Homily for VIth Sunday in Easter
A great homily from Fr. Kevin Hale this week. It particularly struck me in the light of a week spent in Lourdes, and my present re-reading of Pope St. John Paul II's writings in Crossing the Threshold of Hope. Covering similar ground to Fr. Kevin this week, John Paul II puts the current dilemma in a long view relief and a philosophical context derived of the Cartesian turning toward self. He places man in a sphere of coexistence and faith in a profoundly anthropological constitution. He explains that the standard doubts and questions we have about God's existence and our concern that he is hiding
"would only be legitimate if man, with his created intellect and within the limits of his own subjectivity, could overcome the entire distance that separates creation from the creator" (p. 38).In other words, when you think carefully about the relationship between God and man, how much do you think God can actually reveal about Himself without totally confusing us? Jesus is the fullness of God's revelation, but manifest in such a way that we can come to a relational understanding of God. Humanity exists in co-existence; our anthropology is formed through relationship, and so it is clear that this is the best way for us to recognise the reality of our existence contingent to God and creation. When you think about it, this total imminence revealed in Jesus Christ has already suffered rejection from those who could not consider that God could be so real and so tangible. Both Islam and the synagogue constitute rejections of this proximity of God, preferring a more remote comprehension of the divine; always utterly transcendent and untouchable.
In the light of Sunday's first reading from St. Peter:
Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)Father Kevin deals with the same theme with confidence and insight in his homily below. You can listen to all Father Kevin's homilies by downloading the podcast free here.
Several months ago a row kicked-off when the Scouting Association approved a new version of the Scouting Promise which makes no mention of God. Whilst atheists welcomed the move, Christian groups have denounced this as yet another attempt to remove any mention of God from our lives as harmful to the nature of what we are. Whereas in previous generations it was possible to take for granted that everyone believed to a greater or lesser extent in God, nowadays this cannot be presumed.
To a greater extent than in the past, faith is now subjected to many searching questions arising from a changed mentality which limits the rational certainties of previous generations to that of scientific and technological discoveries. But the Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.
The Easter season is all about Faith in the Risen Jesus and we are reminded daily in the Mass, when we listen to the Acts of the Apostles, that from the beginning, amidst all of the difficulties and persecutions that the Church experienced, it was the conviction of Faith that formed the Church. In the way that Scouts and Guides are required to commit to memory their promises and laws, so the early Christian committed to mind and heart what we believe and profess.
Not without good reason, Christians in the early centuries were required to learn the Creed from memory. It served them as a daily prayer not to forget the commitment they had undertaken in baptism. With words rich in meaning, Saint Augustine speaks of this in a homily on The Handing Over of the Creed:
"the symbol of the holy mystery that you have all received together, and that today you have recited one by one, are the words on which the faith of Mother Church is firmly built upon the stable foundation that is Christ the Lord. You have received it and recited it, but in your minds and hearts you must keep it ever present, you must repeat it in your beds, recall it in the public squares and not forget it during meals: even when your body is asleep, you must watch over it with your hearts."
The Creed reminds us of the basics of our holy Faith. And we need to know the basics if we are to be witnesses. If Easter is a season of Faith it is also a time when we should remind ourselves of what it is we need to know. Perhaps the reason the new atheists have been able to gain ground in the twenty-first century is that lack of confidence that we sometimes each have when it comes to explaining what it is that gives us the hope we have. No progress is progress in anything, if it ignores or denies the very reality that gives meaning to our life and which holds the universe in existence.
C S Lewis wrote poignantly about this in his book Basic Christianity :
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.…I think if you look at the present state of the world, it is pretty plain that humanity has been making some big mistake. We are on the wrong road. And if that is so, we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.
It's pretty clear to anyone who is listening to our Hoy Father, Pope Francis, that this is what he is calling us to: a return to basics; to the simple truths of the Gospel and Christian Faith. Sometimes he does this in a direct and disarming way, challenging us to live in Christ in terms which are often disarmingly uncomfortable. But that is the role of a prophet, that is the role of Peter, of the Pope, to make us feel uncomfortable, to shake us out of complacency and lives of mediocrity which would be to stifle the breath of the Holy Spirit within us. This is what Our Lord is speaking of in the Gospel: that long discourse which he made at the Last Supper in which he tells us we are called into intimacy with God himself.
As we prepare for the celebration of The Ascension of Our Lord next weekend, and Pentecost in two weeks, we think even more of the Heaven that awaits us. There is no more basic truth than that for which we have been created by God. May Mary, by her continual maternal care, draw us, believers in Jesus her Son, to an ever deeper appreciation of the joy of believing.
|Fr. Kevin in reflective mood at the Grotto in Lourdes last week.|