21 May 2011

Dominica Quinta Paschæ

First Reading, Acts 6:1-7
When Padre Pio was nearing the end of his life, it saddened many. But the supernaturally gifted Italian Capuchin priest told the faithful that he will be of much more help to them in heaven than he ever could be on earth. Much grief was experienced with the passing of Pope John Paul II. During his ministry as our Holy Father, he called all of us to a new evangelization. Through this evangelization he foresaw what he defined as a new springtime for the Church. As laity, to evangelize does not necessarily mean a preaching of the Word of God in the same sense as the twelve apostles are charged with in this Reading. In very practical terms, to evangelize is to absorb what we are taught from the Word of God and take those lessons out into the world and live out those lessons. For us as laity, therefore, to evangelize is to live our faith by example. Quite often example is more powerful than preaching. It's an interesting spiritual house that the Holy Spirit has built: We have priests (pope, cardinals and bishops included) who are ministers of the Word of God like the apostles; there is the laity who take those lessons of the Word out into the world; and then there are deacons in which Stephen, Philip and the other five mentioned in this Reading are among the first. The diaconate is a ministry that identifies with both priestly and laity experiences. In a sense they serve as the liaison with priests and laypersons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the role of the deacon as one who is involved in pastoral and liturgical ministries, as well as being ministers of social and charitable works (cf. CCC 1571). When we are faithful to our role in evangelization, then most certainly we will continue to witness an increase in the number of disciples, not only in the worldwide Church but also in our little corner of it. We lost a hero in John Paul II but have gained a powerful intercessor before the Throne of God. And with his prayers added to our own commitment to evangelize, we may soon witness a larger than life spreading of the Word of God; and rejoice as the Church's new springtime unfolds under Pope Benedict XVI.

Second Reading, 1 Peter 2:4-9
The first four words of this Reading are striking: "Beloved, come to Him"; and prompts a handful of questions to reflect upon: What means do I use to come to Jesus? What are other ways to come to Him that I've never tried? Do I come to Him often enough? Do I approach Jesus as fervently when things are going well as I do when I'm in trouble? In the Roman Catholic faith there is a treasure trove of devotions at our disposal which can greatly assist us in our approach to Jesus. Virtually all authentic Christocentric devotions are designed to help us meet Jesus at our inner sanctuary. And what a merciful and loving God we serve! We are human beings, and thus when we sin, we reject our Living Stone. But our Cornerstone, Who is chosen and precious in the sight of God, never rejects us. On the contrary, our belief in Him spares us from ever being put to shame; and our gift of holy priesthood endows us with the privilege to offer spiritual sacrifices that are not rejected, but accepted by God through Jesus Christ. We are sinful humanity and because of it we occasionally face the darkness; but with our acceptance of God's merciful love, the Light will always overpower the darkness. "Royal" priesthood has both an earthly and heavenly connotation. Royalty intimates governance, and so, we are called upon to govern our passions on earth and thus we will reign with Christ in heaven.

Gospel, John 14:1-12
When Pope John Paul II went home to the Lord, he left behind a flock of many troubled hearts. His death brought forth an array of concerns about the future of the Church. It is an occasion such as this where we can see how eternal Christ's words are. Our Lord's words of consolation were spoken two thousand years ago and yet they could easily be applied to the concerns of any age in history. Jesus departed to prepare a place for us so that we may be with Him. On 2 April 2005 Jesus Christ came back again to take John Paul II to Himself. And for us, those eternal words of our Lord needed to be heard in our spirit: "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Jesus assures us that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. This is boggling to the human mind. Jesus embodies so many things we've become familiar with in Sacred Scripture – in fact He is the Embodiment of Sacred Scripture – the Word made Flesh. He is the Embodiment of the Torah, the parting of the Red Sea or Gateway to freedom, the Bread of angels, the sacrificial Lamb, the Covenant, the Blood on the doorposts, the Promised Land, the Way, the Truth, the Life and the fulfillment of all the sacred mysteries of the Old Testament. It is perhaps the crux of what separates believers in the Divinity of Jesus from non-believers. In Pope Benedict's book, "Jesus of Nazareth," our Holy Father writes about how recent scholarship has detached Jesus from God and reduces Jesus to an anti-Roman revolutionary Who failed to overthrow the ruling powers. Rabbi Jacob Neusner, who is featured in Pope Benedict's book, also has written a book titled, "A Rabbi Talks with Jesus." Rabbi Neusner imagines having a dialogue with a first century Jew well-versed in the Law of Moses after Rabbi Neusner had listened to our Saviour's teachings on the Torah. The imaginary dialogue goes like this: The Torah expert asks concerning Christ's teachings on the Torah: "What did He [Jesus] leave out?" Rabbi Neusner answers: "Nothing." The Torah expert asks: "Then what did He add?" Rabbi Neusner answers: "Himself." It is reasonable to think that a Man cannot take all of this upon Himself. And let's face it, without faith in Jesus Christ, it would have to be deemed a fantastic notion. In fact, for some branches of monotheism it is considered insulting and scandalous to even consider that God became Man. On the surface that may appear to be an oppressive religious mandate but consider that Jews as well as Christians are taught from the Old Testament that no one can look on the Face of God and live (cf. Exodus 33:20). But in Christ Jesus, God has put on a human Face so that we can not only look upon Him but also Jesus calls each of us to a personal search for His Face. And what radiates from His Face promises to be an experience of Love like never experienced before. Our Redeemer asks us in this Gospel to have faith in Him. Our "yes" to Him doesn't mean abandoning what is reasonable or logical, but with God's help, opens us up to what is transcendent and the belief that with God all things are possible (cf. Matthew 19:26). Death of the faithful promises eternal joy but consequently it often leaves feelings of insecurity to those who still remain. It's amazing in any person's life that after taking into consideration the many years of prayer, years of going to Mass, years of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, years of reading and listening to our Lord's words from Scripture that what Jesus said to Philip then still applies here and now: "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know Me?" Such is our human weakness; and that inner fear or uncertainty we have of what the future holds, paints a vivid picture of the reality of how much we are in need of our Lord. Blessed John Paul II often said and was a living witness to the words, "Do not be afraid." His existence was a photo album of a life that had faith in Jesus Christ. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me." Such comforting and eternally rewarding words from our Saviour -- if only we have the faith to believe it.