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Giving God An Opening


“There is no space where God is not; space does not exist apart from Him. He is in heaven, in hell, beyond the seas; dwelling in all things and enveloping all.” ~ Saint Hilary of Poitiers

Our Church today pauses to memorialize a true giant, the man whose quote kicks off today’s Reflection, Saint Hilary of Poitiers. Known as “the Athanasius of the west,” Saint Hilary, who would serve as Bishop of Poitiers from 350 until his death in the year 367, presented a flawless case for the Trinity, the divinity of the Jesus, and the Incarnation during the height of the Aryan Hersey, earning him yet another more colorful nickname: The Hammer of the Arians.

Saint Hilary spent the majority of his adult life studying, writing, and speaking in defense of the core tenets of the Nicene Creed in order to insure that it was thoroughly understood and adhered to throughout the Church. He is generally considered the pre-eminent Latin writer of the 4th century, ultimately achieving the lofty and rarefied title of Doctor of the Church. In fact Saint Augustine of Hippo called Saint Hilary “The illustrious doctor of the churches,” no small compliment in light of the fact that Augustine’s mentor was the sapient Saint Ambrose , a man who would go on to become a Doctor of the Church in his own right. His renowned colleague Saint Athanasius called Saint Hilary a “trumpet” of orthodoxy against theological error.

Today’s Gospel takes us back to Mark’s rendition of Jesus cleansing a leper. Just this past Friday, we read Luke’s telling of this tale Jewish law was not particularly forgiving to those afflicted with leprosy, an affliction for which there was no cure. Disfigured faces, hands and feet were a few of the noticeable symptoms of leprosy. Lepers were forced to wear torn clothing so that those in their midst could see their disfigurement. They were even forced to wear a bell so that people could hear them approaching and be given enough time to flee so as to avoid getting this highly contagious malady. Legally, they were declared “unclean” by the government. They were, for all intents and purposes, dead men walking.

Furthermore, lepers were judged by society to have been great sinners, the prevailing belief at the time being that leprosy was a punishment from God for their sinfulness. It’s easy to see why this man broke ranks and called out to Jesus to heal him, this despite knowing that he would run the risk of being silenced or maybe even ostracized for doing so.

Ultimately it was the leper’s faith that healed him. He recognized the Divine Physician and pursued him, placing his faith and trust in Him. He would not be denied and in the end, he would not be disappointed. No one who approaches Jesus with a humble and faith-filled heart ever is. But we must take the first step. We must give God the opening to do miraculous things in our life through His Son Jesus and the tieless working of the Holy Spirit. In the words of Saint Hilary, “It was our gain that God was incarnate and dwelt among us, making all flesh His home by taking upon Him the flesh of One. We were raised because He was lowered; shame to Him was glory to us. He, being God, made flesh His residence, and we in return are lifted anew from the flesh to God.”

As we continue to reflect on Jesus’ ministry during the early stages of Ordinary Time between Christmas and Lent, let us continue to pursue the spiritual gift of knowledge. For as Saint Hilary would say “The perfection of learning is to know God in such a way that, though you realize he is knowable, yet you know him as indescribable.”

Saint Hilary of Poitiers, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.

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“The chief service I owe you, O God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you.” ~ Saint Hilary

“The chief service I owe you, O God, is that every thought and word of mine should speak of you.” ~ Saint Hilary

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