Sunday, April 26, 2009

Preach Repentance in His Name

1. If we looked at the content of the Gospels we would notice that they contain much of Jesus’ teaching, and many of His miracles. But their focus is on His Passion, Death and Resurrection. When we read about the preaching of the early Church, we also observe that the primary content of the Good News is that Jesus the Crucified One has Risen from the dead. The proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus the Lord was not merely the idea of those who had been His followers and had been witnesses of the new kind of life which Jesus possesses. Rather, this truth is announced as the of His command to tell everyone in the whole world.
2. Some people in the days of Jesus have proposed that the disciples made the resurrection up. For example, the Chief Priests and elders bribed the soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus to say that the disciples stole the body while they were asleep (Matthew 28:11-15). Even today there are those that say the disciples invented the resurrection to explain their “experiences.” The documents of faith, that is the Scriptures, however, indicate that nothing of the sort happen. In the ancient world, people who wanted to learn would go in search of a teacher whom they liked. But the disciples were chosen by Jesus, they did not choose Him (see John 15:16). When Jesus was preaching, they were not quick to understand what He was teaching. They held the common opinion that the Messiah would be a great king leading Israel to political greatness. In spite of what Jesus told them, they persisted in this error right up until the time He was arrested. When He spoke to them about His resurrection, they would not even ask Him what He meant (Mark 9:32). When Jesus was arrested, they ran away. When He was crucified, they hid. And even when He rose again in glory, at first they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost (Luke 24:37). Jesus had to eat a piece of fish to convince them that He was indeed alive. (Luke 24:42-43). The disciples did not have the wherewithal to invent the resurrection. Nor does it make sense that they would persist in proclaiming a fiction that cost them their lives. Jesus resurrection is real, though we have to believe on the basis of others’ testimony.
3. Practically every year, I hear someone say that all religions are basically the same. Sometimes it is said by a parent trying to be okay with the fact that their children have left the Catholic faith. Others who hardly know God will say such a thing either out of ignorance or out of wishful thinking. In those cases, it is uttered by someone who rejects religion as stifling or restrictive. Its much easier to dismiss religion if you can lump them all together. In any case, it is simply untrue. (A quick study of religions will reveal marked differences). No other religious founder was crucified or rose from the dead. No other religious founder claimed to be God. Jesus is unique among all people who have ever existed. His resurrection is the single greatest moment in human history.
4. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord is the central teaching of our Christian faith. It is the heart and soul of our belief. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are participating in this same Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And this celebration constitutes us as Catholics. Saint Paul will tell the Corinthians that without the resurrection of Jesus, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). But Jesus is Risen. He sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us.
5. When the disciples began to proclaim the good news of Jesus, we should note they did not simply announce the truth of the resurrection. Saint Peter did not say “You know that fellow Jesus whom you crucified about six weeks ago? Well, he’s okay now. He is alive.” And those who heard Saint Peter did not say “well that’s good, crucifixion is terrible, we are glad that everything worked out for him.” No, the people said what are we to do? (Acts 2:37). To which Saint Peter replied Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Jesus’ resurrection carries with it power and to believe has consequences. Knowledge of the truth obligates a person to conform themselves to the truth. Belief in the Risen Lord demands repentance and change. (That is why those who give themselves over to sin eventually lose their faith.)
6. And so the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection leads us to a crossroads- a place in which we must make decisions. Either we will believe and follow Jesus with our whole hearts, or we will part company with Him and go our own way. We may desire to put off conversion for awhile. That is a bad idea, since we do not know how much time we have. Or we may try to satisfy ourselves with being lukewarm in our Christianity. For example thinking that if we go to Mass, Jesus might not pay very close attention to how we actually live. That is foolish also. God is always present at every moment. If we really want to know the Risen Lord, then we must repent and seek out His mercy and forgiveness. And when we begin to know Him as He really is, a merciful and loving God, we will be eager to share our faith with others.

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