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Atheism by Fr. Reid

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2012/01/27 at 9:11 AM

• Over the past couple of decades, western society has witnessed a growing atheism. Little by little, the ranks of people who profess that God does not or cannot exist are increasing.

• Led by scientists like Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, entrepreneurs like Warren Buffett, and even entertainers like Mick Jagger and the late George Carlin, atheists and agnostics are more and more finding a public voice.

• But from a Catholic perspective, atheism is both an intellectual and a moral failure.

• Atheism is an intellectual failure because it fails to recognize that the splendor, majesty, beauty, and rationality of creation could only come from the most splendid, majestic, beautiful, and rational of minds, from an ultimate first cause.

• But even worse is its moral failure. Atheism is a moral failure because it is, at its heart, a refusal of the natural law that is written upon the hearts of all men. It’s a refusal to humble oneself before the Almightly, whose fingerprints are all over the created world, while proudly insisting upon the preeminence of man.

• Of course atheism stands in stark contrast to the season of Christmas, which we just concluded last week, and which not only heralded the birth of our God made man, but also revealed His manifestation as the Light of the World to all nations.

• Like a lover who finds it difficult to depart from his beloved after a long day together, our readings today cling to themes we enjoyed in the Epiphany and Baptism of our Lord.

• Our first reading from Isaiah speaks of the “light to the nations” so that “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth,” which recalls the prominent themes of the Epiphany.

• And in our Gospel story today we have St. John the Baptist’s testimony to the Spirit descending like a dove upon Jesus, a clear reference to our Lord’s baptism.

• So why are we lingering with Christmas themes now that we are in Ordinary Time? Simply put, because Christmas is important! The Christmas Season is important to our Catholic faith because it is in the liturgies of the Christmas Season that we learn Who Jesus truly Is.

• You see, Christmas for Catholics is not simply the anniversary of our Lord’s birth. Christmas is the celebration that our Lord Jesus, veiled in human flesh, comes to us to dwell with us, to be one of us, so that He can save us from our sins.

• The Christmas Season celebrates our Lord’s birth, His manifestation to the world, and the revelation that Jesus truly is the Son of God. As such, the Christmas Season celebrates and extols our Lord Jesus Christ as Love and Mercy incarnate.

• And this is reiterated for us in the Gospel today in St. John’s testimony that Jesus is both the Son of the God and the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

• As the Son of God, Jesus has come to earth to be the Lamb of God, the One who will sacrifice Himself on Calvary for the forgiveness of our sins.

• So while today’s readings hearken back to Christmas, our Gospel also points us toward Holy Week, when we will see this Lamb slain.

• As such, today’s readings serve as a sort of exclamation point on the liturgies of the Christmas Season. Yet our liturgy today serves as an invitation, as well, to meditate more deeply who Jesus Is, and what the revelation of His identity means to our lives.

• You see, my dear brothers and sisters, while our Catholic faith is both inherently rational and historically factual, and therefore supremely worthy of belief by all people, we must never allow ourselves to become comfortable in this knowledge.

• This is one of the ways that we differ from the atheists and agnostics. While so many atheists are smug in their proud rationalizations and the houses they build upon the sand of intellectual pride, their lack of belief does not demand anything of them.

• As an atheist you are free to adopt any type of moral behavior that you wish. Anything goes for the atheist because nothing matters. Nothing has eternal consequences. But even more importantly, nothing calls them to love outside of natural inclinations given to all humans.

• But our faith does make demands upon us. Through the Christmas Season we received the manifestation of the Word-Made-Flesh. He has revealed Himself to us as the Light to the Nations, the Savior of All, and Love Incarnate.

• And so it is not enough for us to intellectually consent to these truths. Our faith demands that we conform our lives to these truths, living in a manner that witnesses to our belief in Jesus as the Son of God and the Lamb of God.

• Indeed, according to St. Paul today, our faith demands that we be holy. Not simply nice, not simply good, but HOLY – because we have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.

• And our responsorial psalm reminds us of the fundamental attitude we must adopt if we truly want to be holy: a firm readiness to do God’s will, no matter what.

• Of course doing God’s will can encompass many things in our lives, but from a general point of view we must keep in mind the highest commandment that Jesus Himself gave us: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37).

• The first epistle of St. John reminds us that the love of God consists in obeying His commandments (1 John 5:3). And the 25th chapter of Matthew reminds us that we show our love for God by exercising the corporal works of mercy.

• Accordingly, exercising obedience and performing works of mercy must be integral to the way we live our lives if we love God. But there is something even more fundamental if we wish to truly love God and do His will so that we can be holy: we must pray.

• Last week I spoke a bit about how we go about receiving the sacraments, noting that being pious, reverent, and conscientious in our reception of the sacraments disposes us to receive the grace of the sacraments in such a way that it bears good fruit in our souls.

• But underlying our piety, our reverence, and our conscientiousness must be a deep, abiding, and personal love for God, and a true desire to serve Him. And this can only come if we have a true relationship with God – something that can only be formed in silent prayer.

• While prayer often has a vocal and expressive dimension to it, and while it can include our petitions to God, as well as our expressions of gratitude and love, the deepest prayer has no words at all, but is simply a matter of being with God in the silence of our hearts.

• For it is in our silent communion with God that He speaks to us and reveals Himself to us. It is in silent prayer that God gives Himself to us and we can fully give ourselves to Him, just as a bride entrusts herself to her bridegroom on their wedding night.

• It is silent prayer that we share now in the divine intimacy that will find its completion and apex only in the glories of heaven. So make time to pray in silence everyday. If you think you’re too busy to do so, you don’t have your priorities straight.

• Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: our Lord has revealed Himself to us as both the Son of God and the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Let us respond to Him by learning to love Him as we should in the silence of prayer.

Copyright 2011 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC

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