Tuesday, 2 May 2023 : 4th 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, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the call and responsibilities that each and every one of us have as Christians in proclaiming the truth of God to more and more people around us, to all those who have not yet heard of Him and those who have yet to know Him. All of us are called to be the bearers of God’s truth and love to the world, through our every words, actions and deeds. All of us ought to proclaim our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, and everything that He had done for us, in bringing us all out of the darkness and into the light, in saving us all from the threat of eternal damnation and death by freeing us from our sins. As Christians, each and every one of us are called and reminded to be good and faithful missionaries through our lives and our good examples.

In our first reading today, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard of the continuing growth of the early Church, as there were more and more people who came to believe in the Lord and became believers, were baptised and welcomed into the community of the Christian faithful. It was told how the Apostles sent St. Barnabas to Antioch upon hearing of the vibrant and rapid growth of Christians in those regions, and despite the many challenges, trials, persecutions and hardships that they faced, it was said that the Lord was with His disciples and faithful ones, as He guided and strengthened them, protected and provided them throughout their journey of faith and life. The Apostles through St. Barnabas ministered to the Christian faithful, spreading the Good News of God and proclaiming His truth, calling on many to turn towards the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

The Lord has shown us all His faithfulness and love through this, and through many more examples, as He was with them all through even the most difficult and challenging moments, as a Good Shepherd guiding His beloved sheep in His flock, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. He cared for them, for their needs and provided for them, guarded and protected them, and gave them the love and attention, leading them from the darkness of this world into the true Light of His glory and truth. All of us are reminded that Christ is truly our Good Shepherd, the most loving Lord and God Who has showered and shown us His most generous love and attention, Who knows each and every one of us very well, and Who wants all of us to follow Him and become members of His flock, as Christians, those whom the people of Antioch called as such because of their belief in the Risen Christ.

Now, all of us are reminded today if we have lived our lives as the Lord has taught us to do, and whether we have committed our time and effort to glorify Him by our lives. As Christians, we are all those who have committed ourselves to the Risen Lord, Whom we have taken as our Lord, Master and Saviour. However, if we spend some time to look deep into ourselves and our way of life, very soon we may realise that it was often that we did not act in the way that the Lord has called and expected us to do, and on the contrary, we often acted in ways that were contrary to His teachings and truth. Many of us failed to embrace His path wholeheartedly and not only that, but often through our wayward actions and way of life, we turned people away from the Lord and His Church, because our actions, words and deeds, our way of life were abhorrent and against what our faith truly is.

That is why today all of us are reminded that as Christians all of us must first of all do what the Lord has commanded and taught us to do, to be devoted and committed to Him in all things. Each and every one of us have been given the gifts, grace and blessings, the opportunities and the abilities to carry out our respective parts in doing the work of God, to be faithful and committed in our lives as Christians. All of us should do our best and strive to be good role models, inspirations and examples to one another in our faith and way of life. For we have to realise that it is by our works and deeds, by our words and interactions with others that we may let the world know of the truth and the identity of Our Lord and Saviour, the One Whom we ought to be proclaiming about. But too often we allowed ourselves to be tempted by various temptations, and chose to walk the path of wickedness and evil instead.

Today, let us all be inspired by the great examples shown by the great servant of God, St. Athanasius, a renowned and most faithful disciple of the Lord, a most courageous and fearless defender of the faith, whose feast day we are celebrating on this very day. St. Athanasius was also known as St. Athanasius the Great or St. Athanasius of Alexandria, and was the Bishop of Alexandria, also known as the Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria, as one of the most prominent leaders of the Church during his time. He led the Church of Alexandria and was involved greatly throughout Christendom for a long period of forty-five years, which was intermittent due to the challenges and trials that he had to face during his ministry, which saw him being exiled and punished several times by those who opposed and oppressed him.

St. Athanasius lived and ministered to the faithful during a time of great change to the Church, as it was the years and decades following after the end of the long state persecution of Christianity by the Romans, with the Edict of Milan by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, ever sympathetic to the Christian cause. However, this joy at the end of the persecution of the Church and Christians was then overshadow by the intensifying divisions within the Church due to various heresies, and most importantly then, was the rapidly rising heretical teachings of the arch-heretic Arius, a very popular preacher that claimed and taught that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Messiah, was not equal to God the Father, but rather subservient to Him and existed after the Father, not Co-Eternal and not Co-Equal, neither Consubstantial with Him.

This heretical teachings gained wide support throughout Christendom and gained the support and belief of even many among the Church leaders and bishops, especially throughout the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, including Alexandria where St. Athanasius himself was Bishop at, with Arius himself hailing from the same region as well. St. Athanasius was very passionate and courageous, hardworking and zealous in his many efforts against the Arian heresy, resisting those who sought to subvert and divide the Church for their own selfish ambitions and desires. St. Athanasius did not give up even when many of the upper echelon of the Roman society and government were swayed by the Arians and some of them even becoming ardent supporters of the Arians and their false faith.

St. Athanasius faced a lot of struggles and hardships, having to endure persecution and even exile from his See of Alexandria, by the order and working of those who were favourable and supporters of the Arians. But he continued to faithfully carry out his works, writing extensively on the matters of the faith, supporting and strengthening all the others who also struggled with the various persecutions, hardships, divisions, heretical teachings and other challenges that they had to face throughout their lives and ministry. Despite the repeated challenges, exiles, hardships and all the other things that he had to endure, St. Athanasius continued to remain faithful to the calling and mission he had as the shepherd of the Lord’s flock, to the very end, and his courage and faithfulness, his persistence and perseverance in carrying out his works and mission should inspire us all as Christians to do the same as well.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired by the good examples of St. Athanasius, holy servant of God, our role model and most courageous defender of the Christian faith. Let us all be good role models and inspirations to one another as well, through our every words, actions and deeds, so that we may inspire more and more people to be ever more committed to the Lord and to follow Him. That is our calling and that is what we should be doing in our daily lives as those who truly believe in the Lord. May the Lord, our Saviour and Good Shepherd, be our guide and help and may He empower us all to be like His servants, like St. Athanasius and others in their faith and commitment. May God bless our every good works and efforts, for the greater glory of His Name. Amen.

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