Memorial of Saint Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

There is nothing quite so simple as loving the God who created us out of love and for love. All we have to do is abide in Him. But we, like sheep, have gone astray. We no longer abide in Him, but we abide in ourselves, thinking (as the serpent suggests) that by abiding in ourselves we are like God. And indeed, we make ourselves like “gods,” but in so doing, we complicate things and become less and less like the one true God, who reveals his divinity in the Son, not by claiming rights, privileges, and self-determination, but by emptying himself and taking the last place which we have shunned as unworthy of ourselves. God, alone, thought it fitting to take that place.

Let us admit it: following the path that Jesus trod is not easy for us. We recognize the surpassing beauty of his self-emptying love and intuit that none but the greatest god, indeed, the one true God, could ever have taken this path. But, on the one hand, the idols still pull at our flesh, promising us the power that they wield over us, if we would only surrender to them. And on the other hand, the path of love that Jesus indicates, in which we break out of selfish isolation and struggle to truly love our neighbor, seems—ironically—to be the loneliest path of all. Can anyone but God truly walk this road?

Yes: we can, in the Spirit which the Son promises, the Spirit who testifies to the Son. We must. “You also testify” (Jn 15:27). But let us not think that we can do this by continuing to abide in ourselves. We must abide in the Word that has been given us, which Jesus has given us “so that you may not fall away” (Jn 16:1). Jesus himself indicates the perils of this path: “the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God” (Jn 16:2). Pope Francis points out that in our culture, it is often through words that people “kill,” thereby thinking that they are offering worship to God (cf Amoris Laetitia 112, Angelus of 16 Feb 2014, etc.). We should not stand in judgment of those who “kill” us as they stand in judgment of us, but should instead offer worship to God—as Jesus indicates—not by “stabbing people in the back” but by suffering to remain in that Word that Jesus said to “remember that I told you” (Jn 16:4). “I have told you this so that you may not fall away” (Jn:16:1).
May 2nd, 2016