Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 5th Sunday in Easter

Last Sunday we explored how the Resurrection was a complete vindication of the life, ministry and death of Jesus Today’s deep meaning of the Paschal Mystery follows right from that. For if an individual---who to ordinary ways of looking at things ended as a completely shamed and failed life—if this individual was blessed and raised by God, then nothing, NOTHING could be looked at in the same way anymore. We have to always be suspicious of our ordinary human ways of looking at things. Evidently God sees things differently than we do. The Paschal Mystery calls us to be suspicious of our first and usual ways of looking at things, of looking at everything.

It’s funny when you think about it for a moment. We usually consider the realm of religion as being the realm of certainty. Our faith calls us to be absolutely sure about what we believe. The Catechism of the Catholic Church names "doubt" as the first way of sinning against the Faith (#2088). But you have to wonder if the Catechism’s simple account does justice to the Second Vatican Council’s reflection on human questioning: "...every human being remains a question to himself or herself, one that is dimly perceived and left unanswered. There are times, especially in the major events of life, when no one can altogether escape from such self-questioning. God calls us to deeper thought and more humble probing...." (G & S, #21). The Council document, I think, better captures the sense of suspicion about our ordinary judgments that the Paschal Mystery calls us to

Indeed, the early followers of Jesus began to act on that principle of suspicion very early. One of the first places it showed was in their acceptance of Gentiles into their group. That went totally against what they had learned from their Jewish background. I just love that passage from the book of Acts that we heard last Monday evening about Peter’s testimony that the Holy Spirit had come upon Gentiles in his presence. The response then of those objecting to the admission of Gentiles was this: "When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying ‘God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles as well.’" (Acts 11:18) The principle of suspicion had scored its first major gain. There would be many more.

I dare say that the whole world would be better off today if more faiths used that principle of suspicion in their religious judgments. More than one contemporary observer has noted how absolute religious certainty has led to so much human catastrophe, death and suffering—the radical Muslims, the Zionist Jews, the fundamentalist Christians. The list goes on and on and includes Catholics as well. There would be much better chances for world peace if those rabid believers were a little more suspicious about their certainty of God’s ways.

How do we, as individuals, use this Paschal meaning of suspicion? I think, first of all, by recognizing that while our faith in God can be certain and strong, we have to say that we are less sure about God’s ways and wants in our world. We should always be open to saying, as that quote from the Book of Acts said (to paraphrase it): "Evidently God can do what we didn’t expect or count on." OK. Let’s say we are religiously suspicious, but we still need some guidelines to move forward. And the Paschal Mystery has them. But those points must wait until next Sunday.

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