The Narrow Bridge 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 Third Class Feast of Saint Peter Canisius, Confessor & Doctor of the Church.*
Lessons from the common of Confessors "In médio…" for a Doctor, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Timothy 4: 1-8.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• Matthew 5: 13-19.
Thomas Thursday; the Feast of the Holy Bishop & Martyr Symeon, Cousin of Our Lord; and, the Feast of Our Venerable Father Stephen, Bishop of Vladimir in Volhynia.**
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Acts 4: 23-31.
• John 5: 24-30.
7:47 AM 4/27/2017 — 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.
Being a Shrine of devotion focused on the apparitions of our Blessed Mother at Fatima, we tend to attract here a traditionally minded crowd, and I don't think a day goes by that something isn'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, of about the priest in their home parish. There's never any malice in it, otherwise it wouldn't disturb them so.
We've talked about this before, and there's little need to do so again, except that we have such a timely example given to us 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).
* An early member of the Society of Jesus (known then as the Company of Jesus), Canisius was born in Holland and studied in Cologne and Louvain. His eloquent preaching and writing caused him to be called "The Hammer of Protestantism." He died in Fribourg in 1597.
** Symeon, the second Bishop of Jerusalem and successor of the Apostle James, was martyred by crucifixion under Trajan in 107.
Stephen was a disciple of St. Theodosius of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. For a while, Stephen was abbot of the Monastery of the Caves and labored much in the regulation and organization of the monastic life and in the adornment of churches. Due to jealousy among the monks, they removed him as abbot and banished him from the monastery. He was elected Bishop of Vladimir shortly thereafter. He governed that Church until old age and died peacefully in the Lord in the year 1094.