The Feast of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons

Irenaeus served as the bishop of Lugdum (now Lyons), in France. He was born c. 130 CE and died c. 202 CE, serving during the Apostolic era, and he is listed in the ranks of the martyrs of the Church, though the details of martyrdom are unknown.

Irenaeus was a prolific writer. He was connected to the Bishop Polycarp who was himself connected to the Apostle John, making him only three steps removed from the ministry of Jesus.

Irenaeus’ surviving works show how he was deeply committed to the unity of Christian doctrine. He ardently opposed the heretical sects of groups like the loosely affiliated Gnostics, as well as the Montanists, and he was among the first to argue for the doctrine of apostolic succession, positing that a bishop of the church should stand in an unbroken line of succession that goes back to the first apostles.

What is most important about Irenaeus’ work is something referred to as the Irenaean theodicy, this is why I lift him up and write about him.

Theodicy is the specific field of theological work devoted to understanding the problem of evil, and its ultimate resolution by God.

The Irenaean theodicy was the leading doctrine in the church up until the time that it was supplanted by Augustine’s teaching on original sin, three centuries later, after which Saint Augustine’s teaching became normative throughout the Christian world.

St. Augustine suggests that creation was made perfect and without blemish, and then there was a fall into sin, which came from nowhere and nothing resulting in a degree of chaos and disorder which completely separates creation from God. Whereas Irenaeus posited that the though the world is fallen it is not wholly fallen, making it so that the breach is not irreparable, putting forward that God’s plan for the resolution of evil is to slowly draw all things to the divine.

For saint Irenaeus the perfection of the created order happens as a process of assimilation, which he calls recapitulation, imagining that each individual-being is on a journey, coming ever closer to God; as we draw near our imperfections fall away.

Irenaeus’ theology, which was never condemned, provides a strong theological grounding for the theology of universal salvation which has persisted as a teaching among Christians from the very beginning of the Church, though only among a stark minority.

Irenaeus

A Homily – The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading – 2 Kings 4:8-11, 13-16 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 88(89):2-3, 16-19 ©
Second Reading – Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 ©
Gospel Acclamation – Acts 16:14
Alternative Acclamation – 1 Peter 2:9
The Gospel According to Matthew – 10:37 – 42 ©

(NJB)

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Read the ancient texts with an ear bent toward discernment. The historical books especially, they are replete with myths that do little to elucidate the way, and they often confuse it.

Such is the case for the reading from the book of Kings for today.

Know this:

God does not interfere in our lives, not in the lives of individuals and not in the course of nations.

The future is not fixed because God, the creator of the universe, God made us and the whole of creation free from divine coercion.

Listen!

The sacred texts are no place for nationalism and jingoism, do not follow the path of the psalmist. God does not favor one person over another, one family, one tribe or one nation.

God is a God of love and mercy, not a God of palace intrigues, not a God of battles.

Be mindful.

The apostle overstates what is at stake in the sacrament of baptism.

Baptism is intended to be filled with symbolic power, Saint Paul articulates this well, and that symbolism is meant to instill in us the same faith by which Jesus willingly went to his death, but this is the exception, it is not the rule.

We are not called to this same fate, Jesus went to his death to save the lives of his family, friends and followers, not to set the stage for their demise.

Jesus was not raised to new life for an extraordinary reason, but for the ordinary reason that God intends to raise all people to life; God restores the whole of creation because God loves us.

Eternal life is not the reward that a Christian should seek, as if it were payment for having lived a just life.

We are called to the exhibition of grace and mercy because that is the way to an authentic life. We are living truly when we are faithful to the way and live well.

We defeat death when we stop fearing it, when we free ourselves from the fear of death we are able to live for what is good and beautiful and true, this is the way that Jesus followed, the way of justice and humility and peace.

Ask for wisdom, God will hear you, God is with you, as God is with us all.

Know this!

The Apostle is wrong. Saint Peter errs when he suggests that some people are set apart and excluded from the divine plan for mercy.

There are no people set apart, there are only people who set themselves apart. All people are the people of God, there is no chosen race, no consecrated nation. God, the creator of the universe, God is looking for prophets not priests. God is calling all people, God desires us to represent the divine voice in the world, and to repeat the call.

Remember!

All people are the subjects of God’s loving mercy, no-one is left outside of the gate, the table has been set for everyone, and the feast will not commence until we have been gathered together as one.

Be mindful.

Faith and the rewards of faith must not be constructed in transactional terms. Faith is trust, it is the simple belief that the things we hope for will come true.

Christian faith is rooted in the hope for and belief that we can live in a just society, one founded in love, a society that exhibits mercy in the furtherance of justice, one which cares for all people.

There are many circumstances in which a Christian may be called to reject the structure of their family or their culture, if those structures are unjust they should be rejected. We cannot simply hold onto them because our parents lived unjustly or because we are concerned for the inheritance of our children.

We cannot cling to systems of injustice for the sake of tradition, that is antithetical to the way.

Matthew speaks truly when he speaks to this point, but the point he makes in this Gospel reading requires further exposition.

A Christian is not called to reject their family for the sake of rejecting their family, they are called to walk away from their family if an only if their family is engaged in the institutionalization and promotion of injustice, and Matthew goes too far, he fundamentally misunderstands the way when he suggests that Christians must make the strong commitment strong, a commitment unto death, for the sake of their faith.

If Jesus had desired this he would have called his disciples to die with him in Calvary. That was not what he desired, he gave his life so that they might live.

Know this!

Salvation is not transactional. Faith and the rewards of faith are not a quid pro quo.

Remember Saint Peter!

He rejected Jesus, he denied him three times on the night Jesus was arrested. He fell apart in the grip of fear even though he was not a man of a cowardly disposition. Nevertheless, he refused to follow Jesus to the cross. Then, after Jesus was killed he continued the ministry, his faith led him through the rest of his days, eventually he gave his life for the sake of his ministry, for bringing good news to the poor, and caring for the widow.

The rewards of faith are not transactional they are emergent.

Trust engenders trust, as love deepens love, and hope fosters hope. One does not purchase the other, but rather they grow with each other like seedlings from seed whose roots bind together to sand fortify the garden.

In the seed the whole is contained in the part, and the potential is infinite.

Be mindful, welcome the prophet, welcome the holy person, and just as important, welcome the sinners, the outcasts, even those who have persecuted.

This is the way of Jesus, and the way of faith.
First Reading – 2 Kings 4:8-11, 13-16 ©

This is a Holy Man of God; Let Him Rest Here

One day as Elisha was on his way to Shunem, a woman of rank who lived there pressed him to stay and eat there. After this he always broke his journey for a meal when he passed that way. She said to her husband, ‘Look, I am sure the man who is constantly passing our way must be a holy man of God. Let us build him a small room on the roof, and put him a bed in it, and a table and chair and lamp; whenever he comes to us he can rest there.’ One day when he came, he retired to the upper room and lay down. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call our Shunammitess. Tell her this: “Look, you have gone to all this trouble for us, what can we do for you? Is there anything you would like said for you to the king or to the commander of the army?”’ But she replied, ‘I live with my own people about me.’ ‘What can be done for her then?’ he asked. Gehazi answered, ‘Well, she has no son and her husband is old.’ Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ The servant called her and she stood at the door. This time next year,’ he said ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 88(89):2-3, 16-19 ©

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

Happy the people who acclaim such a king,
who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
who find their joy every day in your name,
who make your justice the source of their bliss.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.

For it is you, O Lord, who are the glory of their strength;
by your favour it is that our might is exalted;
for our ruler is in the keeping of the Lord;
our king in the keeping of the Holy One of Israel.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord.
Second Reading – Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 ©

When We Were Baptised We Went into the Tomb with Christ, So that We too Might Live a New Life

When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.

But we believe that having died with Christ we shall return to life with him: Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead will never die again. Death has no power over him any more. When he died, he died, once for all, to sin, so his life now is life with God; and in that way, you too must consider yourselves to be dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.
Gospel Acclamation – Acts 16:14

Alleluia, alleluia!

Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.

Alleluia!
Alternative Acclamation – 1 Peter 2:9

Alleluia, alleluia!

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a people set apart to sing the praises of God,
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to Matthew – 10:37 – 42 ©

Anyone Who Loses His Life for My Sake Will Find It

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows:

‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’
The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)