Artifact from Vatican Archives

God's word on Sunday: The yeast of Christ will lead us to the truth

  • March 31, 2018

Resurrection of the Lord, April 1 (Year B) Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-18

Religious bodies have finally discovered the effectiveness and value of electronic and social media. Facebook and Twitter postings from the Vatican are now commonplace, and anyone serious about disseminating ideas, teachings and exhortations must be technologically proficient. 

What did they do in the first century? What was the equivalent of social media? The pages of the New Testament tell the story: the Gospel was spread by witnessing — personal testimony from those who had met the Risen Lord and been transformed. 

The Acts of the Apostles portrays the Spirit-filled apostles and disciples preaching and witnessing boldly and confidently, unconcerned with the possible negative consequences of their activity. Many of them paid dearly for their courageous testimony, and in some parts of the world, believers still do. Their words carried weight, for the effect of their encounter with Christ was evident for all to see. Their words “had authority,” and were occasionally supercharged with healings and exorcisms. Without their effective public witness, Christianity would not have spread very quickly.

In our own time, personal testimony is rather muted. We find it difficult or distasteful to even have conversations about spiritual or ultimate values. There are several reasons for this reluctance. Some are not interested in religious questions at all. We also live in a culture that is increasingly intolerant and hostile to religious expression, insisting that it is a private matter and not to be shared. There are also too many who “witness” in an aggressive and obnoxious manner — a total turn-off. 

The most efficacious witness is low-key and often wordless. Inner peace, quiet joy, humility, a transformed life and unceasing kindness are proofs very difficult to refute or take offence at. In fact, throughout the history of the Church, these qualities have enabled many conversions. 

The inevitable question will come: Why are you so happy? What makes you so different? That is the time to explain calmly and in a non-threatening manner one’s relationship with the Lord Jesus. Believers in Christ must not become invisible — there is far too much at stake.

Yeast is an interesting and powerful symbol in the New Testament. In a negative sense, it represents old ways of thinking, as well as negative attitudes and hypocrisy. Just as a small bit of yeast transforms an entire lump of dough, such thinking can transform the individual — and all too often, an entire community —  in a negative fashion. Most can remember a work, school or church environment where one or two very negative individuals divided and destroyed the community. Paul’s advice is that we cleanse ourselves of such attitudes and replace it with the yeast of Christ. We and our communities can be transformed, radiating kindness, sincerity and truth. 

Sometimes we have all the evidence but lack the insight to make sense of it. The tomb was clearly empty. Both Peter and the Beloved Disciple ran to the tomb but emerged somewhat puzzled. The Beloved Disciple “saw and believed” but it is not clear exactly what that belief was. 

In the first-century, descriptions of the fate of the dead were abundant. Even in our own time, we have not really understood or been reconciled with the human reality of death. They didn’t understand the meaning of “rising from the dead” and how it was anchored in Scripture. There were clues: the cloth covering the face of Jesus was carefully rolled up and laid aside — a deliberate and conscious act, rather than the work of tomb robbers. 

Even Mary Magdalene did not yet understand. Both the angel and Jesus asked her why she was weeping, implying that there was really no need of tears. Death had been vanquished. As she stood weeping outside the tomb, she assumed that someone had taken the body of Jesus away. She did not recognize the risen Jesus until He spoke her name. 

When the Lord speaks our name, the veil over our minds and hearts is parted. We can then recognize the presence of the Lord in our midst. 

When Mary Magdalene proclaimed that she had seen the Lord, far more than sight was implied, for it was life-altering encounter. She then delivered her momentous message: We are all one in God, in Jesus, and in one another. 

Now we must learn to think, live and act as if we believe this. 

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