Saturday, April 11, 2015
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
I John 5:4-12 * John 20:19-23
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
At the beginning of
First Epistle we see a connection between the fellowship that the Apostles had
with Jesus Christ during the years in which they followed Him from town to
town, the fellowship they maintained with Him after His resurrection, and the
gifts of the Holy Spirit that began to be manifested on the day of Pentecost.
Among those charismatic realities we are given the sacraments that belong to
the priesthood. This continued fellowship with the Risen Christ is, in a sense,
Part II of the Incarnation. It is the Incarnation as it continues to affect the
fallen world through His Body the Church, from which the Lord is never absent.
He is its chief member, the Head of the Body. Saint John’s
So now, hear these words from that Epistle:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.”
We should think together about how this brings us to the words in the fifth chapter that we have read this day, especially, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” We should reflect on the charismatic reality and power of the Church, and of how we remain in this blessed fellowship. We should reflect on how the hands of the apostles handled the Risen Lord, and how their eyes saw Him, and how we continue in that fellowship. We should reflect upon the reality of His Presence in the Blessed Sacrament when our eyes see and our hands handle the Word of Life even here and now. All of this is part of having fellowship with the Apostles, and in that fellowship, fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that our joy may be full.
We speak of the Sacramental Life, and we need to know that this is, indeed, Part II of the Incarnation. The Sacramental Life is everything that we have read about. We know that our Lord came to his earth by taking the limitations of human nature into the infinity of His Divine Person as God the Son, time into eternity, creation into uncreated Life, man into God. The means of our salvation are physical, located in time and space, visible in history. His conception and birth, the Nativity in
wherein the words of Christopher Smart ring true: “God all bounteous, all
creative, Whom no ills from good dissuade, Is incarnate and a native of the
very world He made.” In going “about doing good and healing all that were
oppressed by the Devil” the Son of Man made use of matter, the touch of His
hands and the vibrations of His voice, serving to heal through these means. By
taking all of our sins and dying on the cross as the “sacrifice for sin,” and
then after death “prolonging His days” by rising again (see Isaiah 53), He used
the physical means of our world, our home, to bring us salvation. He bore in
His own body our sins on the tree, and by rising to life again destroyed death,
and the one who has the power of death. Bethlehem
Therefore, to conclude that salvation is sacramental in nature, that it depends on the Incarnation, and is both the Church’s message and ministry, is to understand the Apostolic fellowship (κοινωνία ) about which Saint John taught us. It all comes from the richest truth gleaned from that simple phrase “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” With Jesus, who is fully God and Fully man, and with His resurrection, by which He ever lives to make intercession for us, and with His continued ministry through His Body the Church by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we may enter and remain in the fellowship of which
speaks. We have
our Lord Jesus who is fully God and fully man, risen from the dead, our Great
High Priest, our only Mediator, our Advocate and Propitiation, who calls you
and me to live in fellowship with Him and His Father, that fellowship He
established in the Church of the Apostles so long ago, and which has never
passed away from heaven and earth. We need to be in that fellowship. We are invited
in, welcomed in, and even urged in. The benefits are eternal. “This life is in
[God’s] Son.” Saint John
We see from the Gospel this day that our Lord ordained the Apostles, and that this included the priestly gift of the power to absolve sins. Make no mistake. This is the power about which the people had rejoiced when “they glorified God, because this power had been given unto men (Matthew 9:8).” To the Jews of that time, when the temple yet stood, this was indeed a Levitical priestly power. In the Law of Moses, the laws of Kippur, Atonement, required a priest to offer sacrifice for the penitent Israelite who, coming to the priest, made his confession of sin. In order to reconcile the penitent to God, the priest was required to make atonement. But, he could not kill himself, and so had to slay an animal in sacrifice (in his own place as the atonement), so that remission of sins could come through the shedding of blood. Of course, to the Israelites, it was only natural to understand confession of sin in relation to the priests and sacrifice.
For us, the sacrifices are a type and shadow of the real sacrifice, that of Christ on His cross. So, on our altars we do not shed blood, but rather we obey the words, “do this as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me.” As we sing in the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, “Types and shadows have their ending, for the newer Rite is here.” So too, when we hear confession, we speak words that are the sacramental matter and form to effect genuine absolution. When the Lord granted to men this power in His own words of Ordination (as we have seen in the portion of the Gospel read this morning), He handed on the priestly ministry of forgiving sins that is granted by His own priestly act as the true Atonement, the real Kippur, by the shedding of His own blood. The Risen Christ has, by this sacrifice, given to the Church, by means of apostolic and priestly ministry, this great gift as part of that fellowship, “this life [that] is in His Son.”
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4).” So wrote
in his Gospel, in
a context that indicates that He is the source of life for all creation. The
life is eternal. When we enter into it fully, this life will have seemed to
have been no life in comparison. When we enter into the resurrection life of
Christ’s own immortality on the Last Day, it will be a birth, a beginning. St. John
“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful (Revelation 21:3-5).”
While around us the world is dead in trespasses and sins, we are alive in Christ, though as of this present time yet mortal in Adam. In that we are alive in Christ, we await our birth, our resurrection, to be made like Him. So many have been invited into this life, full of joy beyond anything this world can know. Already we have a foretaste, times when we are allowed somehow, mystically, to experience something of that glorious future. But so many who have been invited make excuses, and will not come (Luke 14:16f). They choose to miss out, both on the foretaste of that world to come, and then to miss out on it altogether. Hell itself might be nothing more than standing outside, unable anymore to respond to the invitation to eternal joy.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure (I John 3:1-2).”
The Life of which
writes comes to us from the Incarnation; it comes from the manifestation of the
Word of Life in the Flesh; it is continued as Christ remains incarnate here in
His body the Church. The Risen Christ is known to us in the waters of Baptism,
in the Apostolic gift of Confirmation. He is known to us in the priestly
ministry of the forgiveness of sins. He is known to us in the Breaking of
Bread. St. John
He is known to us by faith, which can never be separated from hope and charity.
Even now, in His Body the Church, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, those charismatic realities that make the sacraments genuine and powerful, He yet goes about doing good, healing all who are oppressed by the Devil. Even now, this very day, within His Body the Church, He gives the fullness of this rich salvation. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”