The Fifth Sunday of Easter
You may wish to sing/listen along to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN9XS_9hdRQ
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help
we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
‘You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’
Several years ago, I remember when the Church was full of priests and lay people from across the Diocese and beyond. We had gathered together to think about God’s mission to the world.
How do we connect afresh with God’s people, a people who do not know Jesus Christ?
Three things were suggested to us: that we be joyful in the faith, that we proclaim the faith, and that we live the faith; this is the Catholic way.
What is at the heart of that faith? A better question may be: who is at the heart of that faith? The answer is of course the man we are always seeking to know, and to love, Jesus Christ.
We are being called, as we heard in our reading from the first letter of Peter, to ‘grow into salvation’; that we may be living stones, of God’s temple with Jesus as the cornerstone.
We will only be able to grow into God’s temple if we are connected to that cornerstone, if we are connected to Jesus Christ. And we will be connected to him if we profess his resurrection, the resurrection as the cement that binds the stones to Christ at the centre. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the acid test of faith.
Today, in the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples, to ‘believe in God, believe also in me’.
To ‘believe’ is what we are called to do, to actively profess the faith we have. That short sentence has a great implication – and the implication is centred on that man, Jesus Christ.
And what we are told today? That Jesus is not simply a nice guy, not simply a good moral leader, not simply an interesting teacher, not simply a modern day humanist. He does not have a way, he is the way, the truth and the life. He is the Son of God who died, was buried and rose again for us.
John chapter 14, takes us back to the evening of the Last Supper, just before Jesus reveals himself in the breaking of the bread. He is preparing the disciples for what lies ahead, he tells them that he will leave them.
And in the events that do follow, we find out, that he is all of those things, and that he is one with the Father. He is true God and true man. That his death breaks the power of sin, and opens up the way to salvation.
How do we know that he tells the truth? The truth is revealed through the power of his resurrected body, which still bears the scars of the cross. for if Christ is not raised our faith is in vein. Christ was raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep and we know because Saul was transformed by the resurrection and became Paul, the disciples on the road to Emmaus had their eyes opened and went back to tell the others, Thomas doubted and then touched the Lord and believed, Mary Magdalene realised it was true at the sound of his voice speaking her name.
If the resurrection is not true then we are deluded.
Tom Wright, the former Bishop of Durham, wrote that the rise of Christianity and the growth of the Church could not have happened based on a lie. It must then be as true today as it was then. And secondly, that when the resurrection was preached, it caused riots, such was its power. He lamented that when he preached the resurrection – the result was not a riot, but a cup of tea. Have we domesticated the resurrection? Have forgotten its power? It’s easy in these times of lockdown to feel like the disciples locked in the upper room out of fear, but Jesus calls not to captivity but to freedom, and with that freedom, action.
We need to recover a sense of energy about the resurrection, a sense of energy that would not result in people offering a cup of tea, no, a riot!
How do we do all this? By being faithful to Jesus as God and man, by really, and truly ‘believing’ in Jesus and the power of his resurrection however difficult that may seem.
We must therefore have joy in our resurrection faith – that doesn’t mean that we won’t ever struggle or feel less than joyful – in some ways its hard to be joyful at the moment –
but it does mean recognising that our lives have been, and are being, transformed by the peace which Christ brings through his resurrection. But the unique and unending joy that we have received must be passed on for the mission of the Church to be fruitful.
Proclamation must therefore be something that we exercise in our daily lives – as Peter and the other apostles preached the risen Christ to the crowds, we too must preach the risen Christ to our families, friends, neighbours, colleagues. And communicate the Gospel message of victory over death to all those we meet. For there can be no mission, no evangelisation without proclamation of Jesus, risen from the dead.
Joy, proclamation and finally, living the gospel; this is how we make the resurrection know, that is how we share the saving power of Jesus Christ with those we meet.
We must authentically live the Gospel. In the words of that day of mission: ‘being a catholic Christian should affect the way you walk down the street’. As Christian people, we are called to put Christ at the centre of our lives, at the heart of all our endeavours. If we actively and visibly live out the Christian life, then others will be drawn to it – others will ask – what it is that we have –and we must always, again in the Easter words of St Peter, ‘to have an answer for the hope that we have in us’. May we live our lives in and through the light of this resurrection hope; that others may come, in the words of our first reading, to be:
‘Filled with the Holy Spirit… [and see the ] glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’.
May we believe in God and in the truth of Jesus Christ, only then will we have real joy, inspiring proclamation, and life giving living.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
whose Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life:
grant us to walk in his way,
to rejoice in his truth,
and to share his risen life;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever. Amen.