Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fifth Sunday of Easter : Homily / Sermon

Whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself - he will perform even greater works - because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

RomeIn some ways this statement may appear to be a little shocking. The apostles, the Church, we will do even greater works than Christ himself? Surely not?

And indeed as we believe that Christ is not only a great teacher, but also entirely free from sin, who has made the ultimate sacrifice. God Incarnate. How could we possibly do greater works than him?

And surely, Christians and non-believers over the ages have taken comfort in pointing out to us the perfect teaching and perfect life of Christ, alongside the failings and rivalries and sometimes even cruelties of those who claim his name. It is not just that he is a challenge to Christians, but is almost as if everything started to go wrong the moment after he had ascended to heaven.

And yet, here are the words of the man himself - we will do even greater works.

And think about it, and we will realise that of course it is true. He did not say we would be sinless - no, he said we could be forgiven our sins. He not say his followers would never get things wrong - no, he warned against charlatans, and he prayed for unity rather than division.

But consider what Jesus himself achieved. It may seem so little. As is often remarked, he never led any armies, or founded a nation, or even wrote a book. He never travelled more than a few miles. When he died he was deserted by his followers.

Yet he did not fail - not so much for what he did, but for what his followers did.The recording of his words, and the development of teaching based upon it. The establishment of the Church. The spread of learning across Europe and beyond. Thousands of hospitals and schools. The development of social care for the disabled and the vulnerable. The rehabilitation and education of those convicted of crime. The very concept of human rights. And the science of the "Big Bang". The abolition of slavery - first in South America by Catholic Missionaries, ever before its abolition in this country. Extraordinary artwork and music and architecture. For all its flaws and human shortcomings, the Catholic Church is the largest international organisation in the world, and the Papacy the oldest institution. The Church works with more sufferers of aids than any other non-governmental organisation in the world. There is a presence in almost every city of the world, and in this country a chaplaincy for every hospital and prison, and for many many schools.

All these have been the work of followers of Christ - those who have done and are doing even greater works.

Of course, many of these are not only the works of the Church or of the followers of Christ alone, but do not be misled into thinking that these are not the continuing works of Christ or that his works and his ministry are somehow set in the past, captured in aspic, beautiful to behold yet static and remote.

Far from it. Christ is at work today. In the Church, in you, in us. It is not that we are greater than him, of course. It is that he is so great, that risen from death, and ascended into heaven, his work continues and flourishes.

And he will do yet greater works. Through us.