[Homily: Baccalaureate Mass for the ADDU Graduate School and College of Law, 27 April 2019.]
We gather today still in the excitement and joy of the resurrection!
As we celebrate the happy outcome of the profound paschal mystery, our readings for today help us reflect on their special challenge for you who are graduating from the highest levels of academic programs here at the Ateneo de Davao University.
Jesus’ resurrection invites belief. In the Gospel according to John, it is the most compelling sign to bring people to belief, to acknowledge that because he’s been raised from the dead, he is to be believed; because he has been raised from the dead, his claims in his public life were not false. He did come as “the way, the truth, and the life” (jn 14:6) in order to bring “life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10). When he said, “I am one with the Father” (Jn 10:30) he was claiming not only integral unity with the Father, but divinity. These outrageous claims, his enemies had thought, were debunked with the crucifixion and death of Jesus. But, the resurrection was a clear sign compelling belief, first, in Jesus. He was alive, not dead. Victorious, not defeated. But also in his message. His message was not discredited, but confirmed. Jesus was one with the Father from the very beginning. He was “the Word with God from the very beginning and God” (Jn1:1). He did come to bring life, life to the full. He was the way, the truth and the life! That life, as the life uniting the branches to the vine, united those who believed with himself and the Father.
But we have to notice from the Gospel according to Mark that belief was not automatic. It was, in fact, counter-intuitive, even to those who were closest to Jesus. He appeared to Mary Magdelene. When she told the disciples Jesus was alive, they did not believe.
Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road. When they returned to the other disciples to say they had seen Jesus alive, they did not believe.
So when he himself appeared alive to the Eleven apostles, he rebuked them for their disbelief and hardness of heart. Yet, as we know from the account of Thomas in the Gospel according to John, he called forth their belief. “Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; reach your hand here and put it into my side,” he told Thomas. “Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (Jn 20:27). Thomas’ response was the high point of John’s Gospel. He not only confessed, “My Lord!” More profoundly, he confessed, “My God!” (Jn 20:28).
Having called forth belief, he missioned. What they believed, that Jesus had the words of eternal life, and whom they believed in, Jesus as God and savior (“Icthos”), could not be kept a secret. His mission: “Go into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
The early account of the disciples going forth into the whole world to proclaim the Gospel is in the book of Acts. Our first reading for today is from Acts. A man who had been lame from birth for 40 years of his life approaches the apostles, John and Peter, for alms. Peter tells him, “Silver and gold I do not have here, but what I have I can give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). He helps him to stand, and strength returns to his ankles and feet. “Leaping up, he stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:8). When asked, Peter proclaims boldly that the person had been cured “in the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarean, whom you crucified” (Acts 4:10). So, many believe in Jesus. But the leaders, elders and scribes are threatened by this. They are threatened by this cured paralytic standing in the company of the followers of Jesus the mere sight of whom invited people to believe in Jesus. They gather and decide to forbid Peter and John to continue speaking and preaching in the name of Jesus. Their reply, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Consequently, we know, Peter would be imprisoned for his preaching (Acts 12) and eventually crucified.
Jesus is risen! His resurrection invites our belief – not only in Jesus but in the mission he gives us. Believing, you – graduates of the Ateneo de Davao – are to share in your world your belief in Jesus Christ, one with the Father, the way, the truth, and the life, who came to bring life, life to the full, even when this sharing is misunderstood and opposed. Sharing your belief in the fullness of human life, you are to be astounded at the power that accompanies your proclamation that in the name of Jesus people are not to be deprived of that fullness by poverty, oppression, social exclusion, social injustice, corruption and war. Your proclamation is, as Jesus said, to be directed to all, seeking to invite to faith not by your power, but by the power of God, not by the power of your argumentation, but by the power of God’s love.
Thus, by the power of God and the light of the Risen Lord, you are to respect profoundly those of other faiths who in conscience are drawn by God to himself by the profound love we believe God has for all of humanity. Humbly, you are to accept that others may be drawn to God in ways you cannot fathom, and that from these others there is much you can learn about how full life can be in worship, piety, spirituality, knowledge, industry, and cultural treasure. In this context, you are to pray not only for believers, but also for those who believe otherwise, and even for those who have no belief, as we have prayed together for them in the light of the Paschal candle during the Easter Vigil.
In the joy and excitement of the Risen Lord, use your knowledge to advance dialogue between peoples of different cultures and creeds, Christian, Muslim, Lumad, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jew that in our diversity the one God may be glorified and the human family he created and loves be promoted and advanced. In this manner may you help spread God’s peace, love and plenty, and live ever more deeply in the joy of the children of God.