Deacon Cornellís Homily


Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
1 John 2:1-5a
Luke 24:35-48


April 25-26, 2009 Third Sunday in Easter - Cycle B

A month or so ago, the Pope was visiting Africa. In response to a question from a reporter, he said that the AIDS epidemic would be better fought by promoting faithfulness in marriage and personal responsibility rather than handing out birth control devices. Well, the uproar was deafening from government health officials to NGO representatives to the blogoshpere. One editorial cartoon in the Metrowest Daily News ( depicted Pope Benedict next to a primitive tribesman with the headline, "Who is more backward?". The only trouble with all the critics is that they were showing their ignorance of the facts. Countries like South Africa where the AIDs prevention programs focus on the prophylactics without regard to family values have seen AIDs rates skyrocket, while countries like Uganda where the anti-AIDs programs focus first on fidelity in marriage and abstinence outside it, have seen their rates plummet from 21 percent to around 6 percent. In the Philippines where 85 percent of the population is Catholic and birth control is not freely distributed, the AIDs rate is 1/100ths of a percent. (see for more detail.)

On issue after issue, from morality to economics, the Church's teaching over the past 100 years has been consistently right in predicting the negative effects of various policies and philosophies. And ignorance of these teachings has brought about widespread pain and suffering to millions. Of course as our readings remind us, this is nothing new.

In the first reading, from Acts, Peter points out to his listeners that through ignorance on the part of the leaders of Israel, the son of God was put to death. And then he continues with appropriate response to ignorance: he doesn't condemn them; rather he encourages them to look again at the evidence and to replace their ignorance with the truth.

The author of the first letter of John says the same thing with slightly stronger language. He points out that anyone who says he knows Christ but does not keep his commandments is in reality ignorant of who Christ is. In the Gospel, Jesus appears in the midst of the disciples whose ignorance of who Jesus really is and what has really happened has kept them locked up in fear. As Peter does in the story from Acts, Jesus does not condemn them for their ignorance but rather gently teaches them, reminding them of the the truth that scripture and all his teachings reveals so that they may turn from their ignorance and embrace the truth.

I would guess that all of us have had more than one moment in our lives when truth finally breaks through some ignorance we had been holding onto, and our reaction was one of "Aha now I see what you mean" or "Now I understand." It has taken me a long time but I have started to learn that when something I am wrestling with just doesn't seem to make any sense, and I cannot get anywhere with it, I probably am missing some key fact. So I have to go back and ask more questions or seek out some expert advice. And when that truth that I am missing is found, I have that same sensation that the two disciples had on the road to Emmaus: my heart burns with excitement at seeing the truth.

The problem with our ignorance, especially regarding our faith, is that while it brings pain and suffering to those around us, to us it is bliss. We don't know what we don't know. When it comes to our Catholic faith, it is pretty clear that we all fall far short of knowing the truth. As a recent poll shows, Catholics in general have a very poor understanding of the truth our faith teaches us if we let it. There are Catholics who still think that evolution contradicts the bible, that anyone who is not a baptized Catholic goes to hell, that all we are called to do is go to mass and keep the commandments, that baptism is some magic charm that gets us into heaven, and on and on.

These poll results, and many others like it, are really secondary indicators of the level of ignorance of our faith. The primary indicator is how we live our lives. If we really understood the Good News that Jesus has risen from the dead, we would be like those disciples on the road to Emmaus: we would jump up and run to tell our nearest and dearest friends and family. Can you imagine what your reaction would be if you stumbled across the cure for cancer? Would you just keep it to yourself? You would at least share it with those you know and love who are battling cancer.

My dear people, "the author of life was put to death, but God raised him from the dead!" Do you know what this means? Odds are we don't or we would be burning to share it with others.The truth that every human yearns for, the truth that will make our hearts burn as we grow to know it more deeply, is not an idea but a person: Jesus the Christ. So how do we learn more about this Truth who changes everything? Going to Mass is a good start but then as Jesus did twice on that first Easter Sunday, we should learn more about scripture and what it reveals. Scripture helps us to understand who Christ is and how we are called to know him, and to love him. There are dozens of way of learning this truth in bible study groups, various workshops and retreats throughout the Archdiocese, and programs such as the C21 project of BC.

We have a wonderful opportunity right in this parish in our Generations of Faith program. How can we call ourselves an active Catholic community when fewer than half our families do not participate in our communal deepening of our faith? Do we already know our faith so well that we don't think there is anything left to learn? If that were really the case, wouldn't that deep faith drive us to share our faith with others in our community? We don't think that we would get anything out of it? Hmm, isn't the question more how can we contribute something to this community we say we are part of? Our readings today invite us to turn from our unknowing towards the Truth who died for us.

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." Let us be the best of witnesses, turning away from our ignorance and towards Truth.


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