Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tell them why

Look at all these people!  Why are they here?  Why are you here?  This multitude is responding to God’s call to come and rejoice that Christ is risen!  Jesus was dead, and now he is raised. 
This astonishing reality is enough to bring all these people here.  Much as we all share a hope that the winter be ended and spring bring new life to the world around us, we all share a deeper and more essential yearning that the power of sin be ended and new life take root in us.  We crave life and light, but life that will not fade when autumn and death come, and light that will not give way to darkness and despair.
But we also know that just because we desire something does not make it so.  Just because we need something, we cannot assume it will be provided us.  So we look to history and experience, our own and that of others; we look to see what God has revealed, so that we can know what He offers us.
…We know that, even after the great final appearance of Jesus on a mountain in Galilee—the Crucified One had risen and said: “All power has been given to me” —many people still had doubts.   At every stage, the message of the Resurrection was accompanied by doubts and was opposed, even though this is the glorious message that overcomes doubt.  (Joseph Ratzinger, God and the World)
We all know someone who not only has doubts, but does doubt: doubts that Jesus rose from the dead, doubts that He is the Son of God, doubts that God has anything to do with us.  Maybe someone we love doubts.  In the face of such doubt, we may wish that Christ and His Resurrection were more factual, more like the events reported on the news, or like the weather or sports scores that are factual enough for everyone to discuss.
God’s power is awesome; He has power over life and death.  He has the power to make manifest Jesus’ divine Godhead in a way that is inescapable and unarguable – if that were what He desired to do.   But he did not.   Jesus did not come back fifty feet tall, kicking over buildings and saying, “I TOLD you so.”   No, God leaves us room to doubt, and in so doing He leaves us room to believe.  And the necessity of belief is a sign of our true freedom, and His love for us.
More than simply the ability to believe, we have the capacity to believe.  It is part of our being that yearns to be exercised.  This capacity to believe is a source of discomfort until its purpose is fulfilled, much as our stomachs make us unhappy until we give them real food.  The analysis is true that is often attributed to Chesterton, The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.
As song is to our faculty of hearing, the object of this capacity is His Son Jesus Christ.   Nothing compels us, but the only thing that can satisfy our hearing, understanding, and belief is to hear, understand, and believe, that God sent His Son to suffer and die for us, that He might raise Him – and us – from the death that awaits us all.
In our time and place, there is no social or circumstantial pressure that forces us to come to this place.  We are here in this church not because God has broken our spirits, nor compelled our minds, nor captured our bodies.  We are here because God has touched our hearts, and we long for Him to touch them again.
You are here, I am here, all these people are here because Jesus Christ the Son of God is alive and present and living among us.  That will never make the evening news, but its truth and reality are more powerful that the reality of “facts,” because this we have come to believe.
Therefore, rejoice to be in this holy place, and to find the joy of His Resurrection.  May the Risen Christ strengthen you with confidence in Him!  May God who comes to touch our hearts, touch you with the gift of faith.  May even the doubts of those around you help you to know and accept the great gift we have been given, the gift of faith.   May you have true joy.   Father McDonell, Father McCabe, Deacon Thom, and every staff member and volunteer who join their efforts to ours to bring the Gospel to life in this parish, join me in wishing you and your loved ones a truly joyous Easter.

Monsignor Smith