Homily for Sunday, 15 April 2012
2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 4:32-35. 1 Jn 5:1-6. Jn 20:19-31.
Divine Mercy Sunday
This Sunday God is underlining for us that the Good News is good! ... and that it would be good to bear Christian witness and spread it.
The apostles have closed the doors for fear of persecutions, and Jesus appears with the huge long theological instruction: “Peace be with you!”. Isn't it huge! Many live with doubts and fears, but God's Love is stronger than the biggest of problems – than death itself! Passing through problems, and even illness and persecutions, is just a little blip on the way to a happy Life with God. Jesus then calls us to have faith as he deals with doubting Thomas, and Thomas arrives at the mind-blowing realization that Jesus is God.
When my M.S. was diagnosed, it was upsetting and I knew that it was going to bring problems for me in life, but I made an act of faith and just didn't spend any time depressed (as many poor patients do). I can't know exactly why, but I'm confident that God does things for a reason – even leading his Son to Calvary. M.S. is just a minor twist on the road through life – unless, that is, people were to place their hopes on the physical things of life in the world. But we're only briefly passing through here, and the one thing to concern us in the end will be to have done at least something loving and useful. Jesus therefore adds “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you”. We're not Jesus, but isn't it fantastic that he gives us a role to play! All it needs is our "yes".
Following Christ may well challenge our comforts and easy-going way of life, but if we are faithful, then it will bear fruit, and that's when you will know that Christ has really come to life - resurrected in yourself. The principal thing with which St Paul was flabergasted was with what happened in his own self. A proud persecutor of that new 'Jesus sect', became a loving supporter. The love of Christ simply seduces hearts.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles talks of how the good testimony of the first Christian community 'spoke clearly'. We give thanks for that today, and with it we appreciate how God is asking us to 'speak clearly' for future generations. Many fall away today because they see so many Christians that are quite superficial. If we deepen a bit, then the message will get through, and they'll give thanks for us in future centuries. The challenge faces us now to really believe in our resurrected Lord. And of course, believing isn't just a matter of showing our faces at mass on a Sunday and signing on the dotted line of a parish directory. It should be a 'living' faith that orientates every step we take and turns us into 'living Christs' (Mt 10:14, Lk 10:16, Gal 2:20). St Agustin's mother (Monica) could hardly have talked convincingly to her son in his high-flying philosophical terms, but she gave clear example at home and look at the fruit!
To accept the Good News that's come down to us over many centuries and through many good witnesses is helpful, but it's not enough. God wants us to have personal experience. How could that happen? It doesn't need some kind of strange miracle or vision (like Thomas touching the nail-marks in the palm of Jesus), but rather it needs that each of us give some time to personal meditation and reflection on the Word that's arrived down to us. Thoughts and ideas spring up in our minds, and that's how our risen Lord speaks to us and gives his life to us.
With regard to Thomas and the call to faith, there's a lot to say, but here's a few ideas: Mankind may make great advances in knowledge (esoterics), in science and in art etc., but one thing that's for sure is that eventually this bunch of flesh and bones is going to die. I think that that's a good aspect of physical life for us – that it dies! It's good! It's essential for us because it makes us seek a solution, and it's only in that humility, that mankind will really seek. It's then that the person of Christ, along with his scriptures and his followers, bear fruit. To quote Sir Francis Bacon: 'If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he may end in certainties.'. I think that human intelligence is really based on the humble realization that 'There are things about life that I don't know'! Isaac Newton (1642-1727) changed the way laymen looked at the world by what he suggested as much as by what he scientifically proved. At last it began to seem that almost all its secrets might be unlocked by science, and if that was so, what need for churchmen to explain it? But there always remain things that science just can't explain. Only God could. So the challenge for us is to pay attention to God's Word. Newton actually ended up a very religious man.
When I was a small boy learning my first lessons about inventions and discoveries, I once asked my dad where I had come from. He answered "From God". I pressed on "But who is that and how did I appear?". I was looking for some kind of knowledgeable answer from my 'pharmacist father'. He knew well the scientific truths but replied that deep down, he didn't know how come – that no human can really explain it. That humble "I don't know" is the best door-opener of all. It was opening the door for the Father of us all to let me know the Good News of our faith, and that began answering my simple search. I wish the whole lot of us would search a bit – and at least open the door!
The truth is that God is humbly doing the knocking at our door. That's the motivation of his incarnation and he keeps lovingly trying. "I'm at the door knocking. If anyone opens to me I'll come in and we can eat together" (Apoc 3:20). The apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews, and I suppose that reflects how we all sometimes 'hide' - we avoid standing out clearly as followers of Christ. Standing out would require that we give good testimony at work, at home and at play. The temptations of mundane riches, honours and pleasures form plenty of doors which Christ has to get through. He can, but He won't force his way in. He humbly knocks. Let's open up!
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