Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Acts 16:1-11; John 15:26-16:4a)
The four gospels may be called different answers to the question, “Who is Jesus?” Put simply, Matthew sees Jesus as the definitive teacher; Mark, as the suffering Messiah; Luke, as the gracious prophet; and John, as the kingly Son of God. It took the genius of St. Athanasius to explain how Jesus might fulfill all of these roles only if he is truly God. Challenged by a popular idea that Jesus was created by God, and therefore subordinate to the Father, Athanasius corrected the error. He taught that the Son, born of the Father before time began, shares His divine nature.
In today’s gospel passage Jesus tells his disciples that he will send the Advocate to testify to the Son. This is the Holy Spirit who moved Athanasius to elucidate how the Father and the Son could be both one and distinct. Along with the same Spirit the two have existed for all eternity before the creation of time.
The sharing of the divine nature puzzles most of us. But that fact is not so important. We have only to accept how Jesus’ natural divinity has made it possible for us to be adopted into God’s family. Holding on to this belief, we strive to live the love characteristic of God.