Sunday 23 April, 2017
St Benedict’s Ordinariate Community, Caulfield, Victoria
Christians sometimes wonder whether to doubt the Faith is a sin. It depends on what is being doubted, but if we never have any doubts, there is no room for any spiritual growth and God is not able to challenge or surprise us.
On the first Easter morning the apostles were full of doubt. Mary Magdalene and the other women told the men that they had seen Jesus but the men didn’t believe them. They had to go to the tomb and see for themselves. Later that day they locked themselves in an Upper room, still doubtful, confused and fearful.
Jesus appeared and spoke some familiar words, “Peace be with you.” He didn’t chastise them for abandoning or betraying him. Rather he focussed on the future. God’s mercy is such that he forgives what we repent of and urges us to embrace the future. Jesus breathed on them, filling them with God’s Spirit and commissioned them to be agents of his mission in the world.
More than that, he gave the community of disciples, not individuals, the authority to determine what the boundaries of their belief and behaviour must be, including the ability to absolve sins of those who have wandered from the Faith. Here is the Scriptural basis of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament of divine mercy.
Divine mercy was evident again eight days later when Thomas, who was not with the others in the Upper Room on Easter Day, was present, The male apostles did not believe the women’s story of the risen Jesus, and now Thomas did not believe the men that Jesus had risen. He wanted proof that he was prepared to accept before he would believe.
Jesus appeared and again he did not chastise Thomas for doubting. He invited Thomas to come and see for himself, just as Andrew, Philip and Samaritan woman had invited others to come and meet Jesus for themselves at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Thomas did not need to check out the wounds of Jesus, his recognition of Jesus was enough for him to respond, “My Lord and my God.”
As before, Jesus focused on the future. “Because you have seen me you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
People can be in the presence of Jesus but not recognise him. It is in the moment of recognition that our journey of faith becomes a conscious one. Those first disciples and apostles encountered and recognised the risen Jesus through seeing, touching and hearing him. We do so through hearing his word in the Gospels and recognising his presence in the sacraments and in other people.
After Pentecost, the first Christians gathered for worship to hear Jesus in the teaching of the Apostles, to receive him in the breaking and sharing of the bread and to encounter him through caring for each other. This is the framework for the life of Christian community. Keep the Faith, be fed through the Sacraments, deepen our relationship with God through prayer and grow his kingdom in the world.
Today, we rejoice that Katie and Jacob are members of our community and we pray for them as they are confirmed and strengthened by the Holy Spirit through being anointed as his agents in his ministry. Only priests, prophets and kings were anointed in Old Testament times as God’s agents, so this is a very special day for you. Today, Jesus urges you to look to the future and begin to think how you can be his agent and to what ministries he may call you. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, you too will receive his mercy.
Happy Confirmation Day.