The Fine Line Between Fear and Faith.
The Second Thursday of Easter.
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Acts 5: 27-33.
• Psalm 34: 2, 9, 17-20.
• John 3: 31-36.
The First Thursday after Easter.*
Lessons from the dominica,** according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I John 5: 4-10.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• John 20: 19-31.
7:13 AM 4/12/2018 — Blessed John Henry Newman once said that change is the only evidence of life. To him it was a statement of hope, but all too often to us it's a cross. All around us there is constant movement, an ebbing and flowing of currents or opinion, or doctrines, of ideologies, of very different interpretations of man and morality. As we watch just the political news enfold every day, we can see first hand the passions that differences of opinion can cause. Spiritually, it takes its toll, and may even accentuate for us the differences we so often suffer in the Church.
My last assignment in my own diocese was rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, which tends to attract a traditionally minded crowd, and I don't think a day went by there that something wasn’t said, both in and out of confession, about how disturbed some people are by what they perceive is happening in the Church. Some people feel genuinely guilty and disturbed by what they find themselves feeling or thinking about the Holy Father, or this bishop or that, or about the priest in their home parish. There's never any malice in it, otherwise it wouldn't disturb them so.
We have a timely example of this phenomenon given in today's first lesson. The Apostles' resistance to obeying the commands of the Sanhedrin was not a matter of pride or refusing to submit to legitimate authority, nor was it a matter of ignorance or a lack of sophistication compared to the so-called learned in the faith. They resisted because the Sanhedrin wished to impose on them a command which was against the law of God. Nor was it necessary for them to show the Sanhedrin their academic credentials, any more than any of us need to produce a doctorate in sacred theology in order to know instinctively that something said by someone is wrong. Raised in the Faith of the Church, we may not be able to explain to someone else exactly why something said by someone is wrong; we just know it. When the events being recounted this week in the first lessons of Holy Mass were presented previously at the end of Easter Week, we noticed how the Blessed Apostles Peter and John made a specific point of emphasizing before the council how their preaching of the resurrection of our Lord was not based on intellectual conviction—the scribes themselves remarked on the fact that they were “uneducated, ordinary men”—nor was it based on some emotional experience. Their preaching was based, quite simply, on the fact that they had seen our Lord alive! In other words, it was a specific experience of faith that taught them the truth of what they were preaching.
The fortitude and conviction of these first defenders of a politically incorrect faith is exactly what our Lord is asking from His followers today. But the real lesson we need to glean from this episode from Acts is that the Apostles showed no evidence of the tension and agitation and anxiety we so often show when faced with a similar situation. Peter and John engaged in no hand-wringing, they didn't raise their voices, they didn't become discomposed or upset in any way. The fact that they were the only two people in the room who believed what they believed, even the fact that they were being threatened with prison if they didn't stop preaching it, didn't effect the tranquility of mind and serenity of spirit that is the surest evidence of a person of faith. They knew the truth of what they believed and preached, they didn't simply suspect it. It was as certain to them as was their own existence.
Not only did they feel no need to prove anything to the Sanhedrin,—perhaps even more importantly—they felt no need to prove anything to themselves; and, when we, who are legitimately concerned for defending the faith, exhibit a less than tranquil attitude, our agitation, far from showing the steadfastness of our convictions, actually betrays the extent to which we are lacking in those most necessary virtues of Faith and Hope. “…[T]he man who belongs to earth talks the language of earth,” says our Lord to us in the Gospel lesson, “but one who comes from heaven must needs be beyond the reach of all; he bears witness of things he has seen and heard, [even if] nobody accepts his witness” (John 3: 31-32 Knox).
* In the extraordinary form, the Sundays and weekdays after Easter are counted from the Octave Day, which is considered part of Easter itself.
** In the extraordinary form, on ferias outside privileged seasons, the lessons come from the previous Sunday.