IHS Low Sunday—28 April AD 2019 Ave Maria!

 

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    Just in case it isn't obvious, the events in the Gospel took place on Easter Sunday night. The Apostles had been ordained to the priesthood (bishops, actually) on Thursday evening at the Last Supper, and quite likely they already possessed the radical ability to hear Confessions and forgive sins. But this power is so significant that our Lord wanted to be sure that they were fully aware. Something similar takes place in the traditional rite of ordination. The men are made priests by the imposition of the Bishop's hands upon their heads (followed by a form of words explaining what the Bishop intends to do). But later on in the same ceremony, the Bishop lays his hands on them a second time, saying the same words we heard spoken by our Lord in the Gospel: “Receive the Holy Ghost, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them. Whose sins you retain, they are retained.”[1] If that second clause (“retained”) is difficult English, it means nothing less than making the priest the judge of the penitents’ sincerity in the confession of his sins.

One of the great tragedies of modernism is that many Catholics have lost sight of the need and the importance of sacramental Confession. That should not be—and certainly not for people who consider themselves to be traditional Catholics. Confession can literally be the difference between heaven and hell! Even the modern Church understands this importance. It is still part of the Code of Canon Law that we must confess our serious sins at least once a year.[2] And even if you have no serious sins, you can receive the graces of the Sacrament by confessing your venial sins—or even sins that have already been confessed and forgiven. The obligation for Confession is an annual one—that means any time during the year—but many people associate it with the obligation to receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Easter season—certainly, you should not be receiving Holy Communion if you have any un-confessed serious sins. (The Easter season lasts until Trinity Sunday, about seven weeks from today.)

Beyond the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, both of today's readings emphasize the need for the virtue of Faith. What does that mean, exactly? Faith is simply the belief in all that God has revealed to us. Primarily, we must believe in God's existence in a Trinity of Divine Persons and that He created everything else that exists. We are to know, love, and serve Him in this world, in order to be happy with Him in the next. It goes without saying that we must believe in and make use of the Sacraments, as they are given to us in order that we might live sinless lives.

Saint John asks: “Who is he that overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”[3] And, since it is the Easter season, we should add a belief in Jesus’ Resurrection. Now, for non-believers, the Resurrection sounds impossible—but if we apply the same rules of evidence that we employ in law or history, we can make a very respectable case for It.[4]

Just this past week or so we read eye-witness accounts of people who found the tomb empty on Easter Sunday—some were disciples of Jesus, men and women—some were enemies of Jesus—Pharisees and Roman soldiers.[5] The women were informed by angels that Jesus had risen, and then met Jesus outside of the tomb, where they were directed to inform the Apostles.

Today we read that Jesus came to where the Apostles were hiding from the Jews, and allowed Himself to be touched to demonstrate that He was no ghost and no illusion, but real flesh and bone.

Wednesday we read that when the Apostles were fishing on the Sea of Galilee, our Lord worked a miracle for them, and then cooked bread and fish for them on a fire, and ate with them.[6]

Saint Paul informed us that He met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus and was transformed from a persecutor to an Apostle.[7] Ananias, the man to whom Jesus sent Paul, apparently spoke with Jesus as well. Paul also wrote to the Corinthians that Jesus had appeared at various times to him and the other Apostles, and on one occasion “He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep.”[8]

The Romano-Jewish historian, Josephus, informs us that:

[Jesus] drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day.[9]

So, we have ample testimony of our Lord’s Resurrection—hostile and friendly witnesses, men and women, scholarly and “salt of the earth” witnesses, biblical and non-biblical witnesses.

From the legal or historical perspective it is important to note that none of these witnesses had anything to gain by giving their testimony. Indeed, most of them lost a great deal by acknowledging Jesus Christ and His Resurrection. All of the Apostles were put to death—except for Saint John who was “merely” boiled in oil! Countless other Christians were martyred by the Sanhedrin and the Romans. Over the centuries, countless more would be martyred by Masons, Marxists and Socialists. The Resurrection clearly stands the test of law and history.

But let us not forget that this virtue of “Faith” consists in belief in everything God has revealed to us about Himself. And that heaven depends on doing what God has revealed to us as His will. The only authentic source of this knowledge of God and His will is the Catholic Church, Which, founded by Jesus Christ, has preserved it in both scripture and tradition.[10]

The Church has long been consistent in rendering its traditions in writing. The Bible is the most obvious example of written tradition, but the decisions of synods and councils, the disciplinary laws of the Church, the teachings of Popes and theologians are generally available in print. Authoritative sources have produced catechisms and text books to make God’s revelation available to average people like you and me. We have many of these teachings here in our library. Many more are available on the Internet.[11]

Let us do our best to know God’s revelation and God’s will—and do our best to make His will our will



Notes:

[1] Gospel: John xx:19-31 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=50&ch=20&l=19-#x

[2] (n.c. 989) http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P3H.HTM

[3] Epistle: 1 John v:4-10 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=69&ch=5&l=4-#x

[4] https://www.thenewamerican.com/culture/history/item/22849-christ-s-resurrection-the-historical-record

[5] Matthew xxviii http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drl&bk=47&ch=28&l=1-#x

[6] John xxi:1-14 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=50&ch=21&l=1-#x

[7] Acts ix: 1-20 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=51&ch=9&l=1-#x

[8] 1 Corinthians xv: 5-10 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=53&ch=15&l=5#x

[9] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Antiquities_of_the_Jews/Book_XVIII#Chapter_3

[10] Matthew xvi: 15-19 http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/d?b=drl&bk=47&ch=16&l=15#x 

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