6th Sunday in Easter, Year A
Acts 5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 1 Peter 3:15-18
May 25, 2014
Jesus gives us a mission to proclaim the gospel. St. Francis tells us ‘proclaim the gospel always, to use words only when necessary.’
When is it necessary to use words? What words do we use? Here we might think of words to teach others about what we believe. Our Catholic faith has a lot to say. Where do we begin?
Peter offers us a starting point when he writes, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.”
Peter does not tell us to start with words from the catechism or certain bible verses. He doesn’t give a list of doctrines to present. He doesn’t even tell us to start with Jesus’ death and resurrection.
It’s not that all these things aren’t important, they are.
The place to begin talking about our faith is simple. It doesn’t start from what we know in our minds. The first words we speak about our faith to others must begin in our hearts, what is the reason for our hope? Why do we believe?
For instance, one could start by telling a person that one must attend church each week. To do so is just to cite a rule. Rules can be important but I think a better place to start with is to tell others why we come to church each week.
Theologically speaking we come to church to praise God. That doesn’t mean we can’t get something out of it. After all we hear God’s word proclaimed from the Bible and broken open for us in the scriptures. Hopefully this helps us to live a better life.
We also receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. This gives us strength to live as Jesus teaches.
Maybe another way to think of it is how we look at the commandments. Some people might look at the commandments and, more broadly, church teaching and say why would you want to do that. It’s just a bunch of rules.
Remember Jesus’ words, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
There are people we can care enough about to do things for simply because we love them, a spouse or a child for instance. To think of it from the child’s perspective, when we are little, just because mom and dad say so, can be enough for us to do as they say. We know we can count on them when we don’t know.
Why does a parent care for a child? Love.
God gives us commandments. Why?
Because God loves us. God has nothing to gain for himself by us following his commandments. As such, God doesn’t give us commandments for his benefit. God gives us commandments that are good for us.
Since God is motivating by love, we can trust in God’s commandments.
How do we tell this to others? Remember I said before that in his letter Peter doesn’t tell us to start with quotes from the catechism or scripture. I didn’t say we couldn’t, just that we don’t have to.
We can use scripture to talk about why we trust in God. The stories of the Old Testament tell us how God has been there for the people throughout the ages, that even when the people turned away from God, if they repented and called out to God for forgiveness and help, God would always come to their help.
For us, it’s still Easter and this should reminder us of the ultimate reason for our hope, the paschal mystery.
Jesus died for us on the Cross.
Because he loved us. The fact that Jesus died for us on the Cross shows us there is no limit on God’s love for us. One has no greater love than to lay down one’s love for his friends. We can count on Jesus.
This is the reason for our hope. It is the reason we need to come to church each week. I come to church not just because it is my job. I come because in my heart I know that when we celebrate Mass we are making present Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for us. I know that when I receive Communion I am strengthened by it.
I don’t know this because of what’s in my brain. Knowledge helps but it doesn’t provide all the answers. I know this because of what is in my heart. I know this because when I come to Mass having a bad time, I feel better. I remember there is a God who loves me enough to give his Son on the Cross.
This is the reason for my hope.