There are two things I’d like to highlight in the Gospel.
The first is the authority
that Jesus Christ shares and gives over to the Apostles.
He said: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”
If I had a billion dollars and gave you my checkbook and said,
“As I can sign checks from this checkbook, so can you”—
what would that mean?
Maybe the last time I saw you—or the checkbook!
When Christ says that to the Apostles,
he’s really communicating his divine power and authority to them.
In an age when everything seems tattered and suspect—
Our Congress doesn’t look much like the Founding Fathers;
Our sports and entertainment heroes don’t inspire;
Our financial institutions aren’t trustworthy;
And our church leaders come under attack;
We might wonder if we can really believe this idea
that the Church is Christ’s true presence and authority on earth.
Well it depends on what we expect before we will believe that.
If we expect those of us who make up the Church to be immune
from temptation, from weakness of judgment and character…
Then, no, we can’t believe the Church is divine.
And that is how a lot of folks approach it.
We profess that the Church speaks with the authority of Christ;
and then someone looks for a flaw—and they find plenty.
But that misunderstands what we believe.
We never claimed the Church is made up of only perfect people;
How weak Christ would be
if he could only be effective through perfect people!
When Jesus came, he chose flawed people as his messengers.
That’s who he was looking at when he said,
“As the Father sent me, so I send you.
It is despite this that the Church has been, and is,
His Ambassador to the world—acting with his authority.
One good thing is that no one can ever misled
about what makes it work.
If you walk into a structure built solidly,
there’s nothing remarkable about it staying upright.
But if you walk into a building made of dodgy materials,
put together haphazardly, and then you were told
“this building has withstood winds and storms and earthquakes—for two thousand years!”
You would say: “this is a miracle—only God’s power can explain it.”
And that is the Church. It’s built of us, and with our help.
The Architect must shake his head;
and yet the Risen Lord cannot and will not be constrained by our weakness.
When we profess the Church is his divine instrument,
it’s an act of Faith in him—not us!
I said there was something else worth noticing—
and it has to do with why this first thing is important.
Notice what else the Lord gives his Apostles—notice the purpose:
“Receive the Holy Spirit: whose sins you forgive,
are forgiven them;
whose sins you retain, are retained.”
The world needs the Church to be Christ’s Teacher:
a sure light amidst so much uncertainty.
But that only cause for hope if the Church is also a Healer:
Giving Christ’s mercy and power to change.
What good is it to show people the way to heaven,
if we are unable to help anyone actually get there?
These truths confront us as they did Thomas: Do we believe this?
If we don’t have the conviction
that there’s something unique about our Catholic Faith;
if we are not convinced
that true mercy and conversion is in our midst;
then what will impel us to share our Faith with others?
And this is a challenge in another way:
if you tell me I have the power to change,
what excuse, then, do I have, for remaining as I am?
People flocked to the Apostles not because they were perfect,
but because Someone Perfect was at work through them.
And yet the Apostles had to be willing:
to be set afire by the Holy Spirit, to be a beacon of hope.
The Lord appeals to us as he did to Thomas:
Doubt no longer, but believe.
Christ can change us; and we can change the world.