Our first scripture is an excerpt from the New Testament book entitled Acts of the Apostles. The Church proclaims excerpts from this book throughout the season of Easter.
A few days ago I noted that the New Testament Book entitled the Acts of the Apostles is about how the divine life and presence of the Lord Jesus is extended in space and time in the Church. In other words the astounding revelation of Jesus Christ did not end centuries ago, but continues even now in the Church. Once, God in Christ was revealed in the physical body of his Incarnation. Now, God in Christ is revealed in the Body of the Church.
Christ makes his divine life and presence in the Church known in concrete ways. Thus, the book of Acts of the Apostles describes the apostles doing things that Christ did- performing miracles. But as today’s excerpt from Acts makes clear, the apostles are like Christ in another way- they suffer like him. The world that resisted Christ now resists the Church and the apostles experience the pressure of that resistance.
But despite that pressure, they trust that the power of God that triumphed over death in Christ will not abandon them, and so and fortified by a heavenly power greater than any worldly power, they persist in their mission.
Not even the threat of imprisonment or death will stop them in their mission to proclaim the Gospel.
So to it should be for us. And this is difficult for many Christians to hear.
Christ does not promise us an easy life. It is not the purpose of the Church to take the sharp edges of the Gospel and dull them so that the revelation of Christ can be more readily accommodated to cultural trends. Seeking assimilation to culture, rather than proclaiming the time has arrived to its transformation, is a perennial temptation for disciples. This strategy might grant us a measure of safety and success, but it won’t make us holy and the point of discipleship is holiness.
Christ grants us communion with his divine life, and this makes us holy- to be holy means to be “other than”- to be different, to be set apart.
This difference (holiness), that resists the status quos that the world insists be accepted, will inevitably be opposed.
To paraphrase Father Robert Barron: Authentic discipleship speaks the truth and calls evil by its name. There is a legitimate inclusivity to faith in Christ, because our faith seeks to draw the whole world, all people into communion with Christ’s divine life and presence.
However, there is also an uncompromising exclusivity to the Church’s Faith. The Church knows what is opposed to Christ and stands with him against that opposition.
What then do our works manifest? Darkness or light? Evil or good? Self-interest or mercy? Accommodation or Fidelity? Assimilation or holiness?
Christ came to rescue humanity from darkness and invite us into the warmth of his divine light. Condemnation does not come from him, but from our decision to prefer darkness to light, deeds of evil to works of mercy.
His justice ratifies the condemnation we have chosen.
“But whoever lives in truth comes to the Light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”