"We must not wish anything other than what happens from moment to moment, all the while, however, exercising ourselves in goodness. And to refuse to exercise oneself in goodness, and to insist upon simply awaiting what God might send, would be simply to tempt God."
— St. Catherine of Genoa
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"When it comes to explaining the Blessed Virgin Mary, having a lot of love is more important than having a lot of answers. When we come up lacking, she'll make greater goods out of our deficiencies, as only a mother can do. Whenever we're humiliated and shown our weakness, we should get ready for something better than we could ever plan and prepare to accomplish. Evangelize with joy, then, and with confidence. Know from the start that you don't have all the answers—but your Savior does, and He loves His mother. He will give you everything you need, even if sometimes you need to fail." — Scott Hahn, p.162 AN EXCERPT FROM Hail, Holy Queen, p162
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Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church.
Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism.
When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of St. Paul.
After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters.
Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ's divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism.
Among his ascetical writings, his Life of St. Anthony (January 17) achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.
Athanasius suffered many trials while he was bishop of Alexandria. He was given the grace to remain strong against what probably seemed at times to be insurmountable opposition. Athanasius lived his office as bishop completely. He defended the true faith for his flock, regardless of the cost to himself. In today's world we are experiencing this same call to remain true to our faith, no matter what.
The hardships Athanasius suffered in exile, hiding, fleeing from place to place remind us that Paul said his ministry took him: "[O]n frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fastings, through cold and exposure. And apart from these things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:26-28).
"I stand at the door and knock," says the Lord. What a wonderful privilege that the Lord of all creation desires to come to me. I welcome His presence.
I try to let go of concerns and worries that may be dragging me down at this present moment. I place any concerns I have in Gods hands - at least for these few minutes of prayer.
At this moment Lord I turn my thoughts to you. I will leave aside my chores and preoccupations. I will take rest and refreshment in your presence Lord.
The Word of God
Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Reading 1 Acts 16:11-15
We set sail from Troas, making a straight run for Samothrace, and on the next day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, a leading city in that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We spent some time in that city. On the sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer. We sat and spoke with the women who had gathered there. One of them, a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, from the city of Thyatira, a worshiper of God, listened, and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what Paul was saying. After she and her household had been baptized, she offered us an invitation, "If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my home," and she prevailed on us.
Responsorial Psalm PS 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b R. (see 4a) The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Sing to the LORD a new song of praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in their maker, let the children of Zion rejoice in their king.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Let them praise his name in the festive dance, let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp. For the LORD loves his people, and he adorns the lowly with victory.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy upon their couches. Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia.
R. The Lord takes delight in his people. or: R. Alleluia.
Alleluia Jn 15:26b, 27a R. Alleluia, alleluia. The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you will also testify. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Jn 15:26—16:4a
Jesus said to his disciples: "When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ The disciples were able to testify to Jesus, because they had lived and worked alongside him. In this passage, Jesus promises to send them the "Advocate" after he has gone. We can bear witness to Jesus because the testimony of his disciples has been handed down to us. And the Spirit of God, whom he gave to the disciples, is given to us too.
▪ The Spirit is described by St Paul as "one who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are already in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." Those who are blessed with the experience of divine consolation are best placed to comfort other weary souls.
Remembering that I am still in God's presence, I imagine Jesus himself standing or sitting beside me, and say whatever is on my mind, whatever is in my heart, speaking as one friend to another.
I thank God for these few moments we have spent alone together and for any insights I may have been given concerning the text.
Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Memorial)
The Lord opened her heart to pay attention. (Acts 16:14)
What exactly do we know about Lydia? We know she was a successful businesswoman. We know she was a Gentile who participated in Jewish worship services. We know that through Paul she was converted to Christ and was baptized into the Church. In fact, Lydia's was the first recorded conversion in all of Europe! Finally, we know that Lydia was so moved by her newfound relationship with Christ that she opened her home to Paul and his companions while they continued to preach in the city of Philippi.
But that's all we know. After this one passage, Lydia disappears from the scene altogether; we never hear about her again. So what happened to her? Lydia probably continued to work at her business and tend to her family as before—but it's likely that she also shared the story of her conversion with her business associates and friends. She had her own network of relationships, and she probably used that network to build up the Church.
What is your story going to be? Everyone is so busy with their everyday lives, but that doesn't mean we can't bring people to Jesus by being a friendly neighbor, a helpful coworker, or a faithful friend. Sometimes the smallest gesture can have the biggest impact, like picking up the phone and letting someone know you've been thinking of them or inviting the new family on the block over for dinner. Gestures like these can open up a world of opportunities for fellowship and sharing.
In a sense, Lydia is more of a role model for us than St. Paul. Very few of us will ever be in the limelight. Our stories will probably not be written down and preserved for centuries. But like Lydia, we can play an important role in the kingdom of God just by looking for opportunities right here in our homes and communities. Just keep your eyes fixed on the Lord, and you'll begin to notice how many ways you can share his gospel. And trust that as you step out in faith, God will give you a double portion of his grace.
"Father, help me to see the opportunities you give me to share your good news. I want to be a humble yet powerful witness to your love."
my2cents: "On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate along the river where we thought there would be a place of prayer". St. Paul and companions traveled along the river to find a place of prayer. This reminds me of this weekend, I traveled with my wife along a river bank and our whole day was based on finding a church to participate a Holy Day of Obligation and for me in Penance, which is reconciliation, better known as confession. In the case of Lydia and friends, she was baptized, another Holy Sacrament. When she was baptized in rejoicing, she invited St. Paul and them to stay at their home, as an honor for her and her household. After confessing, I noticed that I asked that we move from the back of the Church to the front of the Church, imagine closer to huge arches of made stone, an old cathedral style building called St. Mary's. The point being, once you participate, you are joined closer to God, more than ever before. And this made for a trip to remember, more special because God makes things special. We prayed the Holy Psalms today "The Lord takes delight in his people".
We are His delight, His people. Those baptized souls seeking Him are His delight, and I am praying for you to continue to be His delight. Pray for me, because I too want to be de light. "Let the high praises of God be in their throats. This is the glory of all his faithful. Alleluia." This is what first comes out of the throats of His people, praise and honor and an exultation of the Lord of lords and King of kings. And so our King speaks, the Lord speaks today, and we thank Him ""When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father" and the advocate, the one who will speak, as a lawyer speaks, as a spokesman speaks, as the Lord speaks, the Advocate of God is sent to tell the world what will be, what has come and what has come to be in your very own life. "...the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning." That is to say, together. Just as He makes His abode, His home in your heart, He will be with you in the time of temptation and trials. Do not think you are alone for a moment. For as long as our Lord lets us live, He is alive with us. You need to testify with your life and with leadership in your family life. You who are reading this must set the role model ahead...and the model of our life is Christ. What He says goes, everything and everyone else must follow.
Our Lord says "I have told you this so that you may not fall away." This is important, because the entire message says "TAKE HEART, I WILL BE WITH YOU." And the Truth goes on "They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God." Their gods aim to expel us from our churches and kill the bodies. All for nothing on their part and all for the glory of God on our part. Persecutions and shutting of churches continues as day one of Christianity. But nothing prevails, nothing is victorious, and nothing can rip the peace out of your heart set on fire for the Lord, and this is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate at work. What He says is truth, for He IS the Spirit of Truth. I say this so you will allow the Holy Spirit to guide your life. Not the ways and thoughts and talks of the world, but be set apart...Holy... HIS People His children HIS delight!!!