Who Can Accept It?
”Jesus became what we are that he might make us what he is.” ~ Saint Athanasius
It’s official: this pandemic has finally thrown me completely off kilter. It wasn’t until late this afternoon when I sat down to write this reflection that it dawned on me that today is First Saturday, this despite the fact that the First Saturday Devotion has become one of my most cherished observances https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/From-Thorns-to-Roses.
This despite the fact that I touched briefly on yesterday’s First Friday observance, a rare “Divine Trifecta” of sorts wherein Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were all remembered and celebrated in a special and unique way https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/A-Spontaneous-Gathering-of-the-Holy-Family-and-the-Value-of-Work.
This despite the fact that I “attended” 9:00AM Mass this morning via the magic of YouTube, on a day in which the Church pauses to celebrate the Feast Day of the great Saint Athanasius, Bishop & Doctor of our Church, the man whose quote kicks off today’s reflection https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/St-Athanasius-Defender-of-the-Truth.
Known as the “Father of Orthodoxy,” Saint Athanasius was a staunch defender of the Incarnation, the central Christian doctrine that God became flesh, assuming a human nature and becoming a man in the form of Jesus Christ. As such, Athanasius waged a lifelong battle against Arianism, a heresy that denies the sacred divinity of Jesus.
“The fundamental idea of Athanasius’ entire theological battle was precisely that God is accessible,” said Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI during one of his weekly audiences wherein he spoke at great length of this prolific Bishop and Doctor of the Church. “He is not a secondary God, he is the true God and it is through our communion with Christ that we can truly be united to God. He has really become ‘God-with-us’.”
Just as the Incarnation was a difficult concept for many to grasp and subsequently accept, Jesus tackles an equally if not more puzzling teaching in today’s Gospel (John 6:60-69).
“This saying is hard; who can accept it?” These were the words of those on hand as Jesus continues to patiently make his way through the Bread of Life discourse, a cornerstone Catholic tenet that we’ve touched upon in recent days https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/The-Icon-of-Orthodoxy-and-the-Bread-of-Life.
As the passage unfolds, we come to see that the vast majority of those on hand would ultimately abandon Jesus as a result of his claim to be the Son of God and that unless one were to eat his flesh and drink his blood, they would have no life within them. When it was only the Apostles who remained, Jesus asks them “Do you also want to leave?" Bishop Barron suggests in his daily reflection that “The whole Church, the whole Christian project, was hanging in the balance.” when Jesus poses this question.
It was only when Peter, forever the most outspoken of the twelve, responds “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” that order was in essence restored. This divine union that God wants to foster and cultivate between his beloved children by way of the Eucharistic bond could now be passed on and “accepted” by those with the faith and wisdom to do so.
Peter and the others were filled with the Holy Spirit, which in turn opened their eyes to that which could not be accepted and believed by those who were not. The same can be said today as it relates to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Through encounters with the Holy Spirit, we too can come to understand the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Eucharistic presence of Jesus as celebrated by way of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We come to believe the words of the Priest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as he absolves the penitent of all their sins in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We come to believe the words of John the Revelator when he promises that Jesus will one day “wipe every tear from their eyes, and that ”there will be no more death for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4). The tireless prophet Paul when he tells us that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9).
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit have the power to change and transform us and as such, the power to change and transform the world in which we live. The power to change and transform others in contagious-like fashion. In that very real and tangible way, we all have the power to accept it.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth.“