The price of faith

For stating his beliefs, Justin the Martyr was beheaded. Fortunately, the media hasn’t asked us to pay that price. However, we can, as Jude states, “build” ourselves “up in” our “holy faith.”  Even those who have grave doubts about the existence of the Creator still yearn to believe.

Image by Aritha

The price of faith

By Norm McGraw


Memorial of Saint Justin, Martyr
Jude 17:20-25
Mark 11: 27-33


It seems that mass media, on a regular basis, spins a narrative describing the idea of belief in the Almighty as out of favor in the civilized world. We’re told that church attendance is rapidly declining, and basic dogmas stated in Scripture are more myth than rational thought. Certainly, the media’s current presentation of religion creates anxiety and confusion for many. 

The readings for Saturday’s Mass (on June 1, 2024) reveal a path to belief in God and His authority. The first teaching is from an epistle attributed to Jude, brother of James the Just, considered by some scholars to be the brother of Jesus.

Written originally in Greek before the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), Jude focused on uprooting false teaching in the early Church. This reading, from the 17th chapter, explains how to persevere against it: “Build yourself up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.”

The second reading, from the concluding verses of the 11th chapter of the gospel of Mark, addresses the concept of Divine authority. Earlier, Mark recounts Jesus triumphantly entering Jerusalem, throwing the moneychangers out of the temple, cursing a fig tree, and later explaining how the withered tree is symbolic of those without God in their lives. Thus, he said to his apostles: “Have faith in God…Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be yours.”

Against this backdrop, the chief priests challenged his authority to do what he was doing. Understanding the elders were not concerned about the moral righteousness of his actions but the political ramifications for themselves, Jesus asked them this question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” Conversing among themselves, the scribes realized that Jesus had placed them between a rock and a hard place. “If we say, ‘From heaven’, he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘From man?’ — they were afraid of the people, for they all (the people) held that John really was a prophet.” Failing in their attempt to entrap Jesus, they left without their question being answered.

Together, both readings provide a strong defense against God's onslaught of doubt and defiance. Moreover, the crucifixion of Jesus and the persecution of early Christians show that the price of faith could be quite high. 

A prime example would be Justin Martyr (100-165 AD), the saint commemorated by the Church on the same day of these readings.  As an “apologist” (someone who defends a controversial person or thing), Justin presented moral and philosophical arguments to convince Roman emperor Antoninus to abandon his persecution of the Church. For stating his beliefs, Justin was beheaded.

Fortunately, the media hasn’t asked us to pay that price. However, we can, as Jude states, “build” ourselves “up in” our “holy faith.”  Even those who have grave doubts about the existence of the Creator still yearn to believe. As the responsorial psalm (Ps 63:2) proclaims:” My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God. O God, you are my God whom I seek.”

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