2nd Week of Easter, Thursday, April 15
Acts 5:27-33 / John 3:31-36
Jesus speaks about eternal life; Whoever believes has eternal life.
Most people who turn on a television set can't tell you how the magic box works. But they don't deny that it works. The picture on the screen tells them that. Most people who drive an automobile can't tell you how the magic motor works. But they don't deny that it works. The movement of the car tells them that.
Most people who eat food can't tell you how the magic protein works. But they don't deny that it works. The growth of the body tells them that. It's the same way with the Christian life. Most people can't tell you how faith works. But they don't deny that it works. Their own transformed lives tell them that.
How do we nourish our life of faith? How often do we nourish it? What keeps us from nourishing it more? The human spirit is like the human body. If we don't nourish it, it dies.
By the way we speak and also the things we speak about, others will be able to figure out what kind of spiritual orientation we have. And that spiritual orientation is either rooted in God and in the eternal life of heaven, or it may be rooted in the things of earth and in world desires.
There is a big difference between the sermons of John the Baptist and the teachings of Jesus: John the Baptist is of the earth and speaks in an earthly way. Jesus, unlike the Baptist, is from heaven and what speaks is the message of God. Whenever God speaks, men must listen. Jesus brings us this message from above. Jesus is the word of God. Whatever is in the father he has given to his son. The whole truth is communicated to him. This knowledge about God - all that he has seen and heard - Jesus gives to men. It is this acceptance of the truth of God that decides the life of man. It is the truth that joins us to God. Believing Jesus is believing God. Everyone who believes in the Son of God has eternal life. The eternal life of man is decided by the obedience of faith. He who believes in him will have eternal life.
Neither the force of the police, not the intimidation of the powers-that-be can bully Peter into submission. He is a free man. His knowledge and his love of Christ make him give witness. "One has to obey God more than man". Conflicts of conscience in obeying may not be frequent. But it is good for us to think about it. Obedience is the readiness to accept and do the will of another who by nature or by virtue of his office has the authority to command. When we obey, we do not follow our own insights but the insights of another. But when the other's will is evidently sinful, we - free humans - cannot be ready to accept and do it. All authority is from God, Jesus had told Pilate (John 19.10). No one can use the power given by God against God. In this case God has spoken clearly. "It is God who has raised up Jesus whom you had executed", Peter tells the Sanhedrin. Now Jesus is the leader and Saviour. These two words are important: Jesus is not only the Saviour, but the supreme Leader whom we follow and by following whom we are saved. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him.
1. Earthly Things: Divisive politics, discord over COVID-19 remedies, Zoom meeting overload, and social isolation: These earthly things have led to an unprecedented crisis in Americans’ mental health, according to an annual Gallup poll. Imagine how differently we would look upon our circumstances if, as a country, we accepted and lived by the testimony of “the one who comes from heaven.” Living life with an eternal perspective, remembering that we are merely sojourners meant for a different homeland, would alleviate much of the sadness we experience when we dwell on earthly things. Lifting our eyes to “the one who comes from above” each day in prayer helps us maintain an eternal perspective, no matter how chaotic “earthly things'' become.
2. No Rationing: Jesus tells us that he speaks the word of God and does not ration the gift of the Spirit he receives from his Father. Therefore, we can be confident when we pray with the Scriptures that the Spirit is present, giving us the grace we need for the day. Even if our prayer feels dry and sterile, or we’re distracted the whole time, we know that, since Jesus does not ration the gifts of the Spirit, we can count on his grace-filled presence to “enkindle in us the fire of his love” (Come Holy Spirit prayer).
3. Disobedience Equals Death: Our Lord’s wrath is not a personality trait of his. He is unchanging, pure love. Rather, his wrath is an extension of his perfect justice. God’s wrath may be better understood with this metaphor: “God is totally opposed to all evil, and sends his lightning bolts to oppose it (so to speak), yet we cling by our sins to the lightning rod of evil, and then complain that he is a God of wrath!” (Father Seraphim Michalenko, Seraphim, Pillars of Fire in My Soul: The Spirituality of St. Faustina, MIC, Marian Press, 2003). God’s ultimate wrath is the consequence of our disobedience—unending eternal punishment for sinners in hell. Fortunately, Sister Faustina tells us that we are in a period of unparalleled mercy. “All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest” (Diary 1507).
“God has put his Word into the mouth of people in order that it may be communicated to others. When the Word strikes one person, he or she speaks it to others. God has willed that we should seek and find his living Word, in the witness of a brother or sister, in the mouth of his people. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him or her.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together) The core of our faith is that we owe a new life to Jesus, in whom we are reborn. The Spirit, whom he gives us without measure, prompts us to bear witness to Jesus and to his new life in us.
Prayer: Lord, our God, your Son Jesus Christ, came from you and bore witness to the things he had heard and seen. He could not but bear witness to you. Give us the Spirit of your Son, we pray you, to speak your word and to live it, that we may show Christ, your living Word, to those who have not seen him. We ask you this through Christ, our Lord. Amen