Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homily, Memorial of St. Athanasius (May 2)

This is more or less what I preached today, for the Memorial of St. Athanasius; it's not word for word, but I think it's pretty close.  The Gospel is John 12:44-50.

There are two kinds of unity we experience in this life. 

The first is the kind that Jesus is talking about in today's Gospel.  It is the unity of light with light, and against darkness.  It is the unity of God the Son with God the Father in their one divinity.  It is the unity of Jesus with us also, in His humanity.  It is the kind of unity we call "communion."

The invitation to communion with Jesus in the Church is given to everyone.  But, as Jesus says, not everyone accepts it.  Jesus does not condemn those who reject His word.  But in the same way that light is clearly divided from darkness, His word judges those who do not accept.  When a light is turned on, it is on, and there is no darkness; when the light is off, it is off, and there is no light.  This is how His word judges; either one accepts it, and is united with Christ, or not.

The second kind of union we experience in our families, towns, and nation.  It is a political and social unity, of the kind we call "community."

"Community" is not the same as "communion."  At its best, political or social unity can reflect the light of Christ from our communion with Him.  We want to have a Christian nation, built on the foundation of His light and His word.  We want to have Christian families, built on the same foundation.  But that foundation only comes from communion.  It's not inherently part of our communities.

So, when our communities go bad, they can go very bad indeed.  At their worst, when communities do not reflect the light of Christ, all the grave social evils of history, and of today, creep in: evils such as slavery, racism, abortion, the erosion of marriage, and the trampling of religious freedom.  These are the works of darkness, not of the light.

St. Athanasius, whose feast we celebrate today, is a great example to us of how to fight against the darkness in our communities.  He was a great champion of the light and the truth of Christ, when the government of his day, the Roman Emperor Constantius, adopted the falsehood of Arianism to promote political unity.  Arianism denies the full divinity of Christ; and so it denies that "whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me."  It denies the communion of the Son with the Father, and therefore of the Son with us.  Athanasius would not agree to this falsehood as a basis for public policy, and denounced it constantly - so much so that he was exiled from his see on five separate occasions, totally 17 years.  This was a heavy cost to pay, but he paid it willingly, because he kept his communion with Christ and the Church as his solid foundation.

Our own government today is doing exactly the same thing - attempting to build political unity on falsehood.  The HHS Mandate threatens our religious freedom.  It tries to play our community against our communion, which is always a sign of the darkness creeping in.  Our bishops are fighting against this, fighting to keep the light of Christ reflecting in our community, too. 

One of the things that supported St. Athanasius was the faith of his people.  I ask you to support our bishops.  You do this most and best just as you are right now - by coming to Holy Mass, and receiving the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist; by contemplating the Word of God, and praying on it at home; by living your faith courageously with your family, and at work, and in the world.  This is what we are called to by our baptism; and when we live this way, as holy people of God, we enable our bishops to be more courageous and forthright in defending the light and the truth of Christ.

May the example of St. Athanasius strengthen our faith in the light and the truth of Christ, and encourage us to live it with more zeal every day.

1 comment:

dbrockhaus said...

Since history likes to repeat itself, I like how you tied past faults with present Government policies.
It is never to late to change this government policy.
May the light always shine on our community and our Bishop.