HOMILY THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER 2017
HOMILY FOR THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
DEACON ANDREW THOMAS
In our modern society, we are products of a period called the scientific revolution, lasting from 1550-1700. It was charged with excitement about what could be known and predicted in the physical sciences, and biological sciences.
Many breakthroughs took place in physical science, such as the Nicolaus Copernicus’s heliocentric theory - the theory that it's actually the earth that revolves around the sun and not the sun revolving around the earth. We have Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion, and eventually, because he stood on the shoulders of giants, Albert Einstein came up with his theory of relativity.
In biological sciences we had William T.G. Morton who first successfully used surgical anesthesia on a dental patient, and Louis Pasteur who came up with a way of purifying drinking liquids through a process that bears his name, "pasteurization."
Many new inventions came through as a result of the scientific revolution, from Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rods, to Nikola Tesla’s induction motor, and before we had laptops, ipads, and the iphone 7, we all remember the portable Apple IIC computer!
But has the increase of material scientific understanding and inventions led to an increase in faith in God, or a decrease in faith in God?
Faith has always been a struggle for God's people throughout salvation history. Recall last week the sadness the apostle, Thomas felt, unwilling to believe unless he saw and felt the wounds in Christ’s hands and side, and then realizing his error in lacking faith.
So the question, even more important than the classic question of modern times, put forth by the California Milk Processors over the past 20 years, "Got Milk?" is the question, "Got Faith?"
This seems to be the integral question with regard to the readings immediately following Christ’s resurrection.
Today we have the beautiful test of faith from Luke’s Gospel, The Road to Emmaus. In this story, two disciples of Jesus are feeling great depression and sorrow as they walk down the road.
Notice Jesus as he approaches engages them in conversation by asking them rhetorical questions. He is not interested in showing them any scientific evidence of His own resurrection, just as he wasn’t interested in doing so when tempted by Satan in the desert, or on the cross when others had asked Him to save Himself.
Here are the rhetorical questions:
“What are you discussing as you walk along?”
“What sort of things took place here in Jerusalem the past few days?”
He is testing the faith of the two disciples as he sees what is in their hearts.
Eventually, Jesus begins gradually revealing Himself and all of the passages in Sacred Scripture, regarding Moses and the prophets that foreshadowed the reality of His passion, death, and resurrection.….
So what were these texts that Jesus was discussing with these men? Luke’s Gospel doesn’t say, but here are some possibilities:
Perhaps Isaiah 53:7 “Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth.”
Or Jonah 2:1-3, referring to Jonah in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights, and how Jesus too was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
Or maybe Psalm 118:22 “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
He most probably spoke of Moses and the Passover, the salvific event in which the blood of the lamb that was slaughtered as a reparation offering was spread on the doorpost, signifying to the death angel to ‘pass over’ the house - the blood on the doorpost allowing the Israelites to escape bondage from the Egyptians and eventually pass into the promised land of milk and honey.
And discussed that Jesus was the new sacrificial, unblemished lamb of God, Himself, and that the shedding of His blood is salvific. For Hebrews 9:22 states that there is no salvation without the shedding of blood.
And when do they recognize Jesus? It is in the breaking of the bread that they recognized Him. In other words, it is in the very same celebration of the Eucharist that we celebrate at Mass, that they recognize Him.
Notice, there is nothing here with respect to the measurable scientific data about Jesus’s physical appearance. No description of height, build, bone structure, facial hair/no facial hair, wounds/no wounds. It was a burning sensation that their hearts that led them to believe.
All these two men have to go on is the burning sensation in their hearts. Do you feel a burning sensation when you read and finally begin to understand Sacred Scripture, when you pray, when you approach the Holy Eucharist?
God can reveal with or without a need to appeal to the physical senses.
Modern science by itself cannot measure the spiritual, cannot measure immaterial realities. Only God with His intimate relationship with each one of us can discern to what level our hearts burn for Him.
Some have great faith in God, and never need much scientific evidence. Others are constantly searching in the visible, material world, but never take the leap of faith.
During a period falsely titled, "The Enlightenment," from 1650 to 1800, following the scientific revolution, many false ideologies came about suggesting that orthodox religion is merely superstition, and that advances and modern science and a "rationalism" that gets rid of the reasonability of God, would bring forth true improvement to humanity.
These false prophets had forgotten that Jesus Christ is humanity, because we are all made in the image and likeness of God.
The greatest sciences in the age of Scholasticism had always been philosophy and theology, because they ask the most important questions regarding the purpose of life, and the existence of the soul, and man's relationship to God. And so truly the greatest scientists are the doctors of the church: St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, etc.
Today our children suffer from the big mistake of the Enlightenment period, because we've taken the highest sciences, philosophy and theology, out of our schools.
Schools can no longer sponsor programs and prayer that reflect Judeo-Christian values because of the intense fear of indoctrination. Certainly, no one should be forced to worship with regard to a certain belief system, but what is so dangerous about love of God and love of neighbor?
What is so dangerous about teaching the possibility even as just a theory that God created the universe with its order, and is active in all of its scientific operations?
Faith-based programs are permitted in many maximum security prisons today, which has significantly improved communal behavior. Yet these same programs are banned throughout the school day in our public schools.
And we wonder why there is more and more drug use, sexual promiscuity at even younger ages, violence, and atheism more and more prominent in our public schools.
We are allowed to hold religious beliefs in our country, but we are strongly prohibited more and more from expressing those beliefs publicly.
Since when did the Christian worry more about offending an unbeliever than offending God? Let’s face it, the apostles were not worried about offending the non-believers by expressing openly their faith. They died for their beliefs. Where is our courage today?
We need to be enlightened again by the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the future of our children, the same Holy Spirit that brought forth the scientific revolution and all of its wonders and discoveries.
Albert Einstein says, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.”
Isaac Asimov states, “The question of God and other objects-of-faith are outside reason and play no part in rationalism.”
Einstein says regarding miracles, ““There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Asimov says, “If humanity survives, it will be only by its own efforts. Never can we sit back and wait for miracles to save us. Miracles don’t happen.”
The integral question for all of mankind is this: Did the miracle of Jesus Christ rising from the dead really happen?
The acclaimed movie, Song of Bernadette, sums the reality up with regard to the relationship between faith and reason:
“For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.”
Got faith? If we do have faith, than we should truly live it without fear or hesitation, like the apostles did in our first reading.
If we don’t, then let’s ask God today to reveal Himself and strengthen us once again, in the breaking of the bread,