Homily for Sixth Sunday of Easter C29 Apr 2016, by Sermons in
I am very much interested in our first reading this morning because it reflects our society’s reality today. It reminds us of the challenge to rise in defense of our fathers’ faith as the apostles did. What the early Church experienced is what the Church of today is going through; people rising from different angles and even from within the Church to attack the teaching authority of the Church. St. Paul warned the early Church about these invaders, he called the elders of the early Church and say to them; I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30). It happened in the early Church, and it is happening today.
In our first reading this morning, we see a form of these invaders, they came down from Judaea to teach the people that unless they are circumcised in Moses’s tradition, they will not be saved. But the question I ask this morning is; the tradition of Moses and the blood of Jesus Christ which is stronger? St. Paul tells us in Romans 2:29 that circumcision is a matter of the spirit and not literal; he encourages us to circumcise our hearts. But the men from Judaea taught the people a different thing, and it led to disagreement in the early Church, Paul and Barnabas argued with the men from Judaea, and in the end, it was agreed that the apostles of Jesus Christ should be consulted. So, Paul and Barnabas and some others were sent to Jerusalem for that purpose.
In response, the apostles wrote a letter to the Church telling them the truth about the matter. The apostolic authority and teaching are not just human but divine. The apostles wrote; It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials: you are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and fornication. Avoid these, and you will do what is right. Farewell.
The Holy Spirit influenced this apostolic conclusion and teaching, and the Holy Spirit still influences the Church’s teachings today. According to Matthew (28:18-20), Jesus gave the apostles the command and authority to baptize and teach. The Church still has that authority through the apostolic succession. But few individuals within the Church are rising like the early Church’s invaders to teach what the Church has not approved. Private and selfish ministries are now springing up in the name of the Church and the name of Christ in an attempt to deceive the flock of Christ with fake prophesies and visions. They are invaders like those that invaded the early Church, but the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.
Though we are all called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, this evangelism, however, must be done within the framework of the Church’s teachings. When the early Church was invaded by what we can call private ministries, Paul and Barnabas had to surrender to the authority and teachings of the Church. They had to ask the apostles of Jesus Christ for direction. To deviate from the Church, therefore, is to fight the Church.
In our gospel reading this morning, Jesus assures the apostles of his constant presence with them, his constant presence with the Church. Though he ascended into heaven, he is with us in the Holy Spirit, he is with us in the Holy Eucharist; he is the Church’s head.
Brethren, let us not be deceived by these invaders. They use the Church’s name to lure people into their nets of destruction; they tell you we are all Catholics. Beware! You see the brother or sister in the Church does not make him or her a true teacher. Carrying the rosary around, the bible, and even the crucifix does not guarantee his truthfulness. Remember that the invaders will arise from within the Church. Do not be deceived by signs and wonders, do not allow yourself to be manipulated in the name of the gospel. Know who you are in Christ Jesus.
As we celebrate this Sunday, let us call on the Holy Spirit, the advocate, to lead us into the complete truth. Let us open up to the Spirit working in and through the Church to help us fix our minds on the new and eternal Jerusalem, the holy city revealed to John in our second reading. That is our home, and I pray we all make it through Christ our Lord.