Why this title? Many older Catholics will remember the story about a very significant incident in the life of Peter the Apostle during the persecution of Christians by the Roman...
The readings we reflect on this week are taken from The Mass During the Day .
We may know the Penny Catechism backwards and by heart – the answer to every single question – and even be one of those great academic theologians who know all the intricacies of official doctrine and are able to brand me a heretic ….
BUT UNLESS I HAVE FAITH all my knowledge and expertise of the doctrine are absolutely useless and achieve nothing.
CHRIST HAS DIED! CHRIST IS RISEN! CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN!
If Jesus, the Christ, had not died – stone dead, lifeless, with the usual, normal and natural rigor mortis – his resurrection would be meaningless, and his coming again no more than a charade
. In addition, Peter’s assertion that “every one who believes in his name receives forgiveness of sins through his name“ becomes little more than ‘pie-in-the-sky’. [see TODAY’S FIRST READING; ACTS 10: 34a. 37- 43]. If my sins cannot be forgiven what real faith in the Resurrection is possible? No good knowing the doctrine of resurrection unless I HAVE FAITH IN ITS REALITY.
I have faith in the fact of Jesus’ death as well as his coming again – because I believe, have faith, that inside the tomb, his body in rigor mortis, he
STOOD UP, REMOVED ALL THE CLOTHS, ROLLED THE STONE AWAY AND WALKED OUT ALIVE AND WELL – A LIVING PERSON. “By the Lord has this been done, a marvel in our eyes.” [TODAY’S PSALM – 118 or 117]. So, as the Psalm tells us – “I shall not die, I shall live and recount the deeds of the Lord.”
Our reading from the Acts of the Apostles reminds us that “we are called to testify that he is the one ordained by God.” Doctrine does not testify – faith does! Doctrine makes an important contribution to assisting in an intellectual understanding of the contents of faith but does not, in itself, lead to faith or make us more faithful. Perhaps one of the important aspects of doctrine is to guard against exaggerations and aberrations of various devotions.
The first reading has two interesting phrases when it records words of Saint Peter which, firstly, tell us “for God was with him.” Is this fact the foundation of faith in the Lord’s resurrection? In other words, Jesus’ rising from the dead should embolden me to know with absolute certainty that God-in-Christ is
WITH ME – each and every step of my life’s way. Secondly, Peter tells us that we “know the word which was proclaimed.” Far too often we allow periphery issues to interfere with the word of God as it has been proclaimed. Real life issues can so easily become clouded by the niceties of doctrinal interpretation and, as a result, the WORD OF GOD becomes secondary. I will never forget being present at a very erudite theological lecture in which the words Jesus or Christ were never mentioned, not once in 35-minutes! When I queried this, the response of the speaker was “we must take that for granted.” Well I never, was my response, since when do we take Jesus Christ for granted? Do we Catholics, generally, know what has been proclaimed? We remember what Sister Mathuzala or Brother McFaddlebuck said in Standard Three. However, do we know what the Father and / or Jesus Christ has said?
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice in it and be glad.”
This is the response to today’s Psalm. Does myfaith engender in me a rejoicing and gladness on Easter Sunday? My faith needs the reminder, encouragement and assurance that Easter provides. We ” must know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”
This verse of Scripture appears at the very end of THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 20: 1 – 9]. Before being judgmental about Peter and John’s hesitancies and lack of faith we should not overlook that Mary Magdalene also had not yet come to believe. In addition the reading only tells us that John “saw and believed.” We know from later Gospel accounts that both Mary and Peter came to belief as a result of later, personal, encounters with the Risen Lord. Yet the tomb experience was vital.
For me it is important that both Peter and John “went into the tomb,” yet only one believed. Peter (like Mary) needed more time – but the experience at the tomb marked all three. Many of us need time to develop a real, living, faith. However there remains for all of us the need to GO TO THE TOMB AND GO INSIDE. In other words we should not dilly-dally at a distance. We have to KNOW THAT THE TOMB WAS EMPTY, and believe it! We need the faith to know the tomb was empty before we can have faith that he has RISEN!
Mary “came to the tomb,” and both Peter and John “reached the tomb.” Perhaps Easter Sunday is Tomb Sunday – SUNDAY OF THE EMPTY TOMB!?
“He went inside, and he saw and believed.”