MARCH 29, 2008- SATURDAY IN THE OCTAVE OF EASTER: ACTS 4: 13–21; MK 16: 9–15

 

JESUS TOOK THEM TO TASK FOR THEIR DISBELIEF SINCE THEY HAD PUT NO FAITH IN THOSE WHO HAD SEEN HIM AFTER HE HAD BEEN RAISEDAlready in the course of his public ministry Jesus had insisted on faith in his person. He made it a condition for the exercising of his healing powers; in the presence of those who lacked such faith, Saint Luke tells us, he was simply unable to function as healer in his own town of Nazareth. After his resurrection his insistence grows even stronger so that he repeatedly criticizes those who fail to respond with faith to the report that he has risen. He explains in detail the texts from the Scriptures that had promised and foretold that he would rise after death. Failure to understand this prediction he ascribes to a lack of faith. In today’s Gospel he sees this disbelief as a form of stubborn resistance to the truth, and criticizes his followers for this defect.

 

The apostles profited from this criticism, and, being convinced by seeing Jesus in the flesh, eating with him, speaking with him and receiving a commission to carry knowledge of him and his teaching to the ends of the earth, effectively put their faith in him as the risen Lord. We are shown in the first reading today how effective this post-resurrection faith was. Peter and John, acting from their new found faith that Jesus lives in the glory of God the Father and acts through their agency, impress the leaders of the Jewish people with their self-confidence. The witness they give is in no way apologetic but a old affirmation that the one whom these same leaders had crucified lives; he continues to act in them. The healing Peter performs witnesses to the power of the name of Jesus in which the miracle took place. Faith imparts this parrhesia— the word occurs three times in the chapter of Acts that treats of this appearance before the Sanhedrin. Parrhesia is the bold freedom of speech expressive of a confidence arising out of a living faith that is so striking in Peter’s various addresses and actions in the days following the resurrection. For faith is more than an intellectual assent to the truth. Though it includes that act of the mind the decision to believe is a subtle surrender of one’s very self, proportionate to the reality believed in.

 

Faith in a person is at once a yielding of the self and a creative power. To put one’s faith in another is to give that person entry into one’s inner life to some degree; in opening oneself in this way, fresh possibilities of various kinds come into existence for the first time. A certain harmony of thought and feeling leads to insights into the meaning hidden in the one trusted, and in so doing brings to life capacities hitherto unrealized by the believer. The act of faith is made from the depths of the mind and the heart as well when it is given to a person perceived as deserving of complete trust, life enters upon a new mode of existing, marked by a sense of greater worth and having fuller meaning. The person who truly believes finds in his own person a power unknown to himself that was waiting to be brought to life.

Already in human relations faith includes some degree of respect, even a measure of love, that is to say, a willing acknowledgment of some good quality in the one trusted. Friendship is based on such mutual faith; marriage presupposes it and is not livable without such a faith. To place one’s faith in a person of character and worth requires a measure of belief in oneself as capable of responding to reciprocal trust. This conviction that one truly can respond to such an offer of love is created in us by the experience of being considered lovable by some one who we recognize as deserving our affectionate regard. When the person who gives us this assurance is God himself, we enter upon a new level of existence, created by the One who offers himself to our friendship. That is what had happened to Peter after he encountered the risen Lord Jesus. It is the same Jesus, the Lord of glory, who offers himself to us at this Eucharist. He only asks of us that we believe, and put our trust in him with all our heart.&      

 

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger