Jun 28 – St. Irenaeus, bishop, martyr
Irenaeus (c.130–202) was a disciple of St. Polycarp of Smyrna. He was ordained in 177. He was Bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (modern Lyons, France). He worked and wrote against Gnosticism, basing his arguments on the works of St. John the Apostle, whose gospel is often cited by Gnostics. He dispatched evangelists, including St. Ferreolus of Besancon, and St. Ferrutio of Bescancon. He is considered the first great Western ecclesiastical writer and theologian, and he emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments, as well as Christ’s simultaneous human and divine nature, and the value of tradition. He is a Father of the Church, and was martyred for his faith.
- Patron Saint Index
“Master, I will follow you wherever you go.”
I often find the demands made on a Christian to be quite tremendous. There are many expectations placed upon us, and this includes the need to demonstrate unconditional love to the people around us. There is an initial enthusiasm to follow Jesus wherever He calls me to go, similar to the scribe in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ response is indeed interesting and worthy for us to consider.
The urgency to spread the Gospel message is placed upon all of us. There is a need to have the drive to share with others the faith which we have inherited from those who have shared it with us. If this means that we should not fall asleep, then we should continue to do so. There are times where I find my faith to be particularly lukewarm and not worthy of example. It is times like this that the role of prayer is important, and it is illustrative to see how Abraham, our father in faith, negotiates with God. I would not dare to engage God in the same manner as Abraham, but I would ask that we consider how Abraham possessed the boldness to ask God to demonstrate mercy to the people of Sodom.
A strong belief in God allows us to have the courage to speak to God freely. Prayer is a conversation with God to vocalise the different issues which we face in our lives. There is a need to realise that the frustrations we face are opportunities for us to speak to God, to discover what His plans are for us. Our faith will deepen as we present our struggles to God and we identify a faith-filled response to the issues before us.
We can draw an example from St Irenaeus, whose memorial we celebrate today. St Irenaeus was strenuous in his defence of the Catholic faith against the gnostic heresy of his time. The role of Apostolic Tradition is the passing on of faith from the time of the apostles to us. This Tradition must be distinguished from traditionalism, which is a resistance to change. In Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI’s book ‘Great Christian Thinkers : From the Early Church Through the Middle Ages’, he writes that the Apostolic Tradition is one which is “always enlivened with from within by the Holy Spirit, who makes it live anew, causes it to be interpreted and understood in the vitality of the Church.” A faith guided by the Holy Spirit is dynamic and responsive to the times of the seasons. It allows us to respond appropriately to the challenges of our time.
Abraham was bold enough to negotiate with God, and St Irenaeus’ willingness to dedicate his life to defending the Catholic faith against heresy, were responses which were suitable for the situation in their time. The Holy Spirit guided their response, and it is the same Holy Spirit which we can call upon to guide us when we feel weary in our faith journey. As we continue to handle the challenges of an uncertain world, let us allow the Holy Spirit to animate our actions and give us the strength to respond with great faith.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Nicholas Chia)
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, we need you.
Thanksgiving: I give thanks for the comfort of the Holy Spirit.