HOMILY EASTER SEASON WEEK 05 06 – Year I
Participating in a Divine Paradigm Shift:
Optional Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima
(Acts 16:1-10; Ps 100; Jn 15:18-21)
Have you ever experienced a paradigm shift?
The readings today invite us to join the early disciples in their paradigm shift from a monotheistic to trinitarian image of God.
A paradigm shift is a radical movement from one way of thinking and being, one world view, to another brand new, more profound way of being and world view. For example, if the Swiss watchmakers could have shifted to digital technology instead of resisting when it was offered to them, they would not have lost 70 percent of their business in one year.
What we see unfolding in the first reading is the development of the early church’s faith in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit after the resurrection of Jesus and the sending of his Spirit upon the disciples in the upper room at Pentecost. That double faith experience and paradigm shift transformed them from fearful disciples into a courageous, spirit-filled community of believers, the early church, the Body of Christ.
For St. Paul, that paradigm shift happened to him on the road to Damascus, when he encountered, as the Messiah and Risen Lord of all creation, the Jesus he thought was a renegade Jew and traitor. In one account, it took him three years in Arabia to absorb that dramatic shift in his life: having his three years with Jesus as did the apostles, re-reading the Old Testament scriptures he knew so well but taking on a whole new meaning in the light of the resurrection, and absorbing how much he was forgiven by God for all the harm he had done to the “followers of the Way.”
We read in that first reading about the “believers in the word and in the good news” whose faith is strengthened by the encouragement of Paul and Silas. We also see how closely they walked with the Spirit of the Risen Lord, influencing them in their ministry, and communicating to them through a vision to go to Macedonia rather than Asia and elsewhere.
We are also presented with a very human disciple in the person of Timothy, who caught the attention of St. Paul. According to The Word Among Us, Timothy was very much like us. He had gifts and talents that enabled him to serve the Lord well, but he also had challenges and roadblocks he had to overcome. It seems Timothy was somewhat shy, as Paul urged the Corinthian to put him at ease amongst them and to be careful how they criticized him (1 Cor 16:10-11). He was timid, perhaps, but also gentle and tactful. Paul trusted him to deal with awkward situations. “I have no one comparable to him,” Paul once said (Philippians 2:20). Timothy also frequently suffered stomach ailments, causing Paul to prescribe a little wine to help (1 Timothy 5:23).
Think of the encouragement Timothy’s example offers us. Despite his shyness and problematic health, he became a valuable servant of the Lord. Even despite setbacks and imprisonment, he held fast to the gospel, keeping his conscience clear and resisting the lure of riches and power. He trusted that God would deal with his weakness and could still use him in spite of them. Patron saint of stomach ailments, Timothy reminds us that God uses each of us, warts and all.
In the gospel, the focus is on the relationship of Jesus and the Father, to whom Jesus knew he was returning. But the focus is also on the Jewish leaders who, like the Swiss watchmakers, resisted the new paradigm shift faith in Jesus was offering them. Jesus speaks of their hatred of him and their fear of change, of this new development of faith in a Trinitarian God that would lead to hostility and persecution not just of him, but also of those who would believe in him.
How true those words would prove to be! Apparently, there are more Christians being persecuted in the world today than ever before in history. In some countries, that persecution is violent and producing martyrs. In the West, that persecution is subtle and more sophisticated, appearing as pressure to conform to an amoral view of life over and above any objective moral authority such as God. Christians symbols are discouraged and Christian values such as chastity, honesty, integrity, monogamous marriage and respect for life from conception to a natural death are marginalized and demeaned.
Carl Gallup, in his book The Messiah, the Secret and His Identity, recounts how the Jewish world especially, but also some in the West, resist the revelation of one of Judaism’s leading rabbis that the name of the Messiah is Jesus. That true story is still reverberating around the world, with many who have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah (messianic Jews) experiencing great persecution and sometimes having to go underground or flee for their very lives.
We are so fortunate to have been given the full revelation of who God is – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a Trinitarian God, a God who is family, intimate relationship, an eternal outflowing of love within three divine persons inviting us to join in that divine dance or perichoresis as a fourth person of the Trinity. We can express our Christian Catholic gift of faith in one sentence: We are coming back to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit, with Mary our Mother.
Today the church invites us to celebrate Mary as our Lady of Fatima. This title was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary after she appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, between May 13 and October 13, 1917, within the context of war and anti-Catholic persecution. The three messages or “secrets” of Fatima stress the importance of repentance, conversion of heart, and dedication to Our Lady, especially through daily prayer of the Rosary.
The Eucharist is a gift of love given to us by Jesus at the Last Supper, to strengthen and encourage us in following him whatever that may cost us, until he comes again in the fullness of his glory.
May it empower us to participate fully in this divine paradigm shift, and like St. Paul, Silas and Timothy, proclaim boldly the word about this good news and encourage others to join in this divine dance of the fullness of life.