6th Sunday of Easter
Three phrases in today’s scriptures really stood out. The first is in the letter the Apostles send to the Christians of Antioch. “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and ourselves” in other words “this decision is made by us and God”. Only with confidence that Our Lord had entrusted his authority to Peter, the Apostles and their successors would the Apostles dare to make such a claim – and indeed only in a Church which already believed that such authority had been entrusted to the Apostles would such a claim be taken seriously. Yet it is clear from Scriptures that the authority of the Apostles, their special role in teaching and in ensuring that the truth is faithfully passed on, was already recognised and accepted.
We hear St John in the 2nd reading, in his vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem which is the Church in glory, as it is and as it will be, describing the Apostles as the foundation stones of the Church.
The second phrase that stood out is in that 2nd Reading. “There is no temple in the city – because the Lord God almighty and the lamb were themselves the temple”. It made me think of that thing you hear some people say “I don’t need to go to Church to meet God”. Well if a non-catholic talking about a non-catholic Church says that I would agree. We don’t meet God in a place any more. The Jews used to go to the temple to meet God – but as St John is saying – we don’t need the temple – we meet God in a person, Jesus Christ, the Lamb who is God. We meet God in a person not a building. But for a Catholic there is something more – for in a Catholic Church is reserved the Blessed Eucharist and the Blessed Eucharist is the privileged, the most important way in which, according to his own words in scripture, the constant tradition handed down by the Church and the teaching of the apostles and their successors, Our Blessed Lord has chosen to remain with us. A catholic does need to go to Church to meet God in the fullest sense because in a Catholic Church is God, present in the Blessed Sacrament. If for some reason the Blessed Sacrament was reserved in some tumbledown little house next door to a beautiful magnificent cathedral the Catholic would go to the little house to meet God.
The third and final phrase is, at first, a bit shocking. In the Gospel Jesus says “You should be glad I am going to the Father for the Father is greater than I” What? The three persons of the Blessed Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit all possess the one divine nature, they are equal, they are all God; that is the heart of the doctrine of the Trinity so what can “the Father is greater than I mean?
In fact it’s quite straight forward. Jesus is speaking of his human nature. We must constantly remind ourselves that the human nature Jesus united to his divine nature is the nature of a creature like us. It is that human nature which made it possible for Jesus, who is God, to be born, to grow, to hunger, to suffer and to die – things the divine nature cannot do. It is this human nature that enables Jesus to say “the Father is greater than I”. It becomes clear in context. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his death, resurrection and ascension. Through this mystery his human nature will be glorified and the way will be made clear for our human nature to share in that glory. And so Jesus says “if you loved me – you would be happy to know I am going to the Father – because that will be the glory of my humanity and of yours.
So three phrases in today’s scriptures that touch on the heart of our catholic faith. The authority of the apostles and their successors, the incarnation, God becoming Man and uniting our created human nature with his uncreated divine nature and the continued presence of our saviour, God made man, risen from the dead in the Blessed Sacrament.