In this Church, we are in a different universe. We see things differently in here. We see reality as it really is, without illusions. Some people look at the world and think that is all there is. This universe had a beginning, some 14 billion years ago with the Big Bang. There is no such thing as an eternal universe. Before God created the universe, it did not exist. It had a beginning, and that means it will also have an end.
In this Church building, we see things through the eyes of God. You and I are here for less than a 100 years. We came into existence at that moment in time, when God sent our immortal souls into the tiny zygote, that our parents created through their act of spousal love. God gives us our allotted years on this Earth to accomplish our goals and tasks. Then we shall leave this world, this material universe, and enter another and a more enduring universe, to be with God and all the elect and the angels.
When we are in this Church, our focus, our attention is on Jesus, the Son of God, the Co-Creator of the entire universe. The person of Jesus penetrates everything here. He is personally present to each of us. He is the One in whom we can anchor our faith, place our complete trust. He is the Light which helps us distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, deception and truth.
Jesus came among us to teach us the truths that do not change. He teaches us about God, about ourselves, and about the world. This is divine revelation. There is no error or subterfuge in it. In the created universe we find signs and indications of God, the great designer. There are complex and very satisfying patterns and designs in the universe all around us, which we can discover and delight in. But God wants us to know more. He wants us to know Him, as a Person, as one who loves and relates to us.
When we hear the Sacred Scriptures read, we hear Divine Revelation. That is why the first half of the Mass is focused on the Word of God (the liturgy of the Word). The homily is only a frail human attempt to break open the Word of God and to apply it to our times and culture.
On this 3rd Sunday of Easter, we see Jesus come back to life and interact with his disciples. The greatest miracle of all, the Resurrection from the dead, had just taken place. It took some time for the Apostles to digest all this, to fully comprehend what it means — this is also our task. What are some of the implications of the Resurrection, the impact it should have upon us?
Consider the Apostles and the early Church. Consider the impact that the Resurrection had upon them. Now their lives were changed. Now they were convinced that Jesus was God, that everything he told them was true. Now that first Holy Week (Passion, Death & Resurrection) began to make sense. Now they understood the real meaning of this life, and its purpose.
What did the Apostles and first Christians do? They meditated upon what Jesus had told them, upon all his works and signs. They opened their hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit in prayer so that He could teach them the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words. They went to the Temple to pray. They celebrated the Eucharist in their house-churches.
Then they began to spread this message, this Good News, the Gospel, with everyone they knew, with anyone seeking the truth, with anyone searching for the meaning and purpose of this life.
We notice that this brought them into conflict with those who did not want that message to be taught in public. The Gospel is counter-cultural. It conflicts, challenges contemporary values, trends, prejudices, and the darkness of men’s minds. There is a real conflict between the world and the Spirit of God.
We recall what happened to Peter, John and the 12 when they boldly proclaimed who Jesus was and what He had done. They were thrown into prison, whipped, and commanded to be silent. Jesus and his message were upsetting. Think of the Deacon Stephen, the first martyr, when he refused to be intimidated into silence.
It took real courage for Peter and John to go back to the Temple and preach there when the angel miraculously freed them from prison. Apprehended once again, and questioned by the High Priest, they were flogged and told to keep silent about Jesus. But Peter and John refused to be intimidated. Instead, “they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus.” The Apostles remembered the blessings in store for those who suffer like Jesus (Mt 5:10-12, Jn 16:33, 1 Pt 2:19-21).
Now apply this to our times and circumstances.
God deeply loves us. He demonstrates that love for us again and again. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (Jn 3:16).
Jesus is the light that came into the world, and the world preferred its darkness to the Light. The light of Jesus illuminates our understanding so that we might know the truth: the truth about good works and virtue, the truth about the sanctity of all human life, the truth about God’s plan for marriage, for spousal love, and for family, the truth about the human dignity of every human being.
If we love God, then we will place our full faith, our complete confidence in him. “Jesus, I trust in you.” We will bring our works to the light, to be sure that they conform to God’s plan for us, and not to the world. Then we will find ways to evangelize, to bring God’s wonderful plan to everyone we live with so that they can benefit from the beauty and goodness of the truth.
Should we expect some resistance, some rejection, some false accusations, and misrepresentations? Oh yes. Just read the history of Christianity over the past 20 centuries. Christians have always met resistance, even persecution, for living their Faith. Persecution seems to be part of the Christian story. But the world does not get better, marriage and family life do not become stronger, abortions do not stop, and respect for human life and human dignity do not increase without the witness of men and women whose faith is unshakeable and seen by all.
May the risen Lord fill our hearts, and lives, just He did for Peter, John, Stephen ad the first Christian men and women. May we prefer the joy which only God can give, in preference to any and all worldly pleasures and distractions.
“He is risen, just as He promised. Let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia.