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Friday, 6 April 2018

2nd Sunday of Easter Year B 2018

2nd. Sunday of Easter (B)  
    (Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35; 1st. Letter of John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31)

Jesus said to Thomas, "Have you come to believe because you have seen Me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."  Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.

What precisely was John’s meaning in that passage from today’s Gospel reading?

Having just reported Jesus as saying:

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed;

he then himself added:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book.

It would seem that John is saying that he has omitted to tell us of many other signs  accomplished by Jesus in the presence His disciples because of the Risen Lord’s words of solemn admonition to Thomas:

          Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,

which imply that many signs should really not be necessary. 

John seems to have thought that those believers to whom he was writing after the Resurrection of the Lord, were better placed than Thomas and himself, along with the other disciples, had been before Jesus’ Resurrection: ‘you shouldn’t need me to tell you now of all Jesus’ signs and miracles, whereas we – Thomas especially, myself, and the others -- loving disciples though we were, had been weak in those early days because we did not, at the time, have that fullness of faith which is now yours’.

In his letter John also says:

Who indeed is the victor over the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Here he is taking up again his Gospel teaching, saying that whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that is, whoever is one of those praised by Jesus for believing without ‘seeing’, such a one has overcome the world; and his victory over the world is proved by the fact that he is spiritually alive and strong in Jesus without any requirement of worldly evidence.   Indeed, need for worldly corroboration could only signal a weakness in the spiritual life of a true Christian.

Now, why does John praise such an attitude in response to Jesus’ gospel?

Not, indeed, because he wants to signal out and laud any human being for his or her own individual spiritual strength, but rather to show us all how sublime and divinely spiritual is Christian faith, since, ultimately, only God the Father can introduce us to such faith, as John tells us in his Gospel (6:43-45):

Jesus said to the Jews, "Do not murmur among yourselves.  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

Worldly evidence cannot establish the spiritual realities of our Christian faith, it can only help our faithful appreciation of them.  Acceptance of the Gospel message on the basis of worldly evidence is no authentic substitute for true faith given in response to God’s grace inspiring our heart, enlightening our mind, and moving our will.  John is not against us using our natural intelligence in response to the Gospel of Jesus, after all, he expressly tells us why he wrote his Gospel:

These (signs) are written that you may believe (that they may help you believe) that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Rather is it that, for St. John, the supreme function of the Gospel message is to provoke, awaken and promote our awareness of, our contact with and response to, God Himself; and that contact, that response, though based essentially on the Gospel message, is not to be limited to or constrained by the written words of the Gospel.   The truth about Jesus, and indeed about God, is broader, wider, goes deeper and higher, is more intimately personal than the inspired but human words of the Gospels; that is why we Catholics accept the Tradition of the Church and acknowledge development in the doctrine of Faith; all, however, on the basis of, and never in contradiction to, the original Gospel proclamation.  And that is also why the Catholic Church has always recognized, revered and delighted in, her authentic saints as shining beacons and inspiring examples of that possibility open to all her faithful children for wondrous personal communion with God and those closest to Him in our heavenly home.

And here we have come to the essential characteristic of our Christian, Resurrection, Faith.  It is not simply a faith to be learned, it is not even just a faith to be loved; it is a faith to be experienced, loved, and lived: not only in the sense of obeying its commands and fighting for its rights, but, above all, as a communion with the Father, in His Incarnate Son our Lord and Saviour, by God’s great Gift, His most Holy Spirit.   The Catholic Church, the Church which is the Body of Christ living by the Spirit of Christ, is able to receive God-given grace and guidance to appreciate -- and more appropriately, more fully, understand – the Good News of Jesus’ Gospel, through her living communion with God.  Mother Church today is still called to allow herself to be inspired by God, not indeed to write or proclaim a new revelation, but to understand more fully and appreciate more deeply the revelation originally and finally given to her by God.

This is why the Catholic Church can never be or become a university Church in which the teaching of God is subject to exclusively rational argument and justification, a Church where only that teaching which, having been sifted and given a majority vote of scholarly approval, is considered suitable for provisional acceptance as Church doctrine.  Nor, on the emotional side, can the Church of Jesus -- inspired by the Spirit for the ultimate glory of the Father’s inconceivable goodness and holiness – ever be subject to human pseudo-spiritual and/or emotional approval: that is, what modern men and women may regard as ‘nice’ or ‘not nice enough’ when predicated of God.  For example, some seem to think that the following words of Jesus Himself are ‘not suitable’ for people today:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.  (Mt. 10:28)

The true Church is a mystical Church where worldly perceptions and human reasoning -- whether merely rational or emotionally ‘spiritual’ -- are most certainly not the authentic ways of approaching and evaluating Jesus’ teaching and divine truths. In Mother Church scholarly techniques and attainments, though widely employed, gratefully used, and truly appreciated, are also necessarily subjected to the transcendent authority of the Good News and especially the very words of Our Lord Jesus Christ; subject, that is, to a spiritual and divine awareness, gleaned and received under the guidance of the Spirit, from communion with, and response to, the revealing and redeeming God.

All this is contained in those words of our Creed which say: ‘I believe in one, holy, CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC Church’, or put in another way, ‘I believe in one holy Church – Jesus’ Church -- because it is Catholic and Apostolic’.   Those words do not simply state that we believe the Catholic Church to have been founded by Jesus Christ and established on His Apostles, to be guided and preserved by His Spirit; they also mean that it is only in the Catholic Church -- only in her atmosphere, so to speak -- that we are able to breath fully as Christians, fully endowed and empowered to believe aright the fullness of truth  about God and His will for the salvation of mankind.

Whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.   And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

         The Spirit is the One that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.

Oh, you believing Catholics, appreciate and be grateful for the treasure you have been given!  John, the Apostle whom Jesus loved particularly, accounts you as -- in some measure -- better placed in relation to Jesus than he himself was in the days of the Lord’s public ministry!!   What is more, your faith has been given to you at the instigation of heavenly Father Himself Who has P/personally called you and introduced you to Jesus; and that faith is being continually nourished and purified -- even to this very day, at this very hour – by the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love, in the womb of Mother Church, with a view to your sharing and living fully and eternally in the Body of Christ.    Amen.