2 May – Saint Athanasius
He was born in Alexandria. He assisted Bishop Alexander at the Council of Nicaea and later succeeded him as bishop. He fought hard against Arianism all his life, undergoing many sufferings and spending a total of 17 years in exile. He wrote outstanding works to explain and defend orthodoxy.
Athanasius’s passion for the truth seems tactless to many of us today, to the point where some Catholic devotional works even express embarrassment over it. This is grotesque. Before we congratulate ourselves on being more gentle and civilised than Athanasius and his contemporaries, we should look at the lack of charity that characterizes academic controversies today (from string theory to global warming) and the way that some of the participants are willing to use any weapon that comes to hand, from legal persecution to accusations of madness to actual assault. The matters in dispute with the Arians were more important than any of these scientific questions. They were vital to the very nature of Christianity, and, as Cardinal Newman put it, the trouble was that at that time the laity tended to be champions of orthodoxy while their bishops (seduced by closeness to imperial power) tended not to be. The further trouble (adds Chadwick) is that the whole thing became tangled up with matters of power, organization and authority, and with cultural differences between East and West. Athanasius was accused of treason and murder, embezzlement and sacrilege. In the fight against him, any weapon would do.
Arianism taught that the Son was created by the Father and in no way equal to him. This was in many ways a “purer” and more “spiritual” approach to religion, since it did not force God to undergo the undignified experience of being made of meat. Islam is essentially Arian, granting Jesus a miraculous birth, miracles, a crucifixion and a resurrection, but all as a matter of God demonstrating his power by committing more spectacular miracles than usual.
Arianism leaves an infinite gap between God and man, and ultimately destroys the Gospel, leaving it either as a fake or as a cruel parody. It leaves the door open to Manichaeism, which mixes Zoroastrian, Buddhist and Gnostic elements into Christianity, so that God is good but creation is bad (or at worst, a mistake) and the work of an evil anti-God. Only by being orthodox and insisting on the identity of the natures of the Father and the Son and the Spirit can we truly understand the goodness of creation and the love of God, and live according to them.
The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. ‘We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said:
Jesus said to his disciples:
It came to my realisation lately that great works mean different things to different people. If you are doing things and serving in a ministry which challenges you and puts you out of your comfort zone, that is indeed ‘great works.’ It is timely to ask God what great works He wants us to do. Does He want us to let go of the past, let go of an addiction, forgive a long-standing grudge and hurt, or is He just asking us to smile at the storm we are facing and to trust in Him completely?
In today’s reading, we are reminded that what we ask of Him we will receive. Sometimes, we throw a tantrum because we do not receive what we have been praying for. This can lead to potentially dangerous behaviour as we constantly look at our unmet needs and wants and eventually become so self-absorbed that we are not able to recognise God.
Just like Philip, we have the presence of God and yet we tend to question Him and doubt His love and mercy. Is it time for us to do something great by trusting in Him compeletly? If we are praying for healing, can we see Jesus in all those who are ill? If we have been praying for a job or success in our exams can we see the face of Jesus in the homeless, the illiterate and those who cannot afford an education for their children. If we have been praying for the gift of children in marriage or for a spouse, are we able to treat everyone as a precious child of God (especially with potential suitors)? Are we able to sacrifice our evenings and weekends to nurture orphans and teach skills to underprivileged adults?
What is God asking us to see today and would we see Him while we wait to receive? Do we have the humility and compassion to cry with someone today because mere words won’t do? Are we able to share our meal because that is all we have to offer?
In today’s Psalm, I am reminded of the hymn “All the ends of the earth, all you creatures of the sea, lift your hands to the wonders of the Lord…” If that is the manner that animals worship God, how then are we supposed to praise, worship and give thanks to our Lord?
Today, let us recognise God who lives. Let us challenge ourselves to see, do, feel and act in ways that are beyond ourselves.
If we were to see Jesus today, would we recognise Him?
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Father, we thank you for all we have and we ask you to help us so that we can recognise your face in others, especially as we wait on You, Lord.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for always granting us our hearts desire.