This day was made by the Lord ; we rejoice and are glad! Today is the Octave day of Easter and throughout this Octave we have been celebrating the Day of Christ's Passover – His dying that destroyed death, and, being the Passover Lamb, has taken away the sins of the world.
What we celebrate is not however just the solution to some sort of problem we human beings have – namely the solution to the problem of death, sin and evil begun through the Fall of Adam and Eve. Of course the victory of Christ's Passover is a conclusive victory over death, a conclusive victory over sin, and a conclusive victory over evil. These things are of course enough reason for us to sing “Alleluia” for evermore! But the Passover of Christ that we celebrate is also a new beginning, a New Covenant between God and man, a New Creation – the entrance of a new Kingdom, unlike any other sort of kingdom: the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God, as our Lord declared on Good Friday, is unlike any kingdom of man. “My Kingdom is not of this world...” This of course does not mean it has no impact on this world. Not being of this world, does not limit its scope of effects, but it specifies where its source is to be found. The ways of the world will not lead to the Kingdom of God – only Christ's way will lead to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is unlike the kingdoms of men. Human kingdoms are built through human ingenuity, human technology, human power, and human politics. The entrance of God's Kingdom into the world, into our lives, will not be brought about by human ingenuity, human technology, human power, and human politics. All these things can only build a fallible, weak, shaky, temporary human kingdom; whereas the eternal Kingdom of God is built on Christ and enters through our faith and hope and love in Him.
The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
The Abbot reminded us on Easter Day in his very good homily that the resurrected Christ appeared not to the powers of the world but to those who could see with the eyes of faith: His disciples. St John writes at the end of our Gospel today, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.”
The 'life' that St John refers to is the divine life, which is lived in the Kingdom of God, which is lived under the reign of God. The New Creation, the New Covenant, the new beginning of the Passover of God is a flowing or procession of the life of God from the Father to the Son and to the Disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit. “As the Father sent me, so I send you,” says Christ to the disciples. And He then breathes on them, and then says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The divine life that is the life of divine love, flows from the Father who loves the Son, who obeys the Father showing His love for the Father, and by the giving of the Holy Spirit enables His disciples to answer the call: the call to a mission, of being sent to build – building what we would come to call, the Church. The foundation stone is Christ, and then the next stone is divine mercy.
Christ gives to the Apostles the gift to forgive: “If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” The Divine Mercy of God overshadows all of Redemption. We hear it in the words of Christ on the cross towards His executioners, “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.” And every disciple of Christ is forgiven in baptism and begins a new life in Christ. Every disciple of Christ receives forgiveness through the Apostolic ministry of the Church. And Every disciple of Christ asks for forgiveness as much as they forgive others their trespasses.
What is inaugurated at Easter, at the Passover of God, is something completely new and not of this world, but is for this world, is forgiveness for this world.
Throughout Eastertide we hear from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how the Church begins and how it grows. And we need especially to hear this in the Ordinariate at this time. We have only just begun the task of building a new part of the Church, (albeit a very small part of the Church), and we need to make sure that we build in the right way. Sadly there are many examples of how not to do it both from where we have come from, but also in some of the post conciliar visions of how the church needs to develop. Those errors I think can be summed up simply by seeing them as attempts to build the church in the ways of the world – ways born of an over-optimism of human achievements, and exemplified by those who say “what the Church needs to do is to get up to date, to modernise, to learn from the world...” Rather ,we need to take to heart what The Acts of the Apostles reveal to us about how to build the Church: in faith, in hope and in love. Today we heard that the sick just hoped that St Peter's shadow would fall on them, for them to be healed! Were they simple? Yes. Did they have faith? Yes, enormous faith, and great hope. We have much to learn from them.
I believe the Holy Spirit has inspired the creation of the Ordinariates so that we can build afresh, build from first principles within the Catholic Church. Our principles are not from the world, are not from bad examples of what not to do, but that which is revealed by Christ through the Holy Spirit in the Church. We have the magisterial teaching now, we have full communion with the successor of Peter: we need to make use of that teaching and our communion. We need to remember those words of Scripture:
Unless the Lord builds the house, they that labour do so in vain.
I think we need to renew our confidence in what God has done for us: His new creation. We are a new creation in Christ through our baptism, and renewed in the Mass, and as we are built up in faith, in hope and in love, so the Church is truly being built up – and truly the Kingdom of God enters into our lives and the lives of those near us (whether they can see it or not). This day was made by the Lord ; we rejoice and are glad!
Lastly, let us rejoice also because if we did have to build the Church up as the world builds things I cannot help but think, looking at myself and all of us, that we would fail! Thankfully, that is not the case, and it is not we who build, but the Lord in us. Alleluia. Amen.
(Sermon given by Fr Ian Hellyer at Buckfast Abbey, 3pm Mass)
(Sermon given by Fr Ian Hellyer at Buckfast Abbey, 3pm Mass)