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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Reflection 2020-04-18 Saturday of the Octave of Easter

Acts 4:13-21; Psalm Psalm 118; Mark 16:9-15

One of the interesting thing about the Gospel today is in the last part: Later [Jesus] appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. The word that stands out is upbraided which means to charge with something wrong or disgraceful, to reprove severely, to rebuke. Imagine, Jesus scolding the Eleven for not believing the witnesses of his resurrection. There goes the image of a nice Jesus.
However, the Apostles show they know their role in the community. They are not supposed to readily accept what people say as true. They need to investigate it. So here, they wanted proof of the resurrection of Jesus and Jesus appeared to them as proof of his Resurrection. It was only when Jesus appeared to them that they were convinced. However, despite their lack of faith and stubbornness, Jesus commands them to Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. This shows how Jesus uses the weakness of the Apostles, in this case, their unbelief, or their desire for proof before they believe, for his purpose. The unbelief of the Apostles to demand proof, is what ensures that what the Apostles teach are true, that they personally have seen Jesus, risen from the dead.
This is what gave Peter and John the courage to answer their leaders saying Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard. They key words are: what we have seen and heard. The proclamation of the Gospel is an eye witness account of the Apostles. They did not just make this up, but they proclaim what they saw and heard.
This makes us conclude that the proclamation of the Apostles can be trusted, because they were willing to defy the religious authorities for the sake of the truth. This is why, the Church has guarded jealously, the truth she preaches, because it is what the Apostles proclaim. Since the beginning of the Church, even in the time of the Apostles, there had been bishops and elders (who are the modern day equivalent of priests), who have preached error. One instance is the heated debate of Paul and some elders sent from Jerusalem about the issue of circumcision. Paul also minced no words with regards those who promoted circumcision, just read his letter to the Galatians. There goes again, the thought that Christians have to be nice people and tolerate every teaching.
Throughout centuries, there had been bishops and priests and theologians who have preached false doctrine. And these were resolved in the Church by going back to what the Apostles taught and how and their immediate successors interpreted what the Apostles taught. This is the only way to know the authentic teaching of Jesus. The authentic teaching of the Church has always been: we are sinners and condemned to hell. We cannot attain heaven on our own. Jesus attained heaven for us by his death and resurrection. This is a free gift we receive when we accept him as Lord through repentance and complete obedience to him. We are to worship in Spirit and Truth. Anything that deviates from this is false teaching.
Anything that denies the Resurrection is false teaching because the Resurrection of Jesus reveals the divinity of Jesus, which was not clearly perceived by the Apostles before the Resurrection. In fact, their image of Messiah was shattered in the Crucifixion of Jesus only to be perfected with the Resurrection of Jesus. This is why our hopes and dreams need to be shattered, so that they can be perfected when we accept the hopes and dreams of God for us.
Christians rejoice and cry out, Christ is Risen! Because this is the basis of our faith! St Paul said if Christ did not rise from the dead, then we are not saved, because we are still in our sins. But since Jesus rose from the dead, we have power to live this resurrected life, if we receive his gift of new life.
Do you want this new life Jesus gives? It is freely given to us and we do not need to work for it. You just need to ask for it. How can you know this is true? The Apostles proclaimed what they saw and heard, and even died for their message. Their message is true: Turn to Jesus and he will give you new life. He may not take away your suffering, but he will be with you through the suffering to lead you to the life he has planned for you. A life of love of the Father. A life of victory with Jesus. A life of power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, I come to you, not because of the things I have done, but because I respond to your call to me, to come to you. Help me through what I am experiencing today. Be with me Lord, as I submit my life to you. Lead me to the life you want me to have, as I trust you.

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