Thứ Hai, 1 tháng 5, 2017

MAY 02, 2017 : MEMORIAL OF SAINT ATHANASIUS, BISHOP AND DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Lectionary: 274

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:
"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors.
Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute?
They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one,
whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.
You received the law as transmitted by angels,
but you did not observe it."

When they heard this, they were infuriated,
and they ground their teeth at him.
But Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul. 
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them";
and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Now Saul was consenting to his execution.

R. (6a) Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety.
You are my rock and my fortress;
for your name's sake you will lead and guide me.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
My trust is in the LORD;
I will rejoice and be glad of your mercy.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your kindness.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of men.
R. Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.
or:
R. Alleluia.

AlleluiaJN 6:35AB
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the bread of life, says the Lord;
whoever comes to me will never hunger.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelJN 6:30-35
The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?
Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written:

He gave them bread from heaven to eat."

So Jesus said to them,
"Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven;
my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world."

So they said to Jesus,
"Sir, give us this bread always." 
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst."


Meditation: "I am the bread of life"
Do you hunger for the bread of life? The Jews had always regarded the manna in the wilderness as the bread of God (Psalm 78:24, Exodus 16:15). There was a strong Rabbinic belief that when the Messiah came he would give manna from heaven. This was the supreme work of Moses. Now the Jewish leaders were demanding that Jesus produce manna from heaven as proof to his claim to be the Messiah. Jesus responds by telling them that it was not Moses who gave the manna, but God. And the manna given to Moses and the people was not the real bread from heaven, but only a symbol of the bread to come.
Jesus then makes the claim which only God can make: I am the bread of life. The bread which Jesus offers is none else than the very life of God. This is the true bread which can truly satisfy the hunger in our hearts. The manna from heaven prefigured the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper which Jesus gave to his disciples on the eve of his sacrifice. The manna in the wilderness sustained the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land. It could not produce eternal life for the Israelites. 
The bread which Jesus offers his disciples sustains us not only on our journey to the heavenly paradise, it gives us the abundant supernatural life of God which sustains us both now and for all eternity. When we receive from the Lord's table we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, who makes us sharers in his body and blood and partakers of his divine life. Ignatius of Antioch (35-107 A.D.) calls it the "one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ" (Ad Eph. 20,2). This supernatural food is healing for both body and soul and strength for our journey heavenward. Do you hunger for God and for the food which produces everlasting life?
"Lord Jesus Christ, you are the bread of life. You alone can satisfy the hunger in my heart. May I always find in you, the true bread from heaven, the source of life and nourishment I need to sustain me on my journey to the promised land of heaven."
Daily Quote from the early church fathersTrusting in the Lord, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"If you put your trust in money, you are paying futile regard to vain things; if you put your trust in high office or some exalted rank in human government, you are paying futile regard to vain things... When you put your trust in all these, either you expire and leave them all behind, or they will crumble while you are still alive, and what you trusted will have let you down...  For my part, I do not put my trust in empty things as they do or pay futile regard to them; I have put my trust in the Lord." (excerpt from Exposition on the Psalms 31,12)

TUESDAY, MAY 2, JOHN 6:30-35
(Acts 7:51
̶ 8:1a; Psalm 31)

KEY VERSE: "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst" (v.35).
TO KNOW: Even though the people had witnessed Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves in the wilderness, they demanded another "sign" such as Moses gave their ancestors, the "manna" in the desert (Ex 16:15). By seeking signs, they were looking for perishable food and were missing the true nourishment that God had given them. The people were focusing on their physical hunger. They must look to Jesus who was the authentic sign of God's providential care. It was God, not Moses, who provided the "bread from heaven" (v.32). Jesus is the "Bread of Life" (v.35) who gives eternal salvation for all who believe in him.
TO LOVE: Is there someone I can help to appreciate Jesus' presence in the Eucharist?
TO SERVE: Risen Lord, you are the bread that feeds my soul for life everlasting.

Memorial of Saint Athanasius, bishop and doctor of the Church

Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt, towards the end of the third century, and from his youth was pious and deeply versed in the sacred writings. While still a deacon, he was chosen by Alexander, his bishop, to go with him to the Council of Nicea, A.D. 325. There Athanasius defended the Church against the Arian heresy, which denied the Divinity of Christ When Alexander was dying, he recommended Athanasius to be his successor as Patriarch of Alexandria, and he served in that office for forty-six years. When the dispute over Arianism spilled over from theology to politics, Athanasius was exiled five times, and spent more than a third of his episcopate in exile. He is a biographer of Saint Anthony the Abbot, a Confessor of the faith and Doctor of the Church.

NOTE: Arianism taught that Christ was a creation of the Father, a creature, and not part of God. Athanasius formulated the doctrine of homoousianism which said that Christ was "consubstantial with the Father,” as we pray in the Nicene Creed. 


Tuesday 2 May 2017

St Athanasius.
Acts 7:51 – 8:1. Psalms 30(31):3-4, 6-8, 17, 21. John 6:30-35.
Into your hands, O Lord, I entrust my spirit — Psalms 30(31):3-4, 6-8, 17, 21.
‘The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread.’ We can all remember situations where all we do is ask questions—why? where? when? how?—in bursts of rage, frustration, tiredness and exhaustion. There appear to be no conclusive answers. We appear not to have been heard. We ask our questions again. Still not the answers we are looking for. Then we just sit in our despair. We throw our hands up in the air in defeat.
It is then that we can truly seek what it is in our hearts and lives that is missing. It is then that we can ask some specific and heartfelt questions. Most important, like the crowd of people asking Jesus lots of questions, it is then that we can truly listen to Jesus and desire more of what he can offer us.

ST. ATHANASIUS, DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH

Catholics honor St. Athanasius on May 2. The fourth century bishop is known as “the father of orthodoxy” for his absolute dedication to the doctrine of Christ's divinity.
St. Athanasius was born to Christian parents living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 296. His parents took great care to have their son educated, and his talents came to the attention of a local priest who was later canonized as St. Alexander of Alexandria. The priest and future saint tutored Athanasius in theology, and eventually appointed him as an assistant.
Around the age of 19, Athanasius spent a formative period in the Egyptian desert as a disciple of St. Anthony in his monastic community. Returning to Alexandria, he was ordained a deacon in 319, and resumed his assistance to Alexander who had become a bishop. The Catholic Church, newly recognized by the Roman Empire, was already encountering a new series of dangers from within.
The most serious threat to the fourth-century Church came from a priest named Arius, who taught that Jesus could not have existed eternally as God prior to his historical incarnation as a man. According to Arius, Jesus was the highest of created beings, and could be considered “divine” only by analogy. Arians professed a belief in Jesus' “divinity,” but meant only that he was God's greatest creature.
Opponents of Arianism brought forth numerous scriptures which taught Christ's eternal pre-existence and his identity as God. Nonetheless, many Greek-speaking Christians found it intellectually easier to believe in Jesus as a created demi-god, than to accept the mystery of a  Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. By 325, the controversy was dividing the Church and unsettling the Roman Empire.
In that year, Athanasius attended the First Ecumenical Council, held at Nicea to examine and judge Arius' doctrine in light of apostolic tradition. It reaffirmed the Church's perennial teaching on Christ's full deity, and established the Nicene Creed as an authoritative statement of faith. The remainder of Athanasius' life was a constant struggle to uphold the council's teaching about Christ.
Near the end of St. Alexander's life, he insisted that Athanasius succeed him as the Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius took on the position just as the Emperor Constantine, despite having convoked the Council of Nicea, decided to relax its condemnation of Arius and his supporters. Athanasius continually refused to admit Arius to communion, however, despite the urgings of the emperor.
A number of Arians spent the next several decades attempting to manipulate bishops, emperors and Popes to move against Athanasius, particularly through the use of false accusations. Athanasius was accused of theft, murder, assault, and even of causing a famine by interfering with food shipments.
Arius became ill and died gruesomely in 336, but his heresy continued to live. Under the rule of the three emperors that followed Constantine, and particularly under the rule of the strongly Arian Constantius, Athanasius was driven into exile at least five times for insisting on the Nicene Creed as the Church's authoritative rule of faith. 
Athanasius received the support of several Popes, and spent a portion of his exile in Rome. However, the Emperor Constantius did succeed in coercing one Pope, Liberius, into condemning Athanasius by having him kidnapped, threatened with death, and sent away from Rome for two years. The Pope eventually managed to return to Rome, where he again proclaimed Athanasius' orthodoxy.
Constantius went so far as to send troops to attack his clergy and congregations. Neither these measures, nor direct attempts to assassinate the bishop, succeeding in silencing him. However, they frequently made it difficult for him to remain in his diocese. He enjoyed some respite after Constantius' death in 361, but was later persecuted by Emperor Julian the Apostate, who sought to revive paganism.
In 369, Athanasius managed to convene an assembly of 90 bishops in Alexandria, for the sake of warning the Church in Africa against the continuing threat of Arianism. He died in 373, and was vindicated by a more comprehensive rejection of Arianism at the Second Ecumenical Council, held in 381 at Constantinople.
St. Gregory Nazianzen, who presided over part of that council, described St. Athanasius as “the true pillar of the church,” whose “life and conduct were the rule of bishops, and his doctrine the rule of the orthodox faith.”

LECTIO DIVINA: JOHN 6,30-35
Lectio Divina: 
 Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Easter Time

1) OPENING PRAYER
Lord our God, generous Father,
you have given us your Son Jesus
that we may relive with him and like him
his passion and his resurrection.Through Jesus, give us the courage
to place ourselves into your hands
in the trials of life and in death,
that one day we may see your glory
and at your right hand your Son Jesus Christ,
who lives with you for ever.
2) GOSPEL READING - JOHN 6,30-35
So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'
Jesus answered them: In all truth I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread always.' Jesus answered them: I am the bread of life. No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.
3) REFLECTION
• The Discourse of the Bread of Life is not a text to be discussed and dissected, but rather it should be meditated and pondered. This is why, even if it is not fully understood, we should not be concerned. This text of the Bread of Life demands a whole life to meditate on it and deepen it. Such a text, people have to read it, meditate it, pray it, think about it, read it again, repeat it and ponder it, as one does with a good sweet in the mouth. We turn it and turn it in the mouth until it is finished. The one, who reads the Fourth Gospel superficially, may have the impression that John always repeats the same thing. Reading it more attentively, one becomes aware that it is not a question of repetition. The author of the fourth Gospel has his own way of repeating the same theme, but always at a higher and more profound level. It seems to be like a winding staircase. By turning one reaches the same place, but always at a higher level or a more profound one.
• John 6, 30-33: What sign will you yourself do, the sign which will make us believe in you? People had asked: What should we do to carry out the work of God? Jesus responds: “The work of God is to believe in the one who has sent”, that is to believe in Jesus. This is why people formulate the new question: “Which sign do you do so that we can see and can believe? Which work do you do?” This means that they did not understand the multiplication of the loaves as a sign from God to legitimize Jesus before the people, as the one sent by God! They continue to argue: In the past our fathers ate the manna which Moses gave them! They called it “bread from Heaven” (Ws 16, 20), that is, “bread of God”. Moses continues to be the great leader in whom to believe. If Jesus wants the people to believe in him, he should work a greater sign than Moses. “What work do you do?”
• Jesus responds that the bread given by Moses was not the true bread from heaven. Coming from on high, yes, but it was not the bread of God, because it did not guarantee life to any one. All of them died in the desert (Jn 6, 49). The true bread of heaven, the bread of God, is the one which conquers death and gives life! It is the one which descends from Heaven and gives life to the world. It is Jesus himself! Jesus tries to help the people to liberate themselves from the way of thinking of the past. For him, fidelity to the past does not mean to close up oneself in the ancient things and not accept renewal. Fidelity to the past means to accept the novelty which comes as the fruit of the seed which was planted in the past.
• John 6, 34-35: Lord, gives us always of that bread! Jesus answers clearly: “I am the bread of life!” To eat the bread of heaven is the same as to believe in Jesus and accept to follow the road that he teaches us, that is: “My food is to do the will of the one who has sent me and to complete his work!” (Jn 4, 34). This is the true food which nourishes the person, which transforms life and gives new life. This last verse of today’s Gospel (Jn 6, 35) will be taken back as the first verse of tomorrow’s Gospel (Jn 6, 35-40)
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
• Hungry for bread, hungry for God. Which of these two predominates in me?
• Jesus says: “I am the bread of life”. He takes away hunger and thirst. Which of these experiences do I have in my life?
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
Lord turn your ear to me, make haste.
Be for me a rock-fastness,
a fortified citadel to save me.
You are my rock, my rampart;
true to your name, lead me and guide me! (Ps 31,1-2)