Back to Basics!
3rd Sunday of Easter (B); 4-22-12
Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Ps 42; 1 Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48
Deacon Jim McFadden; Divine Savior Catholic Church
“Back to Basics” is a familiar refrain in all walks of life. We hear it in education that our kids have got to be skilled in ‘reading, writing, and arithmetic…and today, we’d probably add ‘technology.’ We hear it in budgets, whether it be familial or national: “we have to live within our means.” “Back to Basics” also applies to religion. Catholicism includes the Scripture, creeds, Tradition and moral precepts, and the Sacraments. From where do all these come? Why are they so important? The readings for the 3rd Sunday of Easter help us to answer those questions.
The excerpt from Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 contains most of the essential elements of our Christian faith, which is known as the kerygma. These are that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s scriptures, ,the decisive significance of his death, the miracle of his resurrection which affirms his divinity, the need for hearers to repent, the possibility of the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and hope for the second coming of Christ. It’s all there; Peter has given the Church the essential components of our faith Tradition.
Our ancient creeds, which go back to the apostolic era and the Council of Nicea, are more theologically precise and developed versions of Peter’s sermon. Taken together, they frame our Faith.
The most basic moral application of the creeds is contained in today’s passage from 1 John 2: Avoid sin and keep the commandments. God is the great “I Am”, the fullness of Being; when we participate in God’s Being through virtuous action, we are in right relationship with God, others, ourselves, and Creation. In contrast, sin moves us away from God and, therefore into non-Being, which is what Hell is. As St. Catherine of Siena once said, “The road to heaven is heaven; the road to hell is hell.” That’s why we’ve got to avoid evil.
Keeping the Commandments keeps us on track. The commandments that John is referring to are probably not the 613 laws of the Holiness Code contained in the Book of Leviticus or even the Ten Commandments. As we read John’s Gospel and letters carefully, we will find that Jesus’ commandments are simpler and more challenging: We are to believe in Jesus who is the revealer of the triune God: JESUS IS YAHWEH MADE FLESH! Therefore, we embrace his Great Commandment: to love God with our whole heart and soul, and our neighbor as our self. As St. Augustine would say a few centuries later, “Love God and do what you will.”
The commandments are always balanced by the reminder that Christ’s death on the cross was an efficacious sacrificial offering for our sins and the sins of the world. Since there is nothing we could do to atone for our rebellion against God, the Son of God in his humanity offers himself completely to his Father, thus effectively overcoming our sin and putting us in right relationship with God.
The Eucharist is the sacrament of ongoing Christian life and is so basic to keeping us in right relationship with God.. As the conciliar Fathers of Vatican II said, the Mass is the “summit and fount of our (faith) life.” It is the summit because there can no greater act of worship than the Sacrifice of the Mass. It is the fount because it inexhaustibly replenishes us with the Trinitarian love and forms us into what we are meant to be: the Body of Christ. The passage from Luke’s gospel links the Eucharist to the Last Supper, which means that we are participating in the same sacrificial offering that occurred on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
Sisters and brothers, the basics of our Faith tradition are rooted in the Scriptures. I encourage you to allow God to speak to you on a daily basis by following the daily readings contained in the Lectionary. Absorb the Word of God, chew on it, and let it transform your heart and soul. One of the challenges of the Easter season is to gain greater clarity of what we believe, to find ways to put our beliefs into practice, and to deepen our faith and love of God through communion with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist.