Easter 6, 22 May 22
One of the urgent things we need to pray for is the unity of Christ`s Holy Catholic Church yet because the Church is a school for sinners on the way to redemption – that is to say each one of us is a sinner in need of the constant loving forgiveness of God and true penitence in our lives. Yet our divisions are a scandal.
Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles shows the dissension already existing in the church from its very early days. We have heard how the traditionalist from Judea, converts to Christ from Judaism, were anxious to maintain the rules laid down by Moses particularly about physical circumcision. Paul and Barnabas had arguments with the traditionalists and they and others went up to Jerusalem to discuss the problem with the apostles and elders, that is the bishops and priests as we heard from Fr. Morris`s sermon of last week. The whole church concurring with the outcome of the discussions and sending Judas Barsabbas and Silas, both leading men in the brotherhood, to take a letter sending greetings and instructions to the new gentile Christians in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, explaining how the traditionalist had exceeding their authority and giving straightforward instructions of how the new Christians should conduct themselves – and this applies to us too!
Today`s Gospel reading is part of what are known as “The Lord`s Farewell Discourses” which are shared with The Eleven at The Last Supper a littler after Judas has left the gathering to go and betray Jesus. Chapters 14 – 16 show us how Jesus our Lord is preparing his disciples for what is to happen. He already knew what his fate was to be and had even, a little while before, told Peter, the chief of the apostles that he would deny Jesus before cock-crow! As it happens we have at the daily masses of last week begun to see Our Lord preparing his followers for his death, resurrection and ascension. Even at yesterday`s mass the Gospel reading was part of what we have heard this morning. The three chapters of the discourses are full of deep meaning much of which, it seems, was confusing to the apostles.
Jesus explains how that if anyone truly loves him that person will keep His word and by reason of that the Father will love that person and that the Father and Jesus will come to him (or her) and make their home with that person. Jesus profoundly points to the depth of relationship that will take place, indeed has already taken place for the Eleven and for those too who are united with our Saviour in His death and resurrection through the waters of Baptism whereby we became bound to our Saviour as His brothers and sisters by adoption and grace!
Jesus follows this by saying that His word is not His own but the word of the One who sent Him – namely the Father. For Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. This great mystery is difficult for us to comprehend and we shall probably only understand the fullness of the meaning when we too are called to be with Our Lord and His Father and the Holy Spirit and Our Lady and All the Angels and Saints at the end of time. He is pointing to the fact that He is truly human and truly Divine. As the rarely used Athanasian Creed puts it: “For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man; God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world; Perfect God, and Perfect Man: of a reasonable soul and human flesh existing; Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead: and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood. Who although he be God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ; One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God; One altogether, not by confusion of Substance: but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man: so God and Man is one Christ.”
Jesus then goes on to say; `I have said these things to while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. These words remind of how our Lord spoke when He appeared to the Ten in the Upper Room on that First Easter Night after his Resurrection and also His greeting of Peace.
Jesus goes on to reassure them saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: `I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I`”
It is likely that Jesus was referring both to His death which would take place the following day to be followed by His Resurrection on the Third Day (Easter Sunday) and also to His being taken up into Heaven forty days after His Resurrection, which we shall joyously commemorate nest Thursday – Ascension, and his final return as Judge Eternal at the end of time.
Clearly Jesus perceived that there was some doubt about what was happening in the minds of the apostles – and after their own time and with hindsight we know just how frightened they were on that first Easter Night when Jesus appeared to them.
The final sentence of today`s Gospel passage is, once again a sign of his re-assuring love and to instil the gift of hope. “I have told you this now BEFORE IT HAPPENS, so that when it does happen you may believe.”
The short absence between his death and resurrection was that He might harrow hell! The second absence, which beginning we shall celebrate on Thursday next, is to prepare a place for those who will follow him to the Father`s House whether it be when He calls us from this life or at THE CONSUMMATION OF ALL THINGS.
Praise be to our Risen and Glorified Lord. Alleluia.