Third Sunday of Easter -
"Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? (Lk 24:28)
All of us go through times when our faith is challenged, the strength we thought it would bring seems to have gone, even the belief we have in Jesus the Christ turns to questions, did he really do these things the Gospels tell us, what is the resurrection really all about. Can it be true? In a way our present western society is not one that is respectful towards religions of any kind, particularly Christianity. There is a distinct lack of religious literacy amongst people, many who have had little contact with faith communities or people just don't know or understand how to deal with us.
However this challenge is not necessarily a bad thing. Our faith is not about some magical formula or set of regulations, it isn't even about mystical experiences or special knowledge of doctrine, but it is about our lives, lived with and in God through Christ. Jesus reminds us of what we are really about when he says: "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem". (lk 24:46-47) The key word is that ancient gospel cry of metanoia, conversion of our whole lives, placing our trust and belief in the Christ who is always present.
In the Easter Gospels we come to pivotal moments in the lives of those who had followed Jesus in hope, only to find that everything about him that they believed in seemed to end in his ignominious death on a cross at Calvary. You can see it in the accounts of his resurrection appearances; everybody is downcast, lost, afraid, and questions just what it was all about. Yet it is at this point something happens.
We learn that those who experienced the risen lord had to change, and change often. The great monk and archbishop of Canterbury St Anselm understood this in terms of questioning faith being an active love of God seeking a greater understanding of God, His motto was fidens quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. When our faith is tested, when we have to come out of our safe place and seek for the truth, something transformative takes place. John Henry Newman wrote; 'To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often" he understood that faith is never static because it deals with life, love and growth. So must we!
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION - GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE CALL TO HOLINESS IN TODAY'S WORLD
134. Like the prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. It can have many names: individualism, spiritualism, living in a little world, addiction, intransigence, the rejection of new ideas and approaches, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, hiding behind rules and regulations. We can resist leaving behind a familiar and easy way of doing things. Yet the challenges involved can be like the storm, the whale, the worm that dried the gourd plant, or the wind and sun that burned Jonah's head. For us, as for him, they can serve to bring us back to the God of tenderness, who invites us to set out ever anew on our journey.
135. God is eternal newness. He impels us constantly to set out anew, to pass beyond what is familiar, to the fringes and beyond. He takes us to where humanity is most wounded, where men and women, beneath the appearance of a shallow conformity, continue to seek an answer to the question of life's meaning. God is not afraid! He is fearless! He is always greater than our plans and schemes. Unafraid of the fringes, he himself became a fringe (cf. Phil 2:6-8; Jn 1:14). So if we dare to go to the fringes, we will find him there; indeed, he is already there. Jesus is already there, in the hearts of our brothers and sisters, in their wounded flesh, in their troubles and in their profound desolation. He is already there.
136. True enough, we need to open the door of our hearts to Jesus, who stands and knocks (cf. Rev 3:20). Sometimes I wonder, though, if perhaps Jesus is already inside us and knocking on the door for us to let him escape from our stale self-centredness. In the Gospel, we see how Jesus "went through the cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God" (Lk 8:1). After the resurrection, when the disciples went forth in all directions, the Lord accompanied them (cf. Mk 16:20). This is what happens as the result of true encounter.