Wednesday in the Octave of Easter (March 30th, 2016)

In today’s scripture from the Book of Acts, Peter and John manifest the power of Christ by doing what Christ did- in this case, healing a man of an affliction that prevented him from walking.

The man’s disability not only prevented him from walking, but from walking into the holy temple, and once he is healed, he walks into the temple, praising God for the gift he has received from Christ through Peter and John.

The lesson in this text is that the disciples of Christ should act like Christ and though this might mean for some, becoming the means through which Christ will work miracles, it will mean for all us that we act like Christ by loving what he loves and serving what he serves.

Becoming Christ-like is what Christian spirituality is about. Holiness for the Christian is not a matter of appearing pious or fulfilling regulations, but of becoming ever more Christ-like in what we say and in what we do.

There is another aspect of this text that is worthy of our consideration- the Apostles offer healing, healing is received, and this healing enables a person to enter into worship, to enter into the temple.

The healing the Church imparts through her ministers, is not simply a matter of the body, but of the soul. We are all soul-sick and the Church has been given Christ’s healing power for our soul-sickness through the ministry of the forgiveness of our sin. Once forgiven, we are able to participate in worship, enter the Church’s temple, which we experience in the Mass. The worship of the Church is not simply a matter of custom or entertainment, but it is an expression of our relationship with Christ. If we have little or no relationship with Christ, or we have resisted Christ through a willful disregard of his commandments, then our worship will become truncated and frustrating. Thus, the ministry of forgiveness is offered to us so that we might be reconciled to Christ and once reconciled, be made ready for worship.

Rarely or never seeking the healing power of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the equivalent of never having recourse to a doctor for medical care. Even if we are feeling healthy, we should occasionally visit the physicians who care for our bodies. Our soul needs this kind of attention as well, and if we don’t we might find that we have become seriously soul-sick and spiritually disabled.

The worship of the Church is the heart of the matter in Christ’s Gospel for today.

Again, we have another account of eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of the Lord. Christ presents himself as alive to people who believed him to be dead.

The culmination of this encounter is that Christ presents himself to these people in the Eucharist, it is in the Eucharist that they come to know for certain that it is truly Christ the Lord who has revealed himself to them, and that he is alive, not dead.

Christ is alive, not dead, and our encounter with him may not be to see him now in the body of his Incarnation, but he gives himself to us in the Blessed Sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is not merely a custom or a symbol, but it is an encounter with the Lord Jesus himself, who makes himself as really and truly present to us as he did to those who were privileged to be witnesses to his resurrection.

The manner in which Christ presents himself to us is different, but it is Christ who makes himself present in the Eucharist and it is the living Christ that we encounter, adore and receive.

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Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

The Church’s celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus continues.  For eight days following Easter Sunday the Church asks the faithful to maintain an attitude of attentiveness and festivity.  What God has revealed in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is absolutely extraordinary.  The power of God in Christ is greater than the greatest of all worldly powers- greater than the power of death!

It is the same divine power, manifested in the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, that is given to us in the Sacraments of the Church, a power through which God acts to draw us through the experience of death to a new and transformed life.

Where Christ has gone, we will follow.  What Christ has become in his Resurrection, so one day we will become.  This is the cause of our joy and the reason for our celebration.

Today’s reading from the New Testament book entitled “Acts of the Apostles” describes the apostles doing the very things Christ did.  In other words, his mission is continued in their mission.  What Christ did, is what his Church is supposed to do.

The Church is not just an institution or club- it is the extension of the Incarnation of God in space and time.  It is for this reason that the scriptures describe the Church as the Body of Christ, and this description is not just metaphorical or symbolic, it is meant literally.

Each of the Baptized is meant to be an “alter Christus” or “another Christ” and all the sacraments of the Church and the works of mercy are occasions for us to become ever more like Christ.  And this raises an important question:  Do we truly know that Lord Jesus? 

If we do not, we will not be able to act like him.  And if we do not know Christ, and do not act like him, we are frustrating his will and purposes for what the Church is supposed to be and do.

Knowing Christ demands much more of us than simply matriculating through faith-based infrastructure.  Nor can we say we know Jesus because we have a vague association with the Church because of the accidents of ethnicity or culture.  After all, we are not disciples simply because we know about Jesus- we are supposed to know him as one knows a friend.

The Gospel presents concretely what it is to know Jesus.  It means that we have entered into personal relationship with him, been introduced to him in the Scriptures and received his life in the Sacraments of the Church, particularly in the “breaking of the bread” (which is a reference to the Eucharist or the Blessed Sacrament).

This happens to us through the Mass.  The Mass is an invitation to a personal relationship with Christ, who we come to know in the proclamation of the Scriptures and through the Blessed Sacrament.  This is the privileged way of knowing Jesus and entering into relationship with him.

And so today’s Gospel is not just an account of how eyewitnesses described an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus (it is that but also so much more!) but how the Lord Jesus makes himself known in the Mass- in the Scriptures and the “breaking of the bread”.

As such, attempts to make the Mass into something else frustrate its true purpose.  The Mass is not about the community celebrating its values or an occasion for the priest to draw attention to himself.  Both diminish the true purpose of the Mass and engender what Pope Francis calls “self reference”.  The true reference point for the Mass is not supposed to be ourselves, but the Lord Jesus.

The Mass is meant to be the occasion through which we come to know Christ so that we might become like him.