Friday, May 31, 2013

The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Luke 1:39-56)

Some parents say that they do not wish to baptize their children because Baptism would prejudice the way their children look at the world.  Echoing the thought, young people claim to suspend their belief so that they might experience the world in new ways.  The serious believer, however, knows that these stratagems actually put one at a definite disadvantage, like not getting eyeglasses when one is noticeably near-sighted.  The gospel portrays Mary as eminently believing and therefore able to foresee the blessings that God will accomplish in Jesus.

Mary visits Elizabeth not to test what the angel told her but because she believes that it is true.  Elizabeth herself recognizes this faith when she exclaims to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed what was spoken to you by the Lord…”  Then Mary voices her famous song praising God for what will be accomplished in Jesus – remembering His promise of mercy and filling the hungry with good things.

Dazzled by the products of science and technology, some see faith as increasingly heavier baggage.  They want it all – the surety of faith and the autonomy of not committing themselves to any worldview.  Some even try to rationalize the question positing that they do not have the gift of faith.  But they likely do have faith.  God has offered it to most of us if not through our parents then through blessed companions all the way.  Rather than try to put it on hold, we would rationally allow it, as Mary does in the gospel, to bring us unmerited rewards.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 42:15-25; Mark 10:46-52)

Ministers working in hospitals are accustomed to patients saying that they will contact them after being discharged.  But such communication seldom takes place.  It is not that the patients speak insincerely, but that they lack the spiritual energy to revisit the place of confinement.  Bartimaeus in the gospel today would be an exception to this observation.  Jesus sends him away, but he steadfastly follows Jesus.

The passage is a healing story laced with irony.  Bartimaeus does not see Jesus with his eyes but possesses faith in him, which is another way of seeing.  He acknowledges Jesus as “’son of David’” meaning that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.  By restoring his physical sight, Jesus confirms the efficacy of Bartimaeus’ faith.  Although one might argue that in obedience to Jesus, Bartimaeus should have gone his own way, his faith is more coherent for following the one whom he believes will liberate Israel from bondage.

Few of us called to a radical following of Jesus like Bartimaeus embarks.  Nevertheless, if, like Bartimaeus, we acknowledge Jesus as the savior of the people, we must conform ourselves to him spiritually.  This means not only that we accept the suffering that comes our way, but also that we go out of our way to share the burden of those who may be hurting more than we.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 36:1.4-5a.10-17; Mark 10:32-45)

Israel is the ninety-seventh largest country in the world with a population of over eight million people.  Switzerland is a slightly larger country, and Tajikistan a slightly smaller one.  Of the three, which capital is best known?  Probably only Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, is known.  Switzerland does not have a declared capital and Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, is more obscure than the country.  Why has Jerusalem become as renown as Sirach’s prayer in the first reading today requests?

Surely, it is not because the world stands in dread of Israel as it did in a sense during David’s and Solomon’s reigns.  No, the prayer has been answered in Jesus Christ who established a reign of virtue not of arms.  Although atrocities have been committed by Christians through the centuries, those events were deviations from Jesus’ way, not in conformity to it.

We should take care that our response to God’s favor be one of gratitude and noblesse oblige rather than pride and intolerance.  As today’s gospel makes clear, Jesus came to serve and we follow him by doing likewise. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 35:1-12; Mark 10:28-31)

Fr. Rick Matty was rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in El Paso at his untimely death last year.  He did everything well.  People loved the stories he told when preaching.  He also touched his parishioners with pastoral solicitude.  The poor as well as the rich were edified by his words of consolation and hope.  Those who saw his office were impressed by its meticulous order.  It seemed that there was not a pen on his desk out of place.  Today’s first reading from Sirach transmits a similar sense of right order.

Sirach or, more correctly, Ben Sira names the Jewish author of the work.  He finds in “the law” or first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures the fulfillment of a good life.  Thus, a good man or woman observes the precepts, gives to the poor, refrains from doing evil, offers due sacrifices, etc.  The author does not doubt a bit the outcome of such practices: “…the Lord gives back to (the just person) sevenfold.”

We do not have to be meticulous in everything to be virtuous, but we must abide by just laws and even go beyond their strict compliance with generosity toward those in need.  We too look toward a reward many times greater than the sacrifices we make.  In the gospel passage Jesus tells us that our hope will be realized not only in the current order of things but in God’s coming kingdom.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 17:20-24; Mark 10:17-27)

In northern climes it is customary to think of death toward the end of the year when days grow short and winds chill the bones.  Perhaps this is why All Souls Day is fixed in November.  But today is a good day to reflect on death as the United States government has set it apart to remember the dead.

Memorial Day originated after the Civil War to remember the more than one-half million fallen soldiers in that conflict.  It was placed at the end of May when flowers are in full bloom to decorate the graves of the war dead.  Americans soon came to cemeteries on Memorial Day to pray for all their beloved dead.  Nowadays many people tend to take a vacation on the extended weekend, but some consideration of the dead is still in order.  After all if people to do not sufficiently reflect on death, they cannot adequately understand life.

The author of today’s first reading believes that death is the final event for a person.  The dead may be remembered afterwards, but they will have no consciousness of the tribute. In the gospel Jesus suggests another view of death.  Acknowledging the validity of the man’s question about eternal life, Jesus assumes that death can be transcended.  For this to happen, one must rely not on one’s resources – be it wealth, education, or energy -- but completely on God.  Unfortunately, the man in the gospel is not willing to go that far in faith.  We pray now that our dead loved ones along with all those who died defending their country have submitted themselves to God in faith.  We also pray for ourselves, as the reading from Sirach suggests, that we too may come to complete reliance on God.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 6:5-17; Mark 10:1-12)

In a recent issue of First Things editor R.R. Reno comments on the nature of marriage as holding together two people of enormous differences.  In most cases at least a man and a woman are raised with different visions of life handed down by their parents.  They also respond emotionally to situations in different ways because of their distinct hormonal compositions.  Physical difference may pique some curiosity, but after a while there is less to share than among people of the same sex.  And yet the couple because of the sheer power of sexuality can form a loving union to nurture a family.  To support marital relationships, Jesus upholds a necessary injunction in today’s gospel.

Jesus is forced to comment on the perennially troublesome question of divorce.  Moses seems to make allowances for it, but the issue is the proper interpretation of Moses.  Should divorce be allowed for any pretext like the currently popular complaint of incompatibility?  Or should divorce be limited only in the case of an extreme irregularity like, for example, someone attempting marriage without the capacity for sexual intimacy?  Jesus knows that married couples need a strict law to support their efforts to overcome all the differences in a marital relationship. 

Traditional marriage is under assault from those who would dissolve it for any difficulty and, more recently, those who consider its purpose only to provide cover for sexual intimacy whatever the gender of the partners.  The condition of future generations is at stake, but the populace seems bent on ignoring Jesus along with the wisdom of the ages. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 5:1-8; Mark 9:41-50)

There is an old story about divine Providence that may enlighten today’s reading from Sirach.  Once in the midst of a terrible storm a man was stranded on top of his roof as the waters rose around him.  He prayed for help and indeed a boat came by, but the man refused to get in saying that the Lord would rescue him.  The man eventually drowned.  Going before the Almighty, he asked why he was not saved.  The Lord replied with the question what the man thought was the purpose of that boat which came by.

The reading warns humans about self-reliance.  They should not trust completely in their own wealth, power, or strength.  But this advice should not be taken to mean that one’s wealth, power, and strength are worthless.  God may have provided them so that the person could withstand difficult times.  In any case people should pray for guidance, but they should also realize that God might test their love by not always giving them what they ask.

We must never forget that God loves us more dearly than a mother, her infant.  He will see us through any storm even though not necessarily in the ways we foresee.  We show our trust in Him by prayer, by using wisely the resources available, and by accepting what develops as His will.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 4:11-19; Mark 9:38-40)

Wisdom seeks what is truly good in life.  Like a counterfeit detector, it sets off an alarm with the superficially pleasing but ultimately disillusioning.  Like a wine taste’s nose, it can sniff supreme quality in a new vintage.  In patriarchal societies wisdom is compared to a woman with whom a person must share full and lasting intimacy to realize its promise.

In today’s reading from the Book of Sirach wisdom is described as a demanding companion who will discipline its pursuant.  But for whatever investment of time or energy it exacts, it brings the inestimable rewards of peace and happiness.  This is to say as much as the Scriptural dictate, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Making the effort to abide by God’s eternal laws brings His infinite favor.

We live in a world with a myriad of information at our fingertips but wisdom miles away.  By taking care not to become absorbed in the ease of attaining the former but ever pondering its meaning we can achieve the latter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 2:1-11; Mark 9:30-37)

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was fond of saying we may not be able to do great things but can do little things with great love.  She meant that in the eyes of God the second is as good as the first and maybe even better.  Jesus comes to a similar point in today’s gospel.

It is more than ironic -- really tragic -- that Jesus’ disciples argue like children about who is the greatest among them and miss his prediction about his impending death.  Nevertheless, he does not give up on them but uses the moment to teach them a worthy lesson.  Taking a child – in his day considered a person of little worth – into his arms, he instructs his disciples that if they wish to be great, then they must care for such an insignificant one. This kind of humble service is what matters most, not the number of stars on one’s coat.

With all the fanfare given to success, it is hard not to think about ourselves in competition with others.  Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit has descended upon each of us with a similar message to what Jesus heard at his baptism: “You are my beloved son…” Accepting this belief as truth, we will want to please our Father by humble service to His people.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Sirach 1:1-10; Mark 9:14-29)

The story is told of President Abraham Lincoln taking a walk in the woods one night weighing a difficult decision.  A group of Union soldiers were to be executed for falling asleep on duty unless he gave them a pardon.  Along the path Lincoln met an adolescent on the ground crying.  The lad had run away from home after his father in a rage killed his dog.  The father had just learnt that his older son was to be executed for cowardice and couldn’t control his rage. Lincoln counseled the boy to go home and forgive his father; meanwhile, he said, he would do some forgiving himself.  The President also gave the boy his card with a note saying that he might visit him at the White House anytime.  The boy went home and made up with his father.   When he found out that his brother’s crime was falling asleep on duty, he went straight to the White House and took a seat outside President Lincoln’s office.  At the end of the day, the boy gave the President’s secretary the card he had received and told him he had an important matter to discuss with Mr. Lincoln.  The boy was shown in, told Lincoln what happened to his brother, and heard the President promise to add his brother’s name to the list of those soldiers who would be receiving Presidential pardons.

Just like the boy sitting in the shadow of the President, the man in the gospel whose son has an epileptic spirit does not recognize Jesus for whom he is.  He sees Jesus as a human healer, not the son of God whose prayer to his heavenly Father is invariably answered.  When Jesus questions the man’s faith, he responds with the cry that has echoed in every Christian’s heart, “’I do believe, help my unbelief.’”  Jesus demands no more than that painful request and, indeed, does help the man to believe in him by driving the demon from his son.  We likewise should bring to Jesus all our needs.  He will help us if we can honestly say with the epileptic’s father, “I do believe, help…” 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 25:13b-21; John 21:15-19)

The initial words of Pope Francis after being elected were telling.  He referred to himself as “the bishop of Rome” and not as “pope,” the spiritual father of the western Church.  Much less did he care to be recognized as the “Vicar of Christ” as if anyone could really take Jesus’ place.  No, from the beginning he wished to be identified with Peter as he appears in today’s gospel.

The Lord asks Peter if he loves him three times corresponding to Peter’s three denials of him the night before he died.  It is not that Jesus is slow to forgive, but rather he needs to test Peter before naming him caretaker of his flock.  Jesus wants to stress that Peter must always act out of love and never from a will to power or for material gain.  Pope Francis took note of this fundamental principle in that same election address as he described the Church of Rome as “presid(ing) in charity over all the Churches.”

As we complete the Easter season, we might note that love is also the purpose of the Paschal mystery.  Jesus died, rose, ascended to heaven, and had the Holy Spirit sent to us so that we might share divine love.  Because of his ordeal, we have been remade into full children of God capable of loving selflessly forever.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Thursday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 22:30.23:6-11; John 17:22-26)

Often when feeling criticized, we go on the offensive.  We search for impressive words that show off our wit and put down the critics.  Surely this is a foolish strategy.  We would do better to listen carefully to what others are saying, pray to the Holy Spirit for prudence, and speak forthrightly what comes to mind.  Jesus tells us to do as much when he says, “'When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.’”

In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles Paul follows Jesus’ advice.  He evaluates the situation and speaks to it.  His reference to being a proponent of the resurrection of the dead divides his persecutors.  What starts as a conspiracy to condemn Paul turns into a debate with half the assembly supporting him.  The Holy Spirit is the driving force behind this and all apostolic activity in Acts of the Apostles.  He brings Christianity from its humble origins in Jerusalem to center stage in Rome where it will fan out throughout the whole world.

The Holy Spirit is God’s immeasurable gift of Himself to us.  The Spirit enlightens our minds and orders our wills so that we too might manifest God’s love to the world. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 20:28-38; John 17:11b-19)

In the computer world we protect information with a password.  One should create passwords that would be difficult to guess and should take care never to reveal them.  As many people have unfortunately learned, failing to give passwords proper regard may result in swindle.  Today’s gospel indicates that a name in biblical times today has similar import to a password today. 

Jesus tells his Father that he has protected his disciples in the Father’s name.  He means that he has called upon the Father by name to keep them safe.  Jesus will also use his Father’s name, “I AM,” to give his disciples safe passage when the Roman garrison comes to arrest him in the garden.  “I AM” is a simplified translation of the Tetragrammaton or four consonants expressing the name for Himself that God revealed to Moses in the book of Exodus.  In John’s gospel Jesus uses it repeatedly to express his identity with the Father.

We should use God’s name frequently but reverently.  That is, we should call upon God as “Father” or “Lord” to ask His assistance.  When we feel tempted to think or do something malicious, calling upon God by name will assure the help we need.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Feast of St. Matthias, apostle

(Acts 1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)

A mother was concerned about the bad habits developing in her teenage daughter.  She saw as the source of the girl’s vices the friends with whom she was associating.  So the mother challenged the teenager to give up the friends – a move which was initially resented but in time came to be appreciated.  People are not only known by the friends they have but become like them.  For this reason we can accept Jesus’ words in today’s gospel with great joy.

From the beginning of the Gospel of John Jesus speaks as the incarnate Son of God.  He lives on a completely different, what we might call “higher,” plain than other humans.  Because he also has a divine nature, it seems that humans will always remain subservient.  However, in the reading today Jesus says to his disciples that they have become his friends; that is, they have somehow been raised to his Godly level so that they may share intimacy with him.  It is more wonderful than being born into the aristocracy or being elected to the United States Senate, what is sometimes called “the most exclusive club in the world.”

Just as surely as St. Matthias shared friendship with Jesus, so may we.  Of course, it entails keeping his commandment to love both God and neighbor.  It also assumes a continual dialogue with Jesus in prayer.  We are to listen to his words in the gospel and share with him are own joys and anxieties.  As a result we will find ourselves kind and just like him.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(Acts 19:1-8; John 16:29-33)

The Greek father St. Gregory of Nazianzus wrote that the Old Testament reveals God the Father clearly but only dimly God the Son.  He further said that the New Testament features God the Son but the Spirit has only a minor role.  He concluded that in the Age of the Church -- which is now -- the Spirit is made manifest.  Today’s reading from Acts underscores the lack of knowledge of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ time.

How the people learned of Jesus without awareness of the Holy Spirit is somewhat of a mystery.  Could they have been taught by a disciple of Jesus who had to leave him before the latter’s going up to Jerusalem?  From the inconsistent list of apostles, exegetes speculate that people were continually joining and leaving Jesus’ company.  In the reading the disciples show remarkable willingness to receive the Spirit in Baptism which is more than the sign of a washing, but of a whole new life. 

Unfortunately many in our midst have no real appreciation of the Holy Spirit.  They simply do not realize that it is the Spirit who alters our humanity.  The Spirit like genetic engineering makes us into a new kind of creature capable of loving indiscriminately.  As we pray to the Father and to the Son, we should ask the Holy Spirit daily to make his transformative presence felt within us.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday of the Sixth Week in Lent

(Acts 18:9-18; John 16:20-23)

Someone you love is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  She will be dead most probably within a year, perhaps a little more, but there is no long-term prognosis.  You begin the excruciating ordeal of saying, “Good-bye.”  This is the situation of the disciples which the Lord himself addresses in today’s gospel.

Jesus anticipates the pain his disciples will feel when he dies as the labor a woman endures when she gives birth.  Its sharpness will take their breath away.  Its duration will inscribe itself like a knife in wood.  But seeing Jesus in the resurrection will be like hearing the cries of new life.  Immediately pain’s grip is released and exultation mutes any lingering acuteness.  The disciples’ desires will then be purified so that whatever they ask – understanding of what is going on, capacity to share their ecstasy with others, wisdom to never doubt again  – will be granted.

We naturally do not want to suffer pain.  But we accept it and even embrace it at times as necessary to reach heightened awareness, indeed a whole new kind of life. We should see the pain of death as taking us closer to the Lord by making us ever reliant on Him and by seeing His goodness encompassing more than the wonders of this world.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20)

Although Christians comprise a small fraction of the Pakistani population, in raw numbers they are more than two million people.  Missionaries in that land in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did not convert many Muslims or Hindus but found the animist peoples open to the word of God.  Evidently, all-encompassing religions like Islam have arguments to counter another religion’s claims but traditions without established theological traditions offer much less resistance to new religious preaching.  This idea will explain Paul’s frustration in preaching Christ to the Jews.

In Corinth as in other major population centers of the Mediterranean world in Paul’s days there is a synagogue.  Paul finds it the natural place to speak about Christ.  As a matter of fact members of the synagogue in the town of Berea give Paul a friendly ear, but those of the synagogue in Corinth as in Thessalonica are much less amenable.  Still Paul makes progress in Corinth perhaps because Aquila and Priscilla have already did some spade work in planting the seed of Christ.

Even though we are not willing to give up our commitment to Christ for anything, we still might dialogue with people of other faiths.  Learning their traditions not only broadens our knowledge but likely will deepen our appreciation of Christianity. We believe that Christ died to save all people.  Deliberately refusing to share our knowledge of him by neglecting opportunities to dialogue would mean a loss on all sides.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

(Acts 17:15.22-18:1; John 16:12-15)

In its Pastoral Constitution on the Church, Vatican II wrestles with the question of atheism.  It says that many shut God out of their hearts out of refusal to acknowledge the dictates of their consciences.  But it also implicates Christians in the sin of disbelief because we often fail to give testimony to the presence of God by genuinely caring for one another.  With this kind of critical reasoning Vatican II exemplifies what Jesus means in today’s gospel.

Jesus tells his disciples that the Spirit Advocate will tell them the things that are coming.  Jesus does not mean that there will be a new revelation for he says that the Spirit will reveal what is already Jesus’.  What the Spirit will do for the Church, as can be testified in the Vatican II documents, is to interpret current events in light of Jesus’ own teaching.

Much has been said of the “spirit of Vatican II.”  Some people think that it is acceptance of almost every proposed change of belief or practice.  But such an interpretation defies the work of the council’s fathers who diligently discerned what the Holy Spirit was saying to them by careful deliberation and voting.  Certainly Vatican II introduced changes for which we should be grateful.  But we must also take care not to misinterpret the spirit of the council as promoting change indiscriminately.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:11-15; John 16:5-11)

It is said that St. Augustine avoided preaching on today’s gospel because of its difficulty!  Still, the passage is not impossible to understand.  To do so, however, we should note that the word convict is too literal a translation of the Greek and does not fit well with each object.  It would be better to say that the Spirit Advocate proves the world wrong regarding sin, regarding righteousness, and regarding condemnation.

The world sees Christians as sinful for believing in Jesus.  This may seem odd since we have a sense that the world does not really care about what one believes.  But the Roman world, at least, had its deities to which people were expected to give homage.  Because of their ancient status, Jews were a recognized exception to this rule which gave Christians immunity for a while.  But when Christians were expelled from the synagogues, the Romans persecuted them as atheists.  The Spirit Advocate (really more a prosecuting attorney) will show the world that the Romans, not the Christians, worship false gods. 

The error of righteousness concerns the Jews’ putting Jesus to death for claiming to be God’s son.  The Spirit, moving Christians to love one another, shows them to be righteous, not those who crucified Jesus. The final error regards the condemnation of Satan, the prince of this world.  Since Jesus is vindicated by his resurrection, his adversary Satan is condemned.  We might ask, “Then how can Satan roam freely seeking our ruination?”  The gospel would reply that Satan is powerless over true believers; moreover, his limited domination will end once Jesus returns in glory.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16.4a)

Anwar al-Awlaki was a Muslim imam who condoned terrorism.  He has recently been associated with the two men who perpetrated the bombing in Boston last month.  His story underscores what Jesus says in the gospel today about Christians being persecuted by people who believe that they are doing the will of God.

Jesus' words relate to the experience of the early Church.  Jews executed men like Stephan and James believing that they were heretics.  Of course, at least nominal Christians have more than revenged the atrocities.  In places and times of Christian majorities Jews have been systematically traumatized.  For Christians such mistreatment is doubly sinful.  After all, they not only profess a God of love but a Savior who advocated turning the other cheek when mistreated.

Does this mean that we are to ignore injustices done to us?  No, that also would be a misrepresentation of Jesus’ ethic.  But we are to bear injury without overreaching recompense by taking the injustices to God’s appointed representatives.  In most cases this means the state which is better equipped than the individual to make fair and indiscriminate restitution.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Feast of Saints Philip and James, apostles

(I Corinthians 15:1-8; John 14:6-14)

With the placing of the feast of Saints Philip and James the day after the memorial of St. Athanasius for no inherent reason, one wonders if the Church has a theological purpose in mind.  In today’s gospel passage, Philip in effect asks if Jesus and the Father are one.  Athanasius staked his life on the fact that they are as Jesus testifies in the same passage.  The implications have no mean import for Christians.

We base our faith on God’s humanity.  That is, we believe that out of love God showed himself to the world so that humans might sense His closeness.  Some call it a gamble as many, like Arius, have not grasped the concept.  Others no doubt dismiss a God who humbles Himself so terribly.  But for us God’s closeness means that His grace is ever available so that we might live in peace and joy.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Acts 15:7-21; John 15:9-11)

The name Athanasius means immortal.  St. Athanasius, of course, died, but he now enjoys eternal life.  He came to it by making good use of the grace bestowed on him.

Athanasius both ingeniously defended the divinity of Christ and severely suffered for his efforts.  When Arius taught that Christ could not be on the same level of the Father, Athanasius rose in defense of the traditional teaching.  He agreed with Arius that it is unimaginable how God could constrict himself into a human body.  But, in contrast to the heretic (as we think of him), he realized that God’s ways are infinitely beyond human imagining.  Political machinations favored Arian teaching for a time, and Athanasius was exiled repeatedly for his insistence on Christ’s complete divinity.  In the end, however, his status as bishop of the prominent see of Alexandria was restored.

We do well to keep in mind Athanasius’ insight that God’s ways transcend human understanding.  Partly on the authority of his genius and partly on our own experience of Christ’s love, we hold fast to our belief that God made us, loves us, and reveals Himself to us in Jesus Christ.