Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes of five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fishes, and in a great miracle, these few food items managed to satisfy all of them till full and with twelve baskets of leftovers just for the bread alone.

We also heard how the respected leader of the elders of Israel, the Rabbi Gamaliel, counseled patience and caution to the rest of the elders in dealing with the Apostles who were proclaiming the greatness of Christ and taught the teachings of Jesus to the people, and hence rivalling the authority of the Pharisees and the chief priests.

All that we heard today, testify to the one singular fact, that is, we have One Man who came upon us from heaven, sent with power, by the Power Himself, that is none other than Jesus, the Son of the Most High God. Today we celebrate the very nature of Christ who is Son, and who is sent by the Father and bear the power of the Holy Spirit with Him, truly the concept of a Godhead with Three distinct persons yet perfectly in unity, the Holy Trinity.

Today we celebrate also the feast of a saint, a great and holy man, whose life had been given in its entirety to defend this basic and holy truth, the fact that quite a few people of this saint’s time refuse to acknowledge and believe in, and instead they believed in the lies of Satan spread through the heretical teachings of a man called Arius, from whom the Arian heresy got its name from.

Arius and his followers denied the divinity of Christ, by teaching and speculating that the divine and human nature of Christ is separate, and that Jesus Christ who was in this world is merely human created and not equal with the Father, who is God Almighty and all-powerful. For them, it may be unthinkable that God should go through all the humiliating and not-so-good experiences that Jesus had encountered, culminating with the crucifixion and death of Jesus.

They claimed that Jesus is mere man and mere creation of God, albeit One that is special among all other creations. In essence, the view of those who adopted the Arian heresy is not much different from the views espoused by the Muslims who also stressed especially that Jesus is not God in their so-called ‘Scripture’. As such, there had been some people who deemed that the two might be related, and the two heresies might indeed had the same origin.

Nevertheless, all of them were mistaken greatly because they failed to understand the mystery and the sublime nature of God in our faith, that is so great that it begs a better understanding from us. And even with our limited wisdom and knowledge, we are not likely to be able to understand the fullness of God and His mysteries. And that is why our deposit of faith in the Sacred Tradition is so important.

For denying the divinity of Christ is in fact the same as denying the greatness of God Himself, no matter what these people do to justify their ideas and viewpoints born out of mistaken view of the Word of God. They denied the works of salvation carried out by Jesus, for they denied not just Jesus as divine, but also because of that, they denied the salvation that can be offered only by the worthy Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, whose blood made all of us pure and worthy.

If Jesus is not God as Arius and others have claimed, then we have no hope, because the blood of a man alone will not be able to atone for our sins. The blood of Christ saves us exactly because He is divine, both God and man at the same time, one divine person but having two natures, divine and man. This is what we are celebrating today’s saint for, that is in the defense of this truth about the faith, the hard work of St. Athanasius of Alexandria.

St. Athanasius of Alexandria was the Patriarch and leader of the See of Alexandria, which with Rome was the five most preeminent dioceses and centres of the Christian world at the time. St. Athanasius was a great defender of the faith, and despite the popular and provocative teachings of Arius, which brought many people to fall into heresy, he managed to hold on to the firm foundation of faith established since the Apostles, and despite opposition and ridicule by his enemies, St. Athanasius remained firm and faithful.

The hard works of St. Athanasius earned him the faith of the people and the perseverance of many in the face of heresy, and many stood strong for the Lord and did not turn towards the erroneous teachings of Arius. St. Athanasius stood strong for the Lord’s true divine and human nature, and championed the indivisibility of the Most Holy Trinity. He was truly a faithful servant, like that of the Apostles of old.

Remember, brethren, that if Jesus is not God, it will be precisely as what Gamaliel said in the first reading, that the endeavours of man will eventually perish and be gone, but if it is the endeavour of the Lord, not even the greatest force or opposition can make it go away. The Lord will triumph in glory in the end, and this is a fact that we know.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hence, inspired by the life of St. Athanasius and his actions, shall we walk in the same way as he had walked? Shall we resolve to make a difference in the lives of our fellow men, in a way that we bring the truth of God to them? Shall we bring the light of God to our brethren who are still in darkness, and to those who have been trapped and lured in by the lies of the devil?

May God guide us in our endeavour and our actions, that in all the things that we do, we will always be faithful, strong and completely dedicated to the Lord in all of our days, and show it through our actions and deeds. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 6 : 1-15

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, near Tiberias, and large crowds followed Him, because of the miraculous signs they saw, when He healed the sick. So He went up into the hills and sat down there with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

Then lifting up His eyes, Jesus saw the crowds that were coming to Him, and said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat?” He said this to test Philip, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred silver coins would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a piece.”

Then one of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, so the people, about five thousand men, sat down. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish, and gave them as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten enough, He told His disciples, “Gather up the pieces left over, that nothing may be lost.”

So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with bread, that is, pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw the miracle which Jesus had performed, they said, “This is really the Prophet, the One who is to come into the world.”

Jesus realised that they would come and take Him by force to make Him King; so He fled to the hills by Himself.

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 2 May 2014 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 5 : 34-42

But one of the Council members, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law highly respected by the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin. He ordered the men to be taken outside for a few minutes and then he spoke to the assembly.

“Fellow Israelites, consider well what you intend to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed and all his followers were dispersed or disappeared. After him, Judas the Galilean appeared at the time of the census and persuaded many people to follow him. But he too perished and his whole following was scattered.”

“So, in this present case, I advise you to have nothing to do with these men. Leave them alone. If their project or activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. If, on the other hand, it is from God, you will not be able to destroy it and you may indeed find yourselves fighting against God.”

The Council let themselves be persuaded. They called in the Apostles and had them whipped, and ordered them not to speak again of Jesus Saviour. Then they set them free. The Apostles went out from the Council rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the Name.

Day after day, both in the Temple and in people’s homes, they continued to teach and to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah.