Scripture Readings for Mass: I: Acts 6:1-7; Responsorial: Ps. 33; II: I Peter 2:4-9; Gospel: John 14:1-12
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said: Faith in action is Love – and Love in action is Service.”
This 5th Sunday of Easter the Holy Spirit, in speaking through our Bible readings, would seek to lead us to grow in the tremendous gift and responsibility that is given each of us in the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. These Easter weeks where the power of God’s holy love is celebrated in our hearts are given to awaken in us this gift and responsibility. But the joy of our faith has been oppressed as never before.
We all share this extraordinary time in the history of the world responding to the Corona Virus assault. It is tangled with the economic chaos resulting from the shutdown of much of the work and services of…humanity. It is also causing true travail for all people of faith as worship communities have had their doors locked by the authorities. This aspect of this ongoing story has had very little mention in the media. Yet for so many (and speaking of Catholic communities especially), this forced absence of worship, of Liturgy that has been celebrated for thousands of years is of profound impact. In California it may well be late August, September or even later before churches will be allowed to unlock their doors.
What does this mean for the Christian of 2020?
What is the course for the individual believer prevented from meeting or worshipping as the Body of Christ?
Does God have anything to say, even this Sunday of the Easter season, to us as we make this journey of intense uncertainties… Of very insecure security?
Answers to these questions are, indeed, given us by God. And it is vital to remember that nothing ever occurs that takes God by surprise. It is also necessary to remember that God neither approves of or smiles upon the great sorrows and trials that humanity is facing. But it is also true God allows these conflicts. It is part of the grace of love where humanity has the freedom to choose. And sometimes choices made by others, even far away cause havoc of body and soul. These reminders lead us to recognize an even more pressing reality. The Corona virus is truly a clinical, medical challenge of deadly power. The associated economic chaos is of both political and financial scopes beyond any the world has seen. Yet both this tiny virus and the immense economies are but pawns of a far greater SPIRITUAL BATTLE.
We would embrace a deadly naiveté if we were to pretend all this is just about science and medicine. Or that it is just very complex politics and economics to resolve the financial crises. Scripture is very clear. GOD is not the author of confusion [I Cor. 14:33]. The extreme health crises and chaos, the economic tremors around the world are all signature examples of Satan, the enemies of our souls, our lives.
It is as we recognize the scope of the battles we face that the wisdom, the answers God gives the sense we need, for hearts and minds of faith.
In allowing God to answer the question we shared above let’s first look at the Gospel for today. Although we are in the midst of the Easter season it is no accident that the Gospel comes from events as our Lord faced His Passion and death. Jesus is speaking to His followers who will be very soon encountering the forces of evil as never before. His WORDS are a seeming paradox. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” We must remember, believe and act upon this eternal reality and promise. Our God, our Lord Jesus is our peace and security. Repeatedly He assured the disciples in the moments before Calvary. Repeatedly He would assure us today.. God is our peace, our security. The temporal (TEMPORARY) tribulations we may face lose their power as we realize and trust. we are created, redeemed and empowered for Eternity.
As we allow these very real, at times painful, affairs of life that occur to be brought into proper perspective (The Light of His Word) we understand the need for our faith to be present and growing. Even in the deepest uncertainties we can know, through God’s peace, embraced in faith the truth of our Easter acclamation: ALLELUIA! Our God reigns! It is with our faith, rooted deep in God’s Word and Presence that we are able to know it is not through science or medicine, it is not with political clout or money we will know security and health of soul. Those are but tools used for good or for evil. And it is in faith they can be freed to be used for good, used by God.
This brings the truth to dawn new each day that…Because I believe..I must Act! The evidence of true, growing faith is the actions of holy love directing the soul.
Those actions may be simply and powerfully to truly PRAY for healing from this virus, for justice to penetrate the wounded economies of the world, for politicians to learn it isn’t about them. We are called to active PRAYER!
Our Faith in Action will be seen as the Church, The faithful daily celebrates the eternal liturgy of loving God truly Present in those with which we share this enforced isolation. In families, for those who are sick, unemployed or just overwhelmed by the events of life, we are serving Christ Present in the simple sacraments of faith in loving action.
Our growing peace and security IN CHRIST WITH US will bring us to the realities of the early Church. Our first reading spoke of the young Church in Jerusalem choosing those men to be the first deacons, men of faith, filled with God’s Spirit and wisdom, able to share God’s word. They are but a small example of the entire Church whose faith and early history are summed up in an one word title: ACTS!
The Christian faithful, in every age, have shared this Resurrection responsibility and privilege. We are redeemed to BE a people of FAITH and ACTS needed for our time and place. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Martyrs of faith throughout history, St Bernadette of Lourds, the saints reading these words..called, empowered by God to see an impossible need and to have the faith and courage to build a bridge amidst great peril, but compelled by a love that recognizes a need to reach the other side, for the love of God.
If one is still unsure of God’s direction during these times of intense spiritual battle perhaps the answers, the guidance are more encountered at the Cross and Resurrection of…JESUS.