Believe in God, and believe me- 5th Easter Sunday 2017

Friends, the words of Christ: "Believe in God, and believe in me" is a challenge that applies to all ages. In all times, people are tempted not to do this. Most of us are afraid of many things happening both within the Church and in the world today. None of us can deny that there are serious reasons for concern. Many people wonder why they need to believe in God and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The confusion is so great that many people no longer know where they are going. They do not know why they have their faith or why they continue to believe. Yet many are misguided and deceitfully harmed the body of Christ a lot. Importantly, we must understand what we are seeking so that we do not lose courage because of all the problems that our faith must overcome to enter the kingdom of God. Perhaps you are concerned about a lot of different things in your life. Jesus wants us to look beyond these and have an alternative vision of life. Already today, the fifth Easter Sunday, Jesus begins to tell that he will leave his disciples, pointing to heaven and Pentecost. Since we do not have all the time in the world, it is important how we use the time now given to us.Satan and all the other evil spirits, prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls.Our battle is against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in high places” (Ephes., VI, 12).

The world has shrunk and we are increasingly affected by events in other parts of the world. Media and information technology makes the world a global village. Questions about social justice have been from the very beginning a concern of Christian life. We could describe what is said in today's first reading (Acts 6: 1-7) as the first social justice issue in the early Church, which is treated in a public and more structured way. The Greek-speaking Jews complained that the native Jews discriminated their widows in the allocation of daily rations of food.

How the problem was solved can be described as every way democratic. Everyone was with and decided and influenced what would be the case in the future. It was not until 18 May 1891 that the modern social Encyclical came, "Rerum Novarum" by Leo XIII. Since then, the Church has been engaged in social issues affecting all humanity and especially the lives of faith. It was the same pope that composed the prayer to saint Michael the Archangel, a prayer which he is said to have written after a vision immediately after Mass in his private chapel in the Vatican. It is claimed that Satan and Jesus had a conversion during which Satan asked for 100 years to destroy the Church and a greater power over those who give themselves to him. Satan received both requests. It is interesting to observe that our Lady of Fatima’s 100 years’ jubilee celebrated yesterday, 13 May 2017 gave the world the prayer with which the overcome Satan in this battle. The prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel and the Rosary remain always weapons with which we can defeat the devil and all other forces of darkness.

People have suffered the injustice of discrimination through known history. The account recounted in the first reading demonstrate this fact. We read about the Greeks-speaking Jews who complained that the native Jews discriminated their widows in the daily distribution of food and other necessary things. The apostles listened to them and took necessary action. Here we see the first time the Church applies the principle of subsidiarity. It is the apostles' main task to devote themselves to prayer and preaching. They therefore recommended that seven men be chosen among the disciples who would devote themselves entirely to the work of ensuring that no group or individual is marginalized or discriminated. The disciples probably chose these seven people not only from the native but also from the other group. We know this because they gave criteria that would make someone eligible for this service - men with good reputation, filled with spirit and wisdom. By choosing these people for service, it is confirmed as we read in the second reading: "You are a chosen generation, kings and priests, a holy people, God's own people who will proclaim his great work ..." All disciples have their own role in the work of Christ. Everyone has a mission to perform in God's kingdom.

For the Greek-speaking Jews, injustices were unacceptable, as it to many immigrants in Sweden complaining about how they are discriminated in the Swedish job market, social and cultural life. Nobody takes them seriously. In Sweden, we can learn from the apostles how integration problems and immigration policies should be addressed. The apostles show the importance of division of labor, the principle of subsidiarity was adopted in finding a solution to the challenge. Everyone should do what they are called to do. And problems should be dwelt with at the level appropriate for them. Conflicts and uneasiness arise when people do not adhere to what they are called to do. If you are not a priest, do not pretend to be one by wanting to do a priest’s work. Exercise the ministry to which you have been called.

Most people agree that the world has sufficient resources for all people. Poverty and hunger are the results of systems and policies created by people. In some recent surveys comparing the openness of Sweden with other countries of the OECD Economic Cooperation Committee, shows that Sweden is the country that has the greatest difference in the employment rate between native and foreign born. Fair distribution of earth's resources is an important part of the Christian calling. At a time when inequality and income differences increase significantly between the rich and the poor, we cannot as Christians treat it as if it were something that has no consequences for our Christian faith. Standing for a just world is an expression of our love for God and a reflection of his love for us.

God has loved us and taken care of us as his children. One may think we deserve love. Love does not exist in us because we have struggled (Ephesians 2: 4). If we have love, if we love God and fellow human beings, it is because God first loved us. Our love for God and fellow human beings is only a shadow of God's love for us. The only thing that makes sense for a human being is to love God back. His love creates and elicits the love in us. God has chosen us. Therefore, we are a chosen race, kings, priests and holy people, the people of God who will proclaim his great work (1Pet 2: 9).

The evangelists begin to point to Christ's Ascension and Pentecost. Now Jesus begins to tell his disciples that he will return to the Father. He explains why he must go to the Father - He goes there to prepare a place for his disciples. Since the beginning of Christianity, people at different times have wondered when Jesus will return. There have been speculations throughout known history.

Time after time these false prophets have been wrong. Christianity makes truth claims. The foundation of faith is Jesus' person. The actions of Jesus are also important. Jesus says that the disciples if they have difficulty believing in his person, they will at least believe in his actions. Jesus categorically says: "I am the way, the truth and the life." These three belong together. They say the same thing - that no one can reach God but through Jesus. Paul describes Jesus as the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). Jesus is not only the living but the source of all living. In Jesus’ person, humanity meets God. Christ is both God and man.

Those who believe in Jesus will perform deeds like him, and even greater deeds. Most Christians, especially in the West, are very skeptical, and have incredible difficulty to accept or believe that miracles can happen in our time. Yet, Jesus says that he who believes in him will do the same deeds as he does. The lack of believe today in miracles depend on the lack of faith in the gospel or is a sign that we have only accepted Christ Intellectually while the heart is far away. Almost always we tend to doubt the words of Jesus. If I really believe, why do I doubt that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever? We accept the gospel as the word of God but do not read it in God's way but in our own way. We have difficulty believing that our lives can be changed by the power of the word. Therefore, we all need to penetrate the core of the evangelical message.

As long as we do not believe that the historical Jesus is the same as Jesus' of faith, we cannot do this. As long as we do not believe in his work in our lives and in the world today, we live in our own world, not in the world of Jesus. Faith is to believe that Jesus is alive. It is to believe that he lives and continues to do the same thing he did when he went around in Palestine. A Christian need to be convinced that Jesus still works in and through the events of the world. Nothing really stand outside his plan. The kingdom of God belongs not only to the coming world, but is here and now. It's already in our hearts. Doubting is to perceive Jesus as dead. Jesus is not in the distant heaven. He's in our midst in a new way. He is the meaning of life. And the scripture testifies of him (John 5:39).

Before Jesus leaves his disciples to return to the Father, He promises them his peace (John 14:27). For those who surrender to God, there is a way to peace amid an uneasy world. Peace will be perfect in the outer world first on the day God creates new heavens and new earth (Rev 21: 1). Our inner world can already be penetrated by God's peace, the more we grow in trust and confidence in God. As Christians, it is important that we see God's finger in everything that happens. If we dare to do this, we will be filled with deep joy and peace. Then we know that God is behind everything that every event in our lives is borne by an all-powerful love. A love we may not understand.

Are you entertaining questions and doubts, find comfort in what we have heard today, they are not the opposite of faith, but apathy is, like with the disciples, they are opportunities for a deeper self-revelation of who Jesus is, and the relation to His father. God does not love us because we are good, that's not what he expects. He loves us because he is good. A safe future lies only in God. He who has planned a future filled with peace, love and joy for those who receive the Holy Ghost.

How may we not be worried and not lose courage in this fast-changing world? Yes, this can only happen if we are convinced of our faith that we are victorious through Jesus. He who is our strength and who overcomes evil in us and for us. Let us already today, start preparing for the Spirit of God to fall afresh upon us as we approach the Pentecost. Jesus urged the Apostles to wait for what the Father had promised (Acts 1: 1-14). They will have a helper who will be with them forever (John 14: 15-26). God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit (Romans 5: 1-8). How wonderful it would be if we could let God's testimony of himself be enough for us. Jesus tells us to believe in God and in Him no matter what happens in this world. Chikezie Onuoha MSP

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