Thursday, 2 May 2019 : 2nd Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us of the responsibility which each and every one of us as Christians have, that is to be witnesses and defenders of our faith before all the people, to be walking in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those who have given themselves wholly in the service of God, as we have ourselves heard in our Scripture passages today.

In the first reading today, we listened to the persistence and perseverance of the Apostles in the face of harsh persecution and opposition, as they were faced with fierce opposition from the influential members of the Jewish High Council, the Sanhedrin, who wanted the Apostles to stop preaching, teaching and doing works in the Name of the Lord Jesus, by Whose Name they have performed miracles, healing and called the people of God to believe in the Saviour Who had died for them.

But the Apostles stood by their faith in God and refused to abandon the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them, just as St. John the Baptist in our Gospel passage today testified before the people and before all those who opposed him, that he obeyed the will of God and he preached the truth and the salvation that God has revealed through His own Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Saviour of all the world.

St. John the Baptist also faced a lot of opposition and challenges, from the same influential members of the community who felt threatened by the influence, charisma and the message which both St. John the Baptist and the Apostles had brought with them and which they preached and taught among the people. That is because God’s truth has come to dispel the falsehoods and the corrupted truths which the enemies and opponents of the Lord had championed.

And in today’s occasion, aptly and most appropriately, we also celebrate the feast day of one of the great servants of God, whose life has also been filled with plenty of challenges and difficulties, and how this holy servant stood by his faith courageously, and became known as the staunch defender of the true, orthodox Christian faith. He is St. Athanasius the Great, Holy Doctor of the Church and great Defender of the Faith.

St. Athanasius was the Patriarch of Alexandria, one of the most important dioceses of the Church, and a great leader of the faithful at a time when the Church and the community of Christendom were bitterly divided between the many heresies and false teachings by false teachers and preachers who spread untruths and heresies that took hold many among the faithful, dividing even bishops against bishops, priests against priests, the Church against each other.

St. Athanasius defended the true faith in particular against the heresy of Arianism, which denied the equality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God with His heavenly Father, and for such, he was known also for his now famous Athanasian Creed, a very comprehensive version of the Christian Creed that is filled with the centre tenets of the faith, especially in the truth of the Holy Trinity, the distinctiveness, equality and yet perfect unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, which is something that many of the heresies including Arianism tried to undermine and corrupt.

For his courageous and relentless defence of the true faith, St. Athanasius had to endure much difficulty and sufferings, having endured several exiles and persecutions by his enemies, who sometimes enjoyed the support of the Roman Empire and its institutions. Yet, St. Athanasius did not give up and continued to defend the faith till the end of his life, and he was remembered for his courage and faithfulness, as the true faith eventually triumphed.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us as Christians are also called and expected to stand up for our faith, not through confrontation or violence, but through our courageous and committed desire to live our whole lives being dedicated to God, just as the Apostles, St. John the Baptist and St. Athanasius the Great had done. Let us all be truly faithful, that the love of God will be the centre of our every actions, words and deeds, that we may find true justification in God. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

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