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Third Sunday of Easter, Year B

The Lord is risen! It’s such unexpected news that they have difficulty getting their

heads round it. They thought they were seeing a ghost: “Why are you so agitated,

and why are these doubts rising in your hearts?” Then reality kicks in, and “Their

joy was so great that they could not believe it”. But then, after that, further reality

hits them later on down the road. They have to go out, after Pentecost, and not only

proclaim Christ, but also pick up some of the pieces of society.


In the first reading, they are confronted with the Israelites. What do we do? These

are the people who had Christ put to death. Do we just quietly ignore the issue, and

pretend it didn’t happen, a bit like in the episode of Faulty Towers with the

Germans: “don’t mention the war. I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with

it”. Instead, Peter deals with the issue head on: “It was you who accused the Holy

One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed

the prince of life”. He doesn’t skirt round the issue! But then, to be just and fair, he

also acknowledges that whilst what they did was serious, their culpability was

something different: “Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had

any idea what you were really doing”, and he also adds that it was all part of God’s

plan and the mystery of our redemption in Christ. He says: “this was the way God

carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his

Christ would suffer”. Now comes perhaps the most important part, in a way: “Now

you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out”. Yes, what

you did was serious. Yes, you didn’t realise at the time the full extent of what you

were doing: in fact you acted in ignorance of the real facts. So now there is a way

forward with God, which means repenting of your faults and receiving God’s

forgiveness.


Now, of course, we know that Scripture has to be applied to life, and that means our

own lives, not just other people’s. We know that Our Lord warned us about pointing

out the splinter in our brother’s eye when there is a plank in our own. So guess

where I’m leading next? We’ve completed Lent, but I’m sure there are still some

people who haven’t been to confession yet! Many are the Catholics who adhere to

the rule that we are supposed to go to Holy Communion at least once a year, around

Easter time. But there’s also the rule that we are supposed to go to confession at

have committed a serious sin, also known as a mortal sin, then we should go as soon

as we reasonably can, and just like Holy Communion, it’s good for our spiritual

welfare to go more often than just the bare minimum of once a year. I’m not saying

that you need to go to confession every time you go to Holy Communion, otherwise

it would mean that those who go to daily Mass would need to go to daily

confession. But once every month or two would be a good practice. It’s a bit like

your car: every year you have to take it for its annual service and MOT, but it’s also

good practice to give it a wash and a vacuum from time to time as well. You could

say that a protective layer of dirt helps to guard the paintwork from scratches; but it

can also help rust to set in as well, especially salt from the road in winter.


Confession also means we need to do a regular examination of conscience – in other

words, each night, look through the day in prayer, thank God for the good we have

done and the blessings we have received, and say sorry for the sins we have

committed. This is something St John commends to us, indirectly, in the second

reading:


“We can be sure that we know God

only by keeping his commandments.

Anyone who says, ‘I know him’,

and does not keep his commandments, is a liar

refusing to admit the truth.”


Reflecting on the commandments keeps us in touch with the truth, and sometimes

we can find certain other teachings from the world trying to make us slide away

from the straight and narrow. As a general guide, if someone is saying, that is what

the Church says, but we don’t need to bother with it any more, then that should set

alarm bells ringing. At one point, Our Lord is quite scathing of those who, with their

own man-made tradition, declare the word of God null and void (see Mark 7:5-13).

An example in this country would be “no fault” divorce, treating marriage just like a

legal contract you can “ditch and switch” when a better offer comes along, just like a

mobile phone contract. These changes have a corrosive effect on public morality.

The law should lead us towards goodness, not follow and imitate the scandalous. I

could say more, but there isn’t time.


The Lord is risen! Just like the apostles in the first century, our world too is broken,

and people don’t always realise the seriousness of their situation. But we can help to

show them that God is merciful, and that includes making use of that mercy for

ourselves, first.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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