Eli & Athanasius

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
1/18/15

The Christmas season is complete; Christ is now in the flesh. Last weekend we celebrated His baptism.  This weekend He is walking among us and people are starting to be aware. St. John the Baptist is aware, we hear him today proclaim ‘Behold, the Lamb of God![1] He recognizes Christ; the eyes of his heart are open and aware.

This past Monday we entered the season of Ordinary time. I always look at Ordinary time as ‘the school of discipleship’; when Holy Mother Church brings to our attention what it means to be a disciple and gives us help in attaining it. We learn about how to be faithful and fruitful.

This transition between Christmastide and Ordinary time always brings to my mind a quote from St. Athanasius who lived in the fourth century. St. Athanasius wrote: ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’[2] Christmas allowed us to reflect and more fully understand the first part of his words ‘For the Son of God became man…[3] Now, as we enter Ordinary Time we try to come to terms with the second part ‘so that we might become God.[4]

It almost sounds heretical: to try and become God. St. Athanasius wasn’t saying that we actually become God – he was pointing out that by Christ uniting Himself with man, man can now live a life with Him – become partakers in the divine life through grace (gift).

Today’s second reading from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians affirms St. Athanasius’ quote.  St. Paul told the Corinthians: ‘The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body; God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.[5]  This statement is built on the incarnation. God viewed not only our souls but our bodies as special, so special that He came and became one; and so should we.  St. Paul reinforces this by closing with ‘For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.[6]  It is, or should be, our desire to live in Christ; to be with Him.  When we have accepted this desire then our journey now involves us in trying to live a holy life.

But How?

We look to find Christ in our lives, and our ability to find Him is directly related to our desire to find Him – because He is always there.  However, sometimes our vision is clouded, and we react to His call awkwardly. Like Samuel, we hear but search in the wrong place – at times we don’t know any better – or our ‘divine pointer’ is broken. But each one of us has people in our lives that have helped us on this journey – whether we know or it or not.  Like Samuel we should be able to point to our own Eli who has taken us by the hand and led us past confusion to clarity about God.  We all have ‘Elis’ in our journey.

Brothers and sisters, we can’t do this journey without others, it is impossible.  Even with God calling us we need community to help us on this journey. Because faith by ourselves, without guidance, produces within us a God made in our own imagination – a God that is hostage to our ideas and likings.  We don’t come to know and love who God truly is – we stagnate and isolate ourselves from He who made us.

This is why God has given us His family the Church. We journey together and Church guides us and introduces us to her bride.  Holy Mother Church is our primary Eli.  But we have others as well; those who correct us, and teach us and move us from error into truth. We need to seek them out listen to them and follow their guidance; in this way we can be assured that we are not living a faith that is of our own making – and ultimately our own undoing.

Faith isn’t passive it is active – we need to participate. We need to be on alert for, and seek out, our Elis and John the Baptists; but (and this is an integral but) we need to be more – because in God’s plan for us we are.  We need to realize that we are Eli to others.  What we learn, and how we grow isn’t just to bring us that much closer to Christ; but it is also to be able to help those around us to do the same.  One thing disciples are, are selfless; we pass forward what has been given to us and that means guidance and help.

As important as it is to allow God’s family to help us in our journey, keep us on the correct path, lead us to peace; it is just as important that we do the same to those around us.  And there are so many opportunities to be Eli to others.  As disciples we have many occasions to point Christ out to others, as St. John the Baptist did.  Just this coming week we can watch hundreds of thousands pointing to Christ in the annual ‘March For Life’ in Washington DC and San Francisco.  There are so many things that can be done here at our parish to point to Christ; so many ministries that are either undermanned or never started because of the lack of disciples wanting to point to Christ.

Here, at the start of Ordinary Time, at the beginning of the school of discipleship as we strive to find our Elis, let’s take a look at what we are giving to those around us.  Let’s ask the Holy Spirit for insight in how we can be Eli to others and help those who don’t know Christ say ‘Here I am Lord.[7]

———————————————————————————–

[1] Jn 1:36
[2] St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3: PG 25, 192B.
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] 1 Cor 6:13-14
[6] 1 Cor 6:20
[7] 1 Sm 3:3-10

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