Saint Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD), was an early Christian apologist, and is regarded as an important theologian of the Logos in the 2nd century. That title of Logos refers to Jesus Christ, and translates as “word” “discourse” or “reason”. From Saint Justin we get a reasoned doctrine of Jesus as God of the Trinity. Justin’s thoughts on Christ and the Trinity allowed him to include the Greek philosophers as being “unknowing Christians”, by stating that the seeds of Christianity were sown before Christ’s incarnation. He was a knowledgeable and gifted theologian. Justin along with his students were martyred for refusing to denounce that Christianity in favor of a pagan god. Justin was a defender of Christian morality, and pleaded with Emperor Antonius to end his persecution of Christians.
Today’s gospel Mk 12:1-12 talks about those who tend Gods vineyard, and Justin was one of the good workers of Jesus Christ’s vineyard. His story, relevant today because he lived among the pagans, the same pagans that eventually converted to Christianity. His discipleship is from the beginning of that vineyard Jesus planted, His Church, Justin Martyr is part of the foundation the Church is built upon. His life occurs before Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, and that is something to think about when Christians today are confronted by those that simply refer to Catholicism as an establishment religion that wields power and authority over the helpless people. To the contrary, through Christ and through the diligence of disciples like Justin Martyr, the struggling masses became empowered. I wonder how much is gained by those that preach and practice the neo-paganism of today. One also can look at Justin’s approach to Christianity, and learn how he saw in the Greek Philosopher’s the wisdom of Christ. Justin Martyr used all that was around him to build up that vineyard that is Christ’s Church. His arguments were based on discernment, and scholarship, and reason, and prayer. Justin Martyr diligently sought the wisdom of Christ. He listened to and for the word of God. I wonder if the same can be said of the rebellious new age religions that so often are a counter reaction to Christianity. Is theirs an obedience to The Logos, or simply a reaction to the circumstances of their lives? That scholarship in seeking truth, even if its dogma is revisited at a later date, in itself speaks of truth and of wisdom. It can be challenged, and stand up to the scrutiny’s of the challenger. Can the same be said of the neo pagans, or the new age soothsayers?
I bring up that conflict of Christianity and Paganism for two reasons. One is my contrast between Saint Patrick’s clover and the pagan interpretation of the Celtic Triquetra from Trinity Sunday’s post. The other is the increasing influence of modern neo-pagans throughout historical Christendom. The third is of course that Justin Martyr was one of the first Christians to confront paganism, and he confronted them when they were in absolute power. An apologist, and Justin was one of the best, is someone who defends something controversial. Catholicism has again returned to being something controversial. That gospel reading of Gods vineyard destroyed by those in charge is relevant to this discussion. In Jesus parable he directs his argument at the priestly class of Jerusalem, but can’t the same argument be directed at modern Christendom? What is the state of that vineyard today? To many it is in decline and for that reason someone can gain much from the likes of Justin who helped it reach its fruition. His mission, and dedication, and battles, and martyrdom, are well worth studying.
Today that vineyard is indeed being studied by those in charge of its stewardship, and the leaders of Christ’s church are in the process of evaluating that which is under their care. In the news there has been much on the current Synod of the Family, there are many discussions inn that synod on how to approach all aspects of the modern families that exist today. Popular referendums on things like gay marriage are certainly not going unnoticed. Also those reforms of the second Vatican council are also under review in other venues; that is being obedient to the responsibility of tending that vineyard. Today, so many have fallen aside and joined the ranks of pagans, or become the followers of no particular denomination. Aimless wanderers. One can hope as those shepherds keep in mind todays gospel passage as they go about their task. To the casual observer it seems that vineyard is slipping back into ruins. The skillful apologetics of this Saint are most needed today.