catholic church. It seems from the very early days of Christianity, the Apostles could already foresee that unity was going to be a great battle and danger to the flock.
It used to be that I was very ‘apologetic’ whenever I met a strong Protestant due to my dismal knowledge of scripture. Whilst my scripture knowledge is still nothing to rave about, I have come to learn that the Catholic faith is founded on much deeper roots than only the word of God, important as that is. In more recent times. I have learnt to stand on the side of the Apologists of the Catholic Church – those who stand up and defend the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic faith. Disputes about Sola Fide, about the authority of the Papacy and the Magisterium, the legitimacy of sacred rites and traditions, the ‘worship’ of Mary and the Saints being amongst the most fundamental. Men have chosen to distort truth – at times out of a genuine sense of misguided understanding of truth, to downright manipulation of faith to serve one’s own selfish and worldly interests.
At the end of the day, the Catholic Church is founded by Christ and not men. In the fallibility of the human men who lead the Church, lies the infallibility of Christ and the Holy Spirit that continues to be the true force that moves, creates, directs … and yes, at times even corrects and redeems the Church. For those of you who may be harbouring doubts about the Catholic faith as the one true holy, apostolic, evangelical and missionary church, I urge you strongly – do your research. Come to the truth and recognise the treasure we have been given. Defend the unity of true Christianity and bring the lost back to Catholicism. Only a fool is soon parted from his money … or in this case, the treasure, which is the Catholic faith itself.
Let me close with offering one other facet of unity – that of the Christian’s union with Christ. There is no better example of this than our Blessed Mother. From the moment of the Annunciation, Mary became one with the will of God and with His Son. Despite all the immense challenges, even lifethreatening ones such as being pregnant before marriage in Jewish society, Mary never wavered from her fidelity to God and Jesus. At the darkest hour of human history, at the foot of the cross stood Mary…silent. She did not cry foul murder against the Romans, nor for revenge against the bloodthirsty injustices of the Pharisees, nor divine retribution against the infidelity of the cowardly apostles. She simply stayed united to her Son. She chose the harder path – to stay united to her Son, come what may. Mary stayed as one with Jesus and with His mission to fulfill the will of the Father; that is true Christian unity – the union of a Christian disciple to her God. Come what may.
This was the unity of the Catholic faith long before the Reformation ever came to be and long after that disunity ceased to exist. Defend your faith. Stand up for it. Either you are with it or you are against it. Choose.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: Father help us. We pray for the Holy Catholic Church, which was given to us by your Son through St Peter and his successors. Bless, protect, empower and guide her always. Deliver her from her enemies, from all heresies. Heal the wounds of division and for the damage done to her through the evil one and his false prophets and wolves in lamb clothing. Save and redeem the lost and those who have been led astray.
Thanksgiving: Father, help us to stay faithful to the one true holy Catholic Church. Help us be truly grateful for so precious a gift of our Church, which embodies and protects the precious gift of our faith and the true presence of Your Son in the Holy Eucharist. Thank you for all the martyrs and saints it has given us through the millenniums. Mary, Mother of the Catholic Church. Pray for her.