Last week we thought about the importance of bringing ourselves before him … in other words, bringing ourselves into the

PRESENCE of the Resurrected Christ. Like the disciples and Mary of Magdala who visited the empty tomb I must find the Risen Lord. Where IS he in my life and living?

The answer to this question

“needs time, courage, and a kind of vulnerability. … but if I reach a level of presence, little miracles can happen. I am taken out of my small self into an exploration of wonder. I am transformed.” (MICHAEL PAUL GALLAGHER, SJ)

During the last week I received an e-mail from a friend who communicated a brief encounter with her 49-year-old son who had informed her that

“religion was for the uneducated and superstitious.” I wondered if he would have said the same thing about FAITH? There is a vital difference between the two. Religion concerns the manner in which we express our faith. To have faith takes courage and makes us vulnerable because we are taken outside of our ordinary selves, and our lives are given a specific sense of purpose – we are transformed. Take a look at the closing words of TODAY’S SECOND READING [ REVELATION 21: 1 – 5a]“behold I make all things new.” However, faith also reminds us of other words from the same reading – “behold the dwelling of God is with men.”

The assertion of my friend’s son likely rests somewhere in the area of a reluctance to accept any sort of authority outside his own ego together with a basic fear of allowing himself to become vulnerable to any relationship which really makes him vulnerable. This is the reason why we have, in these Easter weeks being occupied with the need to personalise our faith. In many ways any religion without faith can very easily become superstitious together with a reliance on specific rituals. It is only a faith which is personal that has the ability to proclaim words from

TODAY’S PSALM [145 or 144]“all your works shall thank you, Lord, and all your faithful ones bless you. They shall speak of your reign, and declare your mighty deeds.”

It is important for us to notice

(very often we miss nuances of emphasis provided by the scriptures) the very basic emphasis placed on FAITH by our FIRST READING [ACTS 14: 21b – 27]. Paul and Barnabas strengthened the commitment of the new disciples in each place they visited – “exhorting them to continue in the faith … committed them to the Lord in whom they believed … God had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” FAITH IS A DOOR WE HAVE TO ENTER, GO THROUGH AND INTO! There is no mention of Paul and Barnabas speaking or emphasising any sort of ritual. We do not (or certainly should not!) have faith in a ritual. This would be superstition. We believe in a PERSON, not a ritual. It also has value to remind ourselves that the so-called uneducated are not automatically to be confined to the stupid or mentally challenged. There is vast difference between being clever and being intelligent or wise. I know a good many clever people who do not have two intelligent thoughts capable of being rubbed together.

I return to Father Gallagher’s use of the word vulnerable. If we reflect on the substance of Jesus’ words in

TODAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 13: 31 – 33a. 34 – 35] we will easily see the challenge of becoming vulnerable. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you love also one another.” Does this not make us vulnerable? If not, then it should.

Our vulnerability becomes more intense when we take to heart the closing words of today’s Gospel extract –

“by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This is the way, as our Psalm informs us, that disciples of FAITH (not religion) “shall make known your mighty deeds to the children of men.”

It is the Resurrection (from death to life) of Jesus Christ which is the keystone of our Christian Faith. This is what must be personalised by each one of us. I must personally accept that

IN CHRIST I am called to a way of life significantly different from the unbeliever. I am called to the living of a personal relationship.

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