The Capacious Heart of Bishop Hilary – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Hilary of Poitiers

1 John 2:18-25

In the calendar of the church we remember today a fourth-century bishop named Hilary of Poitiers, what is now central France. Hilary was pilloried. Bishop Hilary was rejected and betrayed by a good many people, including those closest to him. Bishop Hilary was convinced that the love of Jesus and that Hilary’s own love for Jesus needed to be capacious to encompass all those whom Jesus loves, including those who so meanly rejected Hilary.

The Greek word “epiphany” means manifestation, which is a clear revelation. The church’s observance of the season of Epiphany is inspired by the wise men from the east who visited the Christ Child.[i] They were foreigners, most likely not Jewish, and yet they were received, honored, and remembered. From the very start, Jesus consistently bequeathed dignity and showed the warmest welcome to the widest cast of people, not just to kindred spirits, not just to those with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but also to those among the least, and the last, and the lost. Lepers come in many forms, and Jesus was at home with everyone.

Momentarily we will be invited to pray what we call the Lord’s Prayer.[ii] It is the prayer Jesus shared in response to his disciple’s question, “How shall we pray?” The prayer is addressed in first person plural, not first person singular.Jesus did not say, “My Father in heaven.”  Nor did he pray, “Give me today my daily bread.” The prayer is addressed in the plural to “our Father” and is about “our daily bread.” Jesus’ prayer signals that our relationship with God is quite personal, but it is not private. Not that our own needs are insignificant, nor that they go unnoticed by God. Jesus’ point is that we pray for ourselves in the same way that we are pray for others. And the “others” are everyone. We pray for people whom we love. We counter-balance our lovely prayer list with our nasty list: to pray for those whom we do not love. We pray for those whom we tenderly carry in our hearts; we pray for those for whom our hearts are hardened; those with whom we most disagree and want to forget, or condemn, or punish; those whom we regard with disdain. We pray for them like we pray for ourselves.

This is how Bishop Hilary understood Jesus, and how Hilary prayed and practiced his life. And he paid a considerable personal cost to his discipleship, which was stellar. May Hilary give us inspiration and courage in our own day.

Blessed Hilary whom we remember today.

[i] Matthew 2:1-12.

[ii] Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-13.

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