MAKING SENSE OF DIFFICULT TIMES
– Homilies for a Time of Pandemic –
There are different understandings these days of what it means to be a Christian. Many, for example, mistakenly think of Christianity as an ethic. They focus upon Jesus’ teachings about love, forgiveness, compassion and social justice. They can often accuse others of ‘not being Christian’ whenever they fail to behave in ways others think of as loving, compassionate and just.
Today, too, there is a common tendency to give less emphasis to teachings of Jesus which people find difficult to live, such as those about marriage and sexual morality. This selectivity shows a misunderstanding of the Gospel.
One consequence is for people to think of Christianity as being like other religions, which urge people to live good lives by human effort alone. They see Mass and other aspects of the Christian religious life as kind of nice extras, but not essential.
Many say, for example: ‘You don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian’. However, this is not the Christianity Jesus came to teach.
A spiritually empowering faith
He taught Christianity as a divinely empowering faith. He never envisaged anyone striving to live his teachings without his power.
To appreciate what this means, we need to turn to the resurrection of Jesus.
The Risen Jesus
Tonight we contemplate the Risen Jesus. His followers saw him and recognised that the One they had thought of as a great prophet in fact was divine.
Jesus had raised others from the dead. But, eventually, they died again. He, on the other hand, would never die again.
The Risen Jesus revealed as divine and human
The body of the Risen Jesus as ‘glorified’ – that is, it revealed him to be both divine and human. For example, the Risen Jesus now could appear in a locked room.  He was no longer limited by walls or other physical obstacles.
Yet his body could also be touched by Thomas, the doubting Apostle, and Jesus ate food set aside for him. Mary Magdelen, for example, thought him to be a gardener
His risen body appeared different o that his followers on some occasions did not immediately recognise him.
The appearances of Jesus
In the gospels, we read of Jesus appearing to Mary Magdelen, the first proclaimer of the Resurrection; the Apostles; the two disciples on their journey to Emmaus.
St Paul gave earlier accounts than the gospels of appearances of the Risen Jesus. His personal experience was on the road to Damascus
He also wrote about his contemporaries who had seen the Risen Jesus. This included
… more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still with us.
We share his divine life
Tonight, as we think of the Risen Jesus, we celebrate that he shares with us through Baptism his divine life, the life which was revealed at his Resurrection,. This is the life that, to the extent that it is nurtured within us, empowers us to think, speak and behave increasingly like the Jesus of the gospels.
It empowers us to love and to live as he taught by his own actions and words.
The Baptism of Jesus
His resurrection was not the first time the divine life of Jesus was revealed. The first time was at his baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan.
The baptism of John the Baptist was a baptism of repentance for past sins. It reflected a desire for God’s forgiveness.
Jesus sought to undergo this baptism to show his solidarity with all seeking to repent and turn to God. John initially objected to baptising Jesus, for he was without sin. He then went along with what Jesus wanted after Jesus explained that his baptism was part of God’s plan.
The forgiveness of sins through Christian Baptism
After Pentecost, Christian Baptism too involved immersion in water, reminding us that, when we were baptised, all sin – including original sin – was forgiven. Adult Baptism was the norm, and infants of the baptised also received Baptism.
In the first reading of this Mass, St Paul wrote about us being baptised ‘in Christ’s death’. As we recalled on Good Friday, the death of Christ was for our redemption or freedom from sin.
So to be baptised into the death of Christ means, as St Paul expressed it, that we are freed of ‘the slavery of sin’. This freedom grows within us as we seek the redemptive power of the Risen Jesus in our daily lives.
As we recalled on Good Friday, we can experience this power as healing; growing inner freedom; sight where there are blindnesses in our lives; freedom from Satan’s power; inner renewal; and as forgiveness of sins.
Jesus shares his divine life through Christian Baptism
After his immersion by John the Baptist, something unique happened as Jesus ‘came up from the water’ and was praying.
…heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical form, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; in you I am well pleased.
Jesus was revealed as the divine Son of God. As the Apostles recognised who he is after his resurrection, they remembered that Jesus taught his mission to be 
…that they may have life, life to the full.
This is what St Paul is referring to when he wrote that
…Christ was raised… (that) we too might live a new life.
He concluded that we need to be seeking the redeeming power of the Risen Jesus, and nurturing within us his divine life, which he shares through Baptism.
…you too must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God – Christ Jesus.
Jesus as Saviour
In sharing with us his divine life, Jesus healed the human relationship with God, which was destroyed by the Fall of our first parents. We recognise Jesus, therefore, as Saviour as well as Redeemer (the word ‘Saviour’ deriving from the Latin word for ‘healing’).
Jesus continues to heal our relationship with God as he empowers us to love and to live as he showed in the gospels. It is his saving power which empowers us as we seek his help, for example
- to welcome those others consider ‘worthless’ (in the Roman empire, a child had no commercial value, unlike slaves)
- to give good example to others
- to remain faithful to marriage vows until death
- to dedicate our lives to God before all else
- to leave anyone or anything preventing us from following Jesus
- to lead by service, not power
Experiencing the Risen Jesus as Redeemer and Saviour
We open ourselves to experiences of the Risen Jesus as Redeemer by seeking his power to free us from experiences of sin before and after the law: we open ourselves to experiences of the Risen Jesus as Saviour by nurturing the divine life he shares with us, particularly by receiving him in the Eucharist, and seeking his power when we struggle to live as be taught.
Redemption and salvation, therefore, are like two sides of the same coin. We reflect on each separately to deepen in appreciation for the ways the Risen Jesus seeks to help us in our daily lives.
Adopted children of God
What does sharing in Jesus’ divine life teach us further about ourselves? We learn we are adopted children of God.
To share in Jesus’ own divine life, we need to share his divine nature. Hence, as the Second Letter of Peter reminds us
His divine power has given us all the things that we need for life… so that through them you should share the divine nature…
Jesus, like us, is human by nature. However, whereas he is divine by nature, we became divine through Baptism by adoption.
Sharing God’s own nature, we then become adopted children of God – something not possible if we remained human alone. We share the intimacy of the relationship between Jesus, the Son, and God the Father.
Like, him, we can call God ‘Abba’ – a term of deep affection by an adult child for their father.
Members of God’s family
Adopted children of God form a family, God’s family, which Jesus called his ‘church’.
Within his Church, to all who share his divine life, the Risen Jesus is a brother.
…that is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters…
The baptised, therefore, belong both to God and to each other. This is why the life of each affects the others.
As we grow in holiness through Christ’s power, his whole family or Church grows in holiness. If we sin, the holiness of the whole Church weakens.
The Christian life, therefore, never affects just the individual baptised believer. We are a family, and each of us affects others.
Members of Christ’s Body share in his mission
Since Jesus is the Source of the divine life we share through Baptism, we speak of him as Head of the Church – as the head of a river or a fountain is the source of its water. He shares with us the Holy Spirit.
As a body, therefore, we form this Body of Christ in today’s world. He is our Head.
We, then, are called to continue the mission of Jesus to the humanity of our time – which is to lead all to him so that they may ‘have life and have it to the full’. As Jesus cared for the sick, the young and those in need, so, as a body, do parish and wider Church bodies. As Individuals too, we should each be playing whatever part we can in our families, among our friends, in our parishes and wider communities.
As Jesus prayed for others, taught and showed love in other ways, so are we called to as a body and as individual members. These are a few examples.
Conversation with Christ
Before we continue this Easter Mass, let us pause to converse with the Risen Jesus in our hearts. Let us ask for the faith to always seek his power as Redeemer and Saviour for our daily lives.
The more we do so, the more we can tell others ‘He is Risen!’ – for we will know this
through personal experiences.
Bishop Gerard Holohan
11 April 2020
 Mark 10: 9-12; Matthew 5: 28-30; Mark 7: 21
 E.g. Luke 24:36; John 20:17
 John 20:24-29; Luke 24:42-43
 John 20:11-18
 Matthew 28: 1-10, John 20:19-29, Luke 24:13-35
 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8
 1 Corinthians 15: 6
 Matthew 3: 15
 Romans 6: 3
 Matthew 3: 16
 Luke 3: 21-22
 John 10: 10
 Romans 6: 4
 Romans 6: 11
 Genesis 3
 Mark 9: 33-37
 Mark 9: 42-50
 Mark 10: 1-12
 Mark 10: 17-27
 Mark 10: 28-31
 Mark 10: 41-45
 2 Peter 1: 3-4
 Mark 14: 36; Romans 8: 15; Galatians 4: 6
 Matthew 16: 18
 Hebrews 2: 11
 Romans 14: 7
 Colossians 1: 18