Perhaps last week as we undertook a self-evaluation of our tenancy of the Lord’s vineyard, we may have ended up feeling a little guilty - with a tinge of despair?...
Let us, briefly, think back on last week’s references about a faith which makes us vulnerable. We also spoke about this vulnerability becoming especially evident as we relate with love to others.
Now, think back on all the Gospel extracts that have been proclaimed on the previous Easter Sundays. We should not overlook that each one situates those involved in the story within some sort of community. No one is ever alone. The unfolding of all the Resurrection and post-Resurrection texts occur with specific references to at least two of that early group of believers.
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [JOHN 14: 23 – 29]
is no exception – Jesus is speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper – an event we are reminded of each time we celebrate Eucharist together. There is a message here for every Christian-Catholic disciple. It is one which the Spirit reminds us of even though, frequently, we seem unable to hear the reminder. Our Gospel tells us that Jesus told the community present at the Last Supper ….. “the Holy Spirit … will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
All of this is part of a Resurrection faith which we must personalise so that, as Jesus proclaims
in our Gospel “when it does take place, you may believe.” It has often puzzled (sometimes angered) me how regularly (not, praise God, frequently) a parishioner emerges from the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist and thinks nothing of immediately tackling me with much agro about some issue in Parish or Church which has bugged him /her for weeks or which has occurred during the celebration. On most of these occasions my stock response has been something like this – ‘you have been right through the Mass today with all this anger and irritation on your mind and in the heart!? Did you also receive Communion?’ What has happened to the ‘when it does take place, you may believe’? How much personalization of faith and the person of Jesus Christ has actually taken place? Are we, in such circumstances confronted with religion but little faith? (recall last week’s observation)
In today’s Gospel the Lord tells us –
“let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The moment we are faced with the word heart we are faced with a deeply PERSONAL matter. Again we need to recall what was said a few weeks back about Thomas not being doubtful but, rather, afraid to believe, to have FAITH in the Resurrected Lord. In passing let it also be emphasised that Thomas was only able to take the plunge into vulnerability when he was back inside the believing community. He was unable to do this when he had isolated himself. So, we now see the relevance of Jesus’ words in our Gospel extract about the fact that “we will come to him and make our home with him.” HOME is a very personal thing.
TODAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 15: 1 – 2. 22 – 29]
has much to teach us about what has been said this week about the importance of faith being strengthened by membership of the believing community. In addition it gives powerful witness of the fact that the Holy Spirit teaches and helps us to remember the things that Jesus has said. Also, the reading points out the dangers of emphasising aspects of religion.
“Some men came down from Judea”
and sowed dissension and confusion by placing undue emphasis on matters of religion, not faith. They even made salvation dependant on the ritual of circumcision. Now the local Church decides to have the matter settled by the CHURCH IN JERUSALEM. What is made clear is that the men from Judea were not representative of the Church. They were marching to a different tune and attempting to impose their own particular fancies. Later, however, it was the CHURCH which “chose men from among them and send them.”
FAITH does not seek strange ‘extras’ but remains within the main, basic, BELIEFS of the Church Community.