YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF EASTER
HOMILY THEME: PRE – PENTECOST MINISTRATION OF FAITH!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * Act 2 : 42 – 47, 1 Pet 1 : 3 – 9, Jn 20 : 19 – 31.
A. MINISTRATION FOR FELLOWSHIP
Don’t mind my use of this vague and nebulous terminology called ‘ministration’ by the Charismatics. But I just chose to call what Jesus did for the apostles in today’s gospel, ‘a pre – pentecost ministration’ of faith for fellowship.
We are told that the doors were shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Yes, the greatest problem the early Church must have faced after the death of Christ was the problem of fear and backsliding in fellowship. Christ therefore came, even before the Pentecost, to release grace for fellowship which is the staying power of any Christian community. It is said that ‘a family that prays together, stays together’.
Today’s 1st reading says that the early Christians were sustained by 4 things ; fidelity to the doctrines, sacraments, liturgical prayers and the brotherhood. It says that the whole community remained faithful, (i) To the teaching of the apostles (Word of God), (ii) To the brotherhood (Practice of Love ), (iii) To the breaking of bread (Sacrament of the Eucharist) and (iv) To the liturgical prayers (Fellowship), Matt 18 : 20, Heb 10 : 25. And the Lord added to their number those who were to be saved.
B. BACKSLIDING FAITH
Immediately after the death of Christ, some people began loosing faith /backsliding. The problem of Thomas was not really lack of faith but the backsliding of his faith. The Bible says he was not with them when Jesus came for the first time and when they told him what happened he said : ‘I refuse to believe until…’ But that was too bad! Philosophical and theological scepticism have remained the biggest blows to modern day Christianity. Christ’s message to him and to us today is : ‘Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed.
Faith is not an empirical experience but spiritual. The Word of God says that ‘The faithful shall live by faith and not by sight’, 2 Cor 5 : 5. Faith is a gift /reward of fellowship. It is not a mark of wisdom to insist on waiting for personal experience in the face of a group experience. Even the resurrectional faith is proved not merely by the empirical evidence of the empty tomb but by the prior evidence of scriptural revelation. Personal miracles alone cannot make us good believers. We need others’ faith (the faith of the Christian community) to help our unbelief.
– Heb 11 : 1 : Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for or prove the existence of realities that are yet unseen.
– Is 65 : 19 f : Example, blessings of longevity, prosperity, divine favour, divine protection and peace.
– Community faith is therefore what we acquire from fellowship.
We are face to face with the problem of ‘Sunday – Sunday – medicine’ approach to Christianity and ‘Social – Club – mentality’ to contemporary Catholicism especially in Nigeria. Our Christians are fast loosing the value of fellowship, respect for the mass, the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist. Our funeral and wedding ceremonies show clear examples of our ‘planned lateness’ that negates the whole idea of Christian fellowship ; no Word of God, no Eucharist and no Brotherhood. Our leaders must act fast otherwise we are watching the Christian Fellowship being eroded in our very eyes.
This pre – pentecost ministration of the Holy Spirit for the elimination of fear and forgiveness of sins is the greatest secret behind the survival of the Church before and after the Pentecost. Our people are also losing faith in the efficacy of this sacrament of reconciliation /forgiveness of sins.
According to Vima Dasan, the Holy Spirit works in 2 ways ; through the explosive power of charisms and through the staying power of the Church sacraments and fellowship. Because Thomas was absent from Church fellowship, he lost out completely. Christ’s ministration today is bifocal ; He releases the Holy Spirit for the escape of fear and timidity, 2 Tim 1 : 6 – 8 and for the Sacrament of reconciliation because anytime we offend God, we loose the boldness (faith) and confidence to come before him as children of God, Heb 10 : 19 f.
In the face of CoViD 19 , the fear that comes with it and the attendant need for shut down of Churches and public felloships, the Church may still have a problem after this whole pandemic of restoring the people’s faith in the Eucharist, devotion to mass and the sacraments. Many of our people cannot understand why they should be shut out from the public worship of their God. The new theology of “Spiritual Communion” or “Private Confession of Sins to God” have not been well assimilated. All these will require a new dimension of cateçhesis when the chips are down.
We praise the frankness of St Thomas in today’s gospel. As Alfred Tennyson puts it : ‘There lives more faith in honest doubts, believe me, than in half – based creeds’. Many of us pretend to be Christians when we haven’t the slightest faith in what we are doing. But when he (Thomas) was sure, he went the whole way of faith : ‘My Lord and my God!’. Soren Kierkegaard calls it ‘a transcendental leap of faith’. He now went beyond the physical revelation (phenomenon) of the pierced hands of Jesus to the metaphysical (neumenon) revelation of Christ’s divinity – a Christological proclamation that we still like to make during the lifting of Eucharistic species before Communion until today.
Happy Easter dear friends!