2nd. Sunday of Eastertide (B)
(Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35; 1st. John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31)
There are wonderful truths contained in our readings today, but their beauty can only be recognized by those who possess, by the grace of God, that faith of which Jesus spoke when He said to Thomas
Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29)
St. Peter in his first letter, which Mother Church recommends for our reading this Eastertide, tells us
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who in His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance that is imperishable, kept in heaven for you who… through faith are protected by the power of God for salvation. (1:3-9)
Faith is indeed a wonderful gift: through faith we have been given a new birth to a divine life and are shielded by God’s power for the gradual the fulfilment of that Faith which has only one and supreme purpose, our eternal salvation as children of God.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our Faith invites us to become CHILDREN OF GOD. That is the relationship of Faith: a childlike trust in, love for, GOD-OUR-FATHER. In all our relationships of prayer or devotion with the individual Persons of the Father, the Son become our Saviour, and the Holy Spirit, that spirit of trust, confidence in, and love for God-our-Father is utterly basic and absolutely essential. There are overtones with the individual Persons but these are always expressive of that basic childlike awareness and response to God-our-Father. Catholic and Christian Faith can never be understood, interpreted, correctly if that foundational childlike awareness and response is disturbed, disorientated or threatened.
Nevertheless, many today have difficulty with what they wrongly think pertains to faith; they are not satisfied, for example, with today’s words of Jesus: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." They want to believe in something they can see here and now. Faith, to them, implies delay; whereas they want more or less immediate experience. That is a large part of the success of modern TV soaps, which are continually moving every few minutes from one dramatic scene to another. With a classic novel you may have to read for hours of gradual development and build up before you come to a climax. Today, many cannot wait that long, they want a continuous flow of easy climaxes, not only on TV., but also in life and also in their religion of choice. Jesus’ words and teaching are therefore, for many of our contemporaries, unpalatable and difficult: hard to swallow and easy to reject.
Peter, however, had no such difficulty with the teaching of His Lord. For Peter, the words of Jesus were sacrosanct, and so he wrote in his letter to these early Christians:
Though you have not seen Jesus, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him.
I would now like to remind you of another aspect of that faith by which we live, and through which, as Peter tells us, we have hope. We heard in the Gospel reading:
Jesus said (to His Apostles), "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you." And with that He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
In other words, Jesus came among us for the one, ultimate, divine, purpose: to free us from servitude; not just from Egyptian overlords as was the case with Moses and Israel of old, but to free the whole of mankind from its universal servitude to SIN:
Repent and believe the Good News I bring.
And that is why, dear People of God, our Risen Lord first of all equips His Church to serve His Spirit and bring to fulfilment His one purpose of salvation from sin and death for all men and women of good will.
Our readings today show us who, as Christians and Catholics, we should love,
The community of believers was of one heart and mind.
Everyone one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God and every one who loves the Father loves also the one begotten by Him;
And in that oneness of mind and heart, loving Jesus and the Father, they consequently hated the ‘sin of the world’:
Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world; and the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Another aspect of our faith from today’s readings is also to be noted, the words are those of the Apostle of love, St. John (I John 5:2):
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.
However, such words are from faith and for faith, whereas, as I have already insisted, modern people love experience; they find faith distasteful, saying, for example, that somehow God’s commands prevent them loving. They prefer to give expression to the immediacy of (whatever) love, whenever it strikes them. They are much more at ease with their idea of the immediacy of love than its perdurance, faithfulness, reliability and patience; after all, the words they use speak of “making love”. Their immediate love for their children shows itself by giving them all they want, together with the self-indulgent hugs and kisses, never chastising, training, or teaching, always seeking the immediate reward of childish joy and giggles. Such people likewise say it is love which motivates those who promote euthanasia, abortion, and the right to a dignified death by one’s own hand and at one’s own choice. And so, the idea of John that we can only truly love our neighbour by loving God first of all is not acceptable because it does not give us any immediately appreciable feelings of ‘goodness’.
‘Sin’, that only God can truly heal, is now rejected in favour of ‘sickness’ which is humanly treatable: society today seeks in that way to take on God’s work: people do so want both self-approbation and the approbation of others that they are willing to reject as icy-cold God’s long-term commands, and loll about on the beach of immediate self-satisfaction and general approbation anticipating the presumed success of popular treatment through easy-to-hand worldly ideas for what is spiritually totally beyond their ken. And of course, all that takes place with the inevitable result that sickness and death continue to reign in ever more degrading disguises, causing ever more unimaginable pain.
However, the words of St. Peter do not speak only of a faith which does not yet see, because he continues:
Even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Because we, who believe, are already being prepared for and enriched with the blessings to come, we can experience, here and now, what Peter calls “an inexpressible and glorious joy” in the practice of our faith. In other words, in faith we can already experience here on earth some measure of the joy of divinely personal experience and love. In the words of St. John of the Cross, try to put love -- your personal heart and mind’s intention -- into your practice of the faith and you will find love: experience a personal relationship with God of “inexpressible and glorious joy”. Let me give you an example.
At the Easter Vigil we heard the story of our father Abraham journeying with his son Isaac to a place the Lord would show them where Abraham was to sacrifice his beloved son to the Lord as he had been told to do. You can imagine the deep grief and deadening sorrow in Abraham’s heart as he walked along with his son by his side who was asking him; “Father, I am carrying the wood for the sacrifice, but where is the victim to be sacrificed on the wood?” “The Lord will provide” his father answered. They arrived at Mount Moriah and there Abraham prepared to offer his son in sacrifice to the Lord. But the Lord did indeed provide: “Do not harm the boy” Abraham was told, and turning round he saw a ram provided by the Lord, to be offered in sacrifice instead of the boy Abraham loved so much. Imagine what joy filled the heart of the old man as he returned home with his beloved son by his side. Now Isaac, the son to be offered in sacrifice, was a figure of Jesus whom the heavenly Father would send to offer Himself for us in sacrifice on Calvary. But what about Abraham? Was he, somehow, a figure of the Father in heaven? Indeed, he was! Think of the joy, then, of our heavenly Father this Easter on receiving back His beloved Son, glorious in His Easter rising. And then realize what joy you can give to the Father by offering your participation in this Mass, by offering Jesus back glorified to His Father, to be at His Father’s right hand for ever in heaven. Try to delight in giving such joy to your heavenly Father: do what only you can do; personally offer Jesus back to your heavenly Father here in this Mass, and you will begin to experience something of that “inexpressible and glorious joy” of which Peter spoke.
People of God, there are two aspects to our faith: obedience and joy, the one protects us and the other delights us. God wants to receive the one and give us the other because obedience is meant by Him to lead to a personal relationship of total fulfilment for us. Indeed, ultimately it will lead to a Personal relationship in Jesus with the Father that will be overflowing with fulfilment for us in the Holy Spirit. That is already beginning to take place if we live our faith with personal commitment and love, and that is why Peter says today:
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.