Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter

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

A lay minister describes how he brought back to church a fallen away Catholic.  He met a man named John in a sports bar.  One Saturday afternoon, the minister invited John to accompany him to mass.  John seemed to enjoy the experience and was most impressed with hearing his friend proclaim the word of God.  Since then, John has attended mass every Saturday evening. The experience exemplifies the work of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s first reading St. Paul meets some followers of Jesus who have never experienced the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, as it says, they never “never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  The immediate effect of their receiving the Holy Spirit in Baptism is their prophesizing or speaking in the name of God.  It certainly involves evangelization.  The Spirit moves Christians to tell others of God’s love witnessed in Jesus Christ.

As we prepare to celebrate the Holy Spirit on Pentecost this Sunday, we should anticipate His gifts and also the mission to which He calls us.  He will provide understanding and courage to speak to others of how we have experienced love and mercy through our relationship with Jesus.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter

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

“O happy fault!” the “Exultet” proclaims in the Holy Saturday liturgy. This oxymoron declares the desirability of Adam’s sin for having produced the effect of the world’s knowing the Son of God.  A woman might similarly speak of her labor as sweet pain in that it accompanies the wonder of a new-born child.  In today’s gospel Jesus uses this image of child-bearing to describe the glory of the resurrection after his bloody death.

In the passage Jesus is making his farewell to his disciples.  They are confused by his reiterating how they will not see him for a while and then see him again.  As is his custom, Jesus uses an image from daily life to give clarity.  They will experience sorrow at his leaving them but joy when he returns, just like a woman who after labor sees her baby.  His going and coming is also like childbirth as it brings a whole new way of living.

Jesus, the master story teller, is capable of relating his meaning with clear, strong images.  As the Word of God, it is only fitting that he uses words artfully.  We give thanks for him, especially as we realize that he spoke most eloquently on the cross where he shows us the depth of God’s love.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter

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

Willie and Linda Sosa preach on behalf of Jesus in West Texas.  They have never studied theology formally, but they read the Scriptures constantly and, just as important, pray continually.  Willie is the more expressive of the two, but Linda’s firm faith is palpable and reassuring.  They make a principle of not asking for money but gladly accept donations that somehow manage to meet their physical needs.   They resemble Aquila and Priscilla introduced in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

The couple comes to Corinth from Rome where they were expelled by Claudius.  Although Acts implies that they are Jews, more than likely they are Christian Jews.  For this reason they welcome Paul into their home.  Eventually they will return to Rome and receive the greeting from Paul when he writes the Christian community there.  “Greet Prisca and Aquila,” Paul writes, “my fellow workers in Christ Jesus , who risked their necks for my life , to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks…”

Christian couples can give powerful witness to Christ.  The Letter to the Ephesians testifies that their love for each other testifies to Christ’s love for the Church.  Working side-by-side, they exemplify that Christianity is not about power over others but the power of the Holy Spirit bestowing equal dignity and genuine love to those willing to accept it.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 17:15.22-18.1; John 16:12-15)

“Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, ’Let Newton be!’ and all was light.”  With these words Alexander Pope honored Isaac Newton, the renowned English physicist.  Newton’s Principia Mathematica described the laws of motion in the seventeenth century.  The work was considered infallible until Einstein reformulated the laws in terms of relativity.  It cannot be said that Newton actually discovered the laws, which are more or less self-evident.  But he did explain them so that the world might understand their dynamics.  His work may be compared to how Jesus describes the role of the Spirit in today’s gospel.

When Jesus says that the Spirit “will declare to you the things that are coming,” he is referring to his death and resurrection.  Because the significance of this paschal event is beyond human intelligence, they need an interpreter.  Jesus cannot explain them because the disciples have not yet experienced them.  He has already declared himself to be “the truth.”  Now he says the Spirit will guide the disciples to “all truth”; that is, the full meaning of himself.

The Spirit must be active in our lives if we are experience the effects of Jesus’ redemption.  The Spirit moves us from attachment to the superficial delights of creation, sets our hearts on eternal life, and propels us to give of ourselves in love so that we may achieve our heart’s desire.  The Spirit is an unimaginable, completely gratuitous gift that the Father sends us through Jesus.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tuesday of the Sixth Week of Easter

(Acts 16:22-34; John 16:5-11)

A few years Pope Benedict commented in an interview on the use of condoms.  He said that those who use them to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus show the beginnings of evangelical concern.  He did not mean to condone the use of condoms, much less to endorse their dissemination to curtail AIDS.  He only wanted to indicate the goodwill of those who care enough about their sexual partners that they take measures to protect them from disease.  Of course, the best way to stop the spread of AIDS and to develop virtue is for the unmarried to practice sexual abstinence.  The pope’s estimation of goodwill may be drawn also from today’s first reading.

The jailer wants to kill himself believing that he has failed in his duty of guarding prisoners.  Paul’s and Silas’ chains were unhinged by the earthquake, yet the jailer feels responsible because it happened on his watch.  Perhaps he was charged to keep awake the entire night, but more likely he is just super-zealous in his work.  At least, he desires to fulfill to carefully discharge his duties.  Such a devotion to responsibility makes him a good candidate for entrance into the new Covenant God has established with his people through Jesus.  For this reason Paul and Silas show no hesitancy in baptizing them.

Everyone has some positive natural traits that we might notice and compliment in our evangelizing.  Grace is said to build upon nature and not to destroy it.  We make use of this maxim by finding the good in others and helping them to multiply it by coming to know Jesus.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, priest

(Acts 16:11-15; John 15:26-16:4a)

More than a salute to military veterans and certainly more than a long weekend, Memorial Day gives tribute to the war dead.  The holiday originated after the Civil War, the deadliest conflict in American history, to honor the patriotism of those who gave their lives for their country.  As in all cases the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promises to send in today’s gospel, enlightens the understanding of this critical virtue.

Patriotism, the love of one’s country, enables the fulfillment of the fifth formulation of the natural law – to live in society.  It calls forth sacrifice on a national level which can, at times, supersede personal and local concerns.  Patriotism should not be regarded as the reckless pursuit of national dominance.  Rather, it is the judicious promotion of the common good.  Sadly, often enough such effort involves the bearing of arms and the giving of lives.

The best that we can do for our war dead -- indeed for all the dead -- is to pray for them.  War often incites irresponsibility in men and women for which they may be severely judged.  We should God, who is always merciful, to forgive the excesses of the war dead and to reward them on the merit of their patriotism.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17)

In "Peter Pan," the captivating story about coming of age, children are taught a lesson on wish-making. When Tinker Bell offers to grant any worthy wish, the tots ask for frivolous things like candy and toys. They seem perplexed when their requests are dismissed. Then they catch on. They should seek noble qualities, like happiness and peace. This is the kind of request that Jesus has in mind in the gospel today.

Jesus tells his disciples, whom he now regards as friends, that they have developed a new level of consciousness. They will no longer be thinking in the ways of the world; that is, they will not be looking out primarily for their own welfare. No, from now on they will pursue God's will above all.

Some Christians will trivialize faith by praying that their baseball team win the pennant or for some other frivolous thing. But faith has an infinitely higher purpose. It is to connect us to God so that we might have the way to eternal life. Of course, we have to God to meet our real needs, but may our petitions always be in line with His plan for us. Let us ask for patience to take good care of our children and for courage to face pain and death. Such requests, Jesus assures us, the Father always honors.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

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

In his encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" Blessed John Paul II expressed the willingness to envision a new form of papal leadership. In a significant outreach to Orthodox and Protestant Christianity the pope asked for suggestions to change his office to accommodate non-Catholic Christians without compromising truth. His offer is reminiscent of the concession that the first followers of Christ are making in the readings from the Acts of the Apostles today.

In the beginning Judaism was as much a part of Christianity as Mother's Day is part of Americanism. God chose the Jews to be His own people, and, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John, "Salvation is from the Jews." But this does not mean that one has to become a Jew to be saved. Peter proclaims what Jesus' disciples know instinctively: salvation does not come from Jewish ritual and the Jewish diet but from the grace of the particular Jew, Jesus Christ.

The great ecumenical question for us is not how much change in the papacy we are willing to accept but how much personal renewal we are willing to make. Some Catholics may harbor prejudices against non-Catholics which surely have to go. Most of us need to emulate the virtues of other kinds of Christians - like the Baptists’ serious study of the word of God or Orthodoxies’ devotional prayer. Finally, all of us must pray more determinedly with Christian brothers and sisters for unity.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 15:1-6; John 15:1-8)

An orthodox Jewish woman writes of her ordeal to keep her head covered at all times.  According to Jewish law married women must never show their hair in public.  It was a bit difficult until the woman started to wearing wigs.  Then she had the best groomed hair of all without infringing the law a bit.  Her trial gives us a sense of the dilemma facing the Jesus movement in today’s reading from Acts.

Surprisingly the text describes Pharisee’s who believe in Jesus.  With reason they say that to be Jesus’ disciples, people have to keep the Jewish law.  After all, Jesus always obeyed the law and taught his followers to do likewise.  Nevertheless, expecting Gentiles to eat kosher, as Paul fully realizes, will severely hamper the outreach of the gospel.  The issue begs for wisdom as everyone realizes when the matter is taken to Jerusalem.

Many people today leave the Church because of what they perceive as unreasonable rules.  It seems rigorist to them that one cannot remarry after entering a frivolous marriage in their youth or that they commit a mortal sin when they use artificial contraception to prevent a pregnancy that would threaten a woman’s life.  We should realize that such positions are not arbitrary regulations but truths born of study and prayer.  We need also to pray for those who depart from our ranks for these reasons – that they sincerely search for God’s will and do not balk at every sacrifice God demands of them.

Tuesday, Msy 20, 2014

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:19-28; John 14:27-31a)

In the third century the priest Arius exploited a clause in today’s gospel reading.  He claimed that when Jesus said, “…the Father is greater than I,” he was admitting that he was not God.  The argument was eventually rejected by the bishops at Nicea, who believed that in this passage Jesus was referring to his humanity, not his divinity.  Much later, the bishops assembled for the Second Vatican Council criticized the use of Scripture as a tool to prove different theological positions.  In their view, the purpose of Scripture is to facilitate the human encounter with God. 

It is wise to be aware that, as Shakespeare wrote, “The devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose.”  The sacred writing should not be used as a sword to tear apart another’s argument.  Rather we read it to know God.  Its message assures us of his care for us.  As Jesus indicates in the selection at hand, God’s care brings us true peace.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter

(Acts 14:5-18; John 14:21-26)

Trolling is a word that has taken new meaning since the Interne came into widespread use.  At one time it referred to fishing with a moving line.  Now it is commonly used to describe the insidious practice of posting negative comments on Internet sites to provoke discord.  Trolling exemplifies the nasty world that Jesus shuns in today’s gospel.

Jesus tells his disciples that he will reveal himself to those who love him, but not to the world.  Of course, anyone can read the gospel to learn the content of Jesus’ revelation.  But unless one practices Jesus’ commandment of love, the revelation will go unfulfilled.  It is like the proverbial tree falling in a forest with no one to hear it.  There cannot be revelation in the first case as there is not sound in the second.

Nevertheless, Christ sends us into the world to proclaim his resurrection.  We meet it and greet it.  We will note hints of openness that beg dialogue which may even enrich us.  Nevertheless, we need to proceed with care.  The world has its snares that may lead us astray perhaps with more likelihood than we will be able to lead it to Christ.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:26-33; John 14:1-6)

A university co-ed tells her roommates in the middle of a blizzard that her father is coming to pick her up.  “How can you be so sure he will get here?” the roommates ask.  “Because I am his favorite daughter,” the young woman replies.  In the gospel today Jesus means to instill such confidence in his disciples.    

The passage is taken from the beginning of the second part of John’s gospel, the so-called Book of Glory.  Jesus is giving a farewell speech to his disciples.  He does not want them to worry because he is leaving and so assures them that they will be all right.  Thomas expresses the uncertainty that they all feel.  Jesus answers that there is no need for fright since he is “the way and the truth and the life.”  That is, he is the way to the Father because he is the truth sent from the Father to give the supernatural life of the Father.

We sometimes find ourselves in bleak situations.  Perhaps we face job termination, mortgage foreclosure, or even terminal disease.  We are not to cower but to hope.  Jesus is one with the Father who called the Israelites out of slavery into a new marvelous land and raised the crucified to new life.  He will save us, his followers, from distress.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)

The man is an active Catholic working with youth in his parish.  He has a small, successful business and is married with a family.  He would hardly have dreamt being so blessed seventeen years ago.  Then he was in jail reeling from a troubled childhood.  In time he met the Lord largely, as he tells the story, through the prison chaplain.  The encounter turned his life around.  His story parallels that of St. Paul preaching in a synagogue in the first reading today.

Capture the irony.  Just a few years before Paul would have been in a similar synagogue ferreting out Jews having inclinations toward Jesus whom Christians believed was the Christ or Messiah.  Now he preaches quite openly that indeed Jesus is the savior of the people.  His turnabout came through a palpable encounter with Jesus risen from the dead.

Many today have experiences such as Paul’s.  The Church sponsors activities such as “Cursillo” and “Christ Renews His Parish” so that participants may know Christ in ways beyond the intellect.  Many others have a relationship with Christ without such a felt experience.  They know him to be real and influential although they would never admit to hearing him speak to them.  In any case we should treat Jesus as he is preached by Paul – a friend who comes to save us from our folly and all its effects.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Feast of Saint Matthias, apostle

(Acts1:15-17.20-26; John 15:9-17)

Many like to think of themselves as pro-active.  They want to be seen as autonomous, that is self-directed.  The very assertive might call themselves Type-A.  Such individuals run the risk of thinking too much of themselves.  In today’s gospel Jesus indicates who really is in charge, at least of his disciples.

When he says that he has chosen his disciples and not vice versa, Jesus echoes a basic Old Testament theme.  There God is always the actor with the people responding to his initiatives.  The first reading from Acts gives testimony that the disciples have understood the lesson.  They make no pretense at all about choosing a successor to Judas but allow God to indicate His choice casting lots.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being an assertive person.  It should be said as well that casting lots in most circumstances is hardly the best way to determine God’s will on a matter.  However, we do need to defer to God in prayer before we act and then to give Him thanks for enabling us to do what we must in any situation.  Far from intending to dominate our will, God wants to lead us to our destiny as His daughters and sons.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:19-26; John 10:22-30)

Fr. Cornelius would sit at the back of church before masses in which young Dominican friars were ordained. He knew that some of the people attending the mass would need the Sacrament of Reconciliation and wanted to make himself available.  He was a good man in the style of Barnabas of the first reading today.

There really is no need for the reading to say that Barnabas is a "good man" since Acts has already spelled out how he had sold his property and gave the proceeds to the community of disciples in Jerusalem.  Here he recognizes the good of foreigners (that is, non-Jews) accepting faith in Jesus as Lord.  He will go on to preach to the Gentiles along with Paul.

We hope that others say of us that we are good men and women.  A sure sign of goodness is openness to different kinds of people.  We should not judge others before getting to know them.  Indeed, we want to extend a hand of friendship to the strangers that we meet.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11: 1-18; John 10:11-18)

At the Second Vatican Council discussion of religious freedom became a burning issue.  Some felt that a social policy protecting the freedom of each person to worship as she thinks is necessary since conscience should not be forced.  Others thought a policy favoring Catholic belief would be preferable since only the Church professes the fullness of faith.  Adherents to this thinking like to charge, “Error has no rights.”  The American Jesuit John Courtney Murray countered that neither error nor truth has rights since they are abstractions.  People have rights, one of which is to pursue religious practice as he sees fit.  In the reading from Acts today the Christian community in Jerusalem grapples with a similar issue.

Jewish Christians are upset by the news that Peter not only baptized Gentiles but ate at their table.  They demand some explanation since the law forbids taking foods that are not kosher.  Peter explains that the Holy Spirit indicated that he should eat all kinds of food and to accept non-Jews directly into the community of faith.  According to Luke, the author of Acts, Peter’s explanation convinced his critics, but it should be kept in mind that Luke himself regularly promotes harmony.

It is easy for one to say that the Holy Spirit or “the spirit” moved her to do something.  But such a defense for an innovation begs more justification.  The Holy Spirit is not just the Spirit of peace and tranquility but also of wisdom and prudence.  We must question actions that veer from established norms.  Are they motivated out of love? Do they contradict the teachings of Jesus? Are they reasonable?  Only after receiving the appropriate answers to these questions may we accept the actions as the will of God.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59)

In the classic tragedy Oedipus Rex, spiritual and physical blindness interplay to the enlightenment of all.  Oedipus’ father, King Laius, is told in an oracle that his son will kill him and marry his wife.  Determined that this not happen, Laius plans to have his infant son Oedipus killed.  However, the deed is never carried out, and Oedipus eventually fulfills the prophecy.  In the end Oedipus blinds himself in shame and remorse. In the first reading there is a parallel story of spiritual and physical blindness.

After Saul’s inquisitorial journey is interrupted by the appearance of Jesus, he becomes blind.  The infliction functions first as a metaphor of Saul’s spiritual blindness in punishing Christians.  Then the blindness serves as a catharsis so that Saul may repent of his malicious zeal.  When the blindness dissipates, Saul not only knows the truth but makes amends for his past errors.

Spiritual blindness inflicts most people at one time or another.  We misread situations and cast blame unjustly.  We seek apparent goods like illicit sex or easy money that bring embarrassment if not downfall and shame.  We miss seeing Jesus in the suffering.  Christ’s light burns away this blindness like a laser cutting away unwanted tissue.  We meet him in the sacraments, and the encounters leave us in the glow of his love and truth until he comes for us in full glory at the end of time.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)

A university professor tells of the importance of a good teacher.  She writes that a friend had the most difficult time understanding St. Augustine’s Confessions when he first read it in college.  He knew it was an important book but could not appreciate its quality.  Rather than give up, he sought the help of a professor who guided his study so that it became profitable.  In the reading from Acts today Philip serves as such a guide.

The Ethiopian magistrate is reading one of the “Suffering Servant” passages in the prophet Isaiah.  Like everyone else, the Ethiopian asks to whom the passage refers.  For Christians such as Philip the question is easy to answer.  Jesus passion and death perfectly parallels the trajectory of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant.” Philip proceeds to tell the man more about Jesus and eventually baptizes him.

The Church needs catechists such as Philip to assist lay people today in the study of Scripture.  The project can be tremendously fruitful, but guides are indispensable if it is to get off the ground.  With such help we will see Jesus in the Old Testament as well as the New.  He will reveal himself as the one who came down from heaven to tell us about God. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:1b-8; John 6:35-40)

An advertisement for a restaurant read, "Thought for food" and proceeded to promote its own wholesome fare.  Of course, the phrase "thought for food" plays on the more common idiom, "food for thought."  But it also points to the truth of the gospel today.

As Jesus says in another gospel passage, "Humans do not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."  Today we hear Jesus saying that he is the "bread of life."  He is, of course, more than a thought, but like a thought he comes before the mind's eye calling forth discernment.  Assenting to his real presence, the believer receives life on a different order than physical life.  The life he gives, what may be called divine grace, enables us to form a loving relationship with God and one another.  Because God is eternal, the grace Jesus gives does not wither as physical things but endures for eternity.

We ingest the bread of life in both participating in the Eucharist and in meditating on Scripture.  Actually the two intertwine.  It is in reading the Scripture that prepares us to receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist.  And it is taking the Eucharist that fills us with hunger to study the Scriptures for a proper sense of its meaning.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 6:30-35)

A man sends a Twitter message: “As Pope Francis said today: ‘I am a sinner.’ There is something cathartic about saying that to yourself. We should all try it.”  St. Paul seems to have said that often enough with astonishing results.

Paul is introduced in the Acts of the Apostles with today’s reading.  He is, of course, the “Saul” who witnesses St. Stephen’s execution. (Paul, by the way, is not the Hebrew word for Saul but most likely the saint’s name given at birth and Saul the name he used in Jewish company.)  No doubt, the experience of seeing Stephen executed affected Paul profoundly.  At first, he wanted to see all followers of Jesus dispatched in a similar way.  Upon meditation of Stephen’s blessing while be stoned, however, Paul surely wondered about the grace that could allow a man to forgive those who were killing him.

As Pope Francis indicates, all of us sin.  But this does not mean that we are not to overcome sin with the grace of Christ.  Acknowledging ourselves as sinners is the first step in the process.  Then we need to pray for help and finally to act on the grace God offers us to reject temptation.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 6:8-15; John 6:22-29)

When Jesus tells the Jews that they must believe in him to do the works of God, he does not mean that they only are to be baptized.  He is inviting them to trust in him and not in their own capabilities, much less in the strengths of others.  This does not mean that they will refuse others’ help or that they will not help themselves.  It does mean that they will live by his commands, imitate his ways, and pray to him for assistance.  It means acting like Frans van der Lugt, the Dutch Jesuit who was murdered in Syria last month.

Fr. Van der Lugt might have left the town of Homs with other expatriates, but he decided to stay with the remaining Christian community who could not leave.  He became one with the people after fifty years of speaking Arabic and creating a space where Christians and Muslims might come together.  The people loved him, but the militants evidently saw him as symbol of the government’s collaboration with the West and killed him.

When we pray to God, “…lead us not into temptation…,” we are asking the Almighty to spare us situations like Fr. Van der Lugt’s.  But if we find ourselves in such a predicament, then let us ask Christ for courage to give of ourselves for the sake of others.  He will indicate what must be done and take care of us no matter what happens.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

(Acts 5:34-42; John 6:1-15)

A philosopher writes of her journey of faith.  She says that she entered college with every intention of becoming a lawyer and earning bundles.  Then she took a course in ethics, became fascinated with ideas, and changed her career goal.  In the meantime she started attending mass.  The first time her purpose was to memorialize the September 11 slaughter, but she became absorbed by the experience and eventually entered the Church.  Now she finds tension between some of the conclusions of philosophy and the teachings of faith.  Rather than ignore the differences or settle for the conclusions of one kind of wisdom over the other, she writes of pursuing the “Way of Aporia.”  Aporia is a Greek word meaning an intractable puzzle.  In physics a famous aporia from the last century is the contention between Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and Max Planck’s quantum theory over the behavior of subatomic particles.  Just as physicists keep observing and testing to resolve that issue, the religious philosopher should contemplate how the truths of faith might correspond to reason.  St. Athanasius embarked on this endeavor in the fourth century with results that have deepened our appreciation of God.

The hot-button issue in the Christian world during Athanasius’ lifetime was Christ’s divinity.  Was he truly God or only partially God?  A famous teacher named Arius made the latter case saying that “there was a time in which the Son was not.” He cited biblical texts to secure his position.  But Athanasius understood Scripture as revealing that the Son is one with the Father for all eternity and resolved the issue of uniqueness of the Father and the Son by saying that God is of a different order of being than creation – an order where two or three are one in a way beyond human comprehension.  His thinking, of course, lays the premise for the doctrine of the Trinity.

The need for contemplation to resolve tension between faith and reason may be applied to today’s gospel as well.  How could food for five thousand be obtained from a few loaves and fish?  Was it that Jesus convinced the people to share the food they had hidden in their pockets?  Or perhaps there was a passing caravan with wagonloads of bread?  More probably, Jesus “multiplied” the food available although the gospel does not use this term.  In any case, we do well to meditate on the meaning of it all and to give thanks for knowing Jesus.