Memorial of St. Polycarp
Scripture Readings: Heb 11:1-7; Mk 9:1-12
Have you ever wondered, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Once I overheard an angry teenager ask this question in a more personal way. He said, “Why am I not God?” His rebellious, jealous, arrogant complaint has a happy answer. In the New Testament St. Peter writes, “God has given us his precious and very great promises, that you may become partakers in the divine nature” (2 Pt. 1:4). We really become divine!
At his Transfiguration Jesus revealed that he has a divine nature from all eternity, and a human nature received in time from Mary. We are also transfigured: we have a human nature by conception in our mother’s womb, and we share in God’s divine nature by baptism. Yes, we really are divine!
Let’s be clear: this is not pantheism, because there are three essential differences between us and God. First, we do not become divine Persons. We are human persons who share in God’s divine nature. Second, because we are created we are finite, not infinite, but we have an unlimited capacity to grow in things divine. Third, we share in the divine nature not of ourselves, but by grace. It’s God’s gift.
To begin enjoying this great gift St. Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, willingly suffered and died by martyrdom, remembering what his teacher St. John the apostle wrote to the Church in Smyrna, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). That crown is divinity. As St. Augustine expressed it, “God became man so that man might become God.” 1
- Catholic Catechism #460: The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:78 “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” 79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” 80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” 81