1 Peter 2:4-9
It is very tempting for the deacon to preach on the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, which gives us the account of the formal establishment of the Order of Deacons in the Church. I could share with you how deacons are called to be conformed to Christ the servant, or how the call of the deacon to assist priests and the ordination of the deacon ties the diaconate to the priesthood in a special way…but I’ll save that for the next time I have an opportunity to expound on these readings…
The Gospel today once again presents us with Jesus giving testimony to who he is, something we see over and over again in this Paschal season, and rightfully so. Jesus today confronts us very directly with the startling claim that there is only one way to salvation, one way that we can be saved from the final consequences of our own sin and meet God, and that He, Jesus Christ, is that only way. The second thing that Jesus makes abundantly clear in this passage is that He is one with the Father, indeed that He Himself is Divine when he says “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” and “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” If anyone ever says that there isn’t any Biblical evidence either for Jesus’ Divinity, or for the reality of the Most Holy Trinity, it is quite safe to point to Jesus’ very words here and say that yes there most certainly is.
Jesus’ claim that He is the Divine Son of God who is one with the Father was a stumbling block for many, if not most of the people in Jesus’ time who might otherwise have been inclined to follow Him or His teachings. Jesus’ claim to Divine status was well understood by the people who heard him make the statement. How do we know this? In John 10:30 Jesus declares “I and the Father are one.” We see the reaction to that statement in the very next verse (Jn 10:31) “the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” When Jesus was arrested and was put on what amounted to a show trial in a kangaroo court, the charge brought against Jesus in his trial before the high priest was blasphemy because he claimed to be the Son of God, and they understood that this would make him a Divine person. When they drug Jesus before Pilate he rightly asked them “what charge do you bring against this man,” and after they “beat around the bush” for awhile the truth finally comes out when Jesus and Barabbas were put before the religious leaders and the mob when the Scribes and the Pharisees cried out “we have a law, and by that law he ought to die because he ought to die because he made himself God’s Son.” (John 19:7)
Jesus’ declaration that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “no one comes to the Father except through me” is the thing which our world today finds most difficult to accept about Jesus’ teaching. In a world of relativism, where people make outlandish and illogical statements of moral relativism such as “that is your truth and this is my truth.” There is only one Truth or it is not Truth, and if we are to believe Jesus, there is only one Truth and He is that Truth. Some may ask: “Now Deacon David, didn’t the Second Vatican Council do away with all of that talk about Jesus being the only way to salvation?” The documents of the Council clearly present us with the idea that there are those who do not know or understand the fullness of Truth through no fault of their own, and that it is possible for people in that situation, whatever their background, to be brought to the fullness of Truth in the end. However, if someone who has never heard the fullness of the Good News is, in the end, saved from final damnation (as we ourselves pray during the Mass), it will not be through the merits of Muhammed or Buddha, or the sun god Ra, but through the One Advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 John 2:1) .
Of late in both the Catholic media as well as in the secular press there has been a lot of talk about division in the Church. Some of that discussion has even come from some respected Catholic media outlets and websites that are not known for sensationalism or the promotion of division. The secular press really eats this kind of talk up, it makes for some very good copy, or so they think. But all of the divisions over all of the issues that plague the Church Universal today can really be boiled down to one issue within which there are two sides, and it is a division nearly as old as the Church itself. That division is between those who, in the very depths of their heart and soul, believe that Jesus Christ is exactly who he said that he was, and that he further established the Church, which he purchased with his own blood, as his bride and his representative and voice on earth, and which he gave the authority through his Apostles and their successors to speak for him and to dispense his Sacraments as the instruments of Salvation to the world. On the other side of the issue are those who, in the very depths of their heart and soul do not believe this, but in the depths of their heart and soul see Jesus as a great moral and social example, and perhaps in our day they may see Jesus as a great advocate for the poor or underprivileged, but they do not treat him as God. As a consequence they may treat the Church and the moral and ecclesiastical laws that she upholds as a political organization that can be swayed like Congress, Parliament, or a political party. On some level or other, these two camps-those who in their hearts believe Jesus is God and those who in the depths of their hearts and souls do not-have been battling for a very long time. All those of us who do believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be and that the Catholic Church was established by Him with divine authority which comes from Him are to pray and never cease to proclaim the fullness of the Truth of Christ.
We will not know precisely who is on the Lord’s side and who is on the world’s side in this great debate about who Jesus is and what His Church represents until the Consummation of this passing world, when the hidden secrets of all hearts will be revealed. We all need to ask ourselves if, in the depths of our own hearts, if we believe Jesus’ words, and if we are on the Lord’s side.
History records that all of the Apostles but one, St. John the Evangelist, died a violent death, and John was himself exiled to the Isle of Patmos for refusing to renounce the Faith. All of them went to their graves declaring that Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick, that He raised people from the dead, that He Himself was crucified and rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven, and that they saw all all of this. They recounted that Jesus said He was God, and that he established this entity called the Church, which they and their successors represent, to do His work for Him. Now either they were all mentally unstable in recounting the same story, which statistically is highly unlikely, or…they were telling the truth. We all must ask ourselves whether we believe the Faith they handed on. The fate of our souls could depend on it.