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Homily for Third Sunday of Easter, Year B, 2024

Today’s readings coming so soon after Easter remind me of that last part of the mystery of the Transfiguration. After the wondrous experience of seeing Moses and Elijah with Christ, of hearing God the Father proclaim Christ as his Son, after all those wonders Jesus takes them back down the mountain, and the disciples are faced with an evil spirit that only Jesus can deal with.

During Lent, we were called on to face up to our death, the death of sin, the death of being apart from God. We were called on to repent, to call on God’s mercy, to wait patiently for God to heal us. And then the healing came at Easter. Christ took our sins on himself, and died on our behalf. Now we hear in our Gospel, he offers us peace, the peace that the world cannot give, a peace that is only available to us now because of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord.

But the peace that is on offer can only be accepted by repentance. As we hear in our second reading, we can only grab hold of what is on offer if we keep God’s commandments. This is that going down the mountain once more to wrestle with our temptations, wrestle with our fallen nature, suffer God’s healing, and suffer the consequences of a) our sins and b) those of our brothers and sisters, and in doing so pray that our offering becomes one with Christ.

It is worth praying about this process. Easter shows us so clearly, if we ever doubted it, Easter shows us so clearly that salvation is hard work. The task of repentance is hard work; and never over. Our gospel makes this very clear: the task of the Church, the task that immediately follows on from the experience of the Resurrection, of meeting Christ in the Eucharist, the task of the Church is to preach repentance.

And this message requires credible messengers. We who have known our own sins. We who have repented. We who have placed ourselves before the Lord as judge. We who have sought mercy we do not deserve. We who have received new life, unheard of joy through communion with God who is love. We are called to be those messengers.

But our formation as messengers, our discipleship, our knowledge of our crosses (and through that knowledge a participation in the Cross of Jesus Christ), that formation is never over.

I mentioned before that salvation is hard work. In some respect, it reminds me of growing pains. You can probably guess that I grew quite a lot. In fact, from the beginning of year 9 to the middle of year 10, in about 18 months I grew about 20cms. There were some mornings I could not walk. There were many moments when I was so tired that I just had to sleep all afternoon. I had to go through that in order to reach adulthood.

One of the mistakes our society makes is that it gets evolution wrong. And it gets it wrong in a few ways. First, it thinks that evolution will be physical. It is spiritual. Second, it thinks that the next evolutionary step is around the corner, perhaps with artificial intelligence. It has already happened. It is becoming divine. Third, when it does think spiritually, it assumes that heaven is automatic. This person just is in a better place. We assume that nothing is required of us to get to that next stage. This goes against the evidence of everything else in our lives.

If we want to understand something difficult, we have to do a lot of work. If we want to play a great piece of music, we have to get the skills and rehearse and rehearse. Even physically, if we want to run a marathon, we need to go through certain steps. We need to become the people who are capable of taking the next step, or even people who can grab the opportunity when it comes.

We see the same thing with God. God approaches us in freedom. God calls us and demands faith, but does not force it. But Christ is very clear. The Scriptures are very clear. The Church’s teaching is very clear. Salvation is God’s work, but it requires faith. It requires faith on our part. This faith looks like repentance. It looks like obedience. It looks like following God’s commandments, the teachings of the Apostles, to whom Christ grants the insight into the Scriptures, as we hear in our gospel today.

This is about us, and it is not about us. We know this, but others don’t. We need to do this for them. We need to live this, both so we can offer ourselves for them, but also so that our message of repentance is heard in the right key, as one of love and humility, as one offered by a fellow sinner who really does know the healing power of God’s loving mercy. This is the task God has given us. This is as serious as it gets. Because nothing is more serious than eternal joy.


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