Jesus with hands extended

Easter is the season of joy when the Church celebrates Christ’s resurrection, His victory over sin and death. His triumph over the grave  is a comforting reality always, but even more so in these days of worldwide plague, with so many sick and dying. When considering the resurrection, the defining event in Christianity, we can contemplate on several things: Christ’s divinity,  Christian joy, and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Over the years St. John Henry Newman preached a number of sermons on these and other aspects of Easter. In one of these sermons, “Witnesses of the Resurrection,” he leads us to consider why the Risen Christ appeared to a relatively small number of persons after His resurrection. Newman  answers thus: “Because this was the most effectual means of propagating His religion through the world.”

“Following His resurrection, He said to His disciples, “Go, convert all nations:” [Matt. xxviii. 19.] This was His especial charge. If, then, there are grounds for thinking that, by showing Himself to a few rather than to many, He was more surely advancing this great objective: the propagation of the Gospel, this is a sufficient reason for our Lord’s having so ordained; and let us thankfully receive His dispensation, as He has given it.”

First, Newman explains that without faith miracles only move people for a time, as when Jesus restored a man who was paralyzed:

“In truth, this is the way of the mass of mankind in all ages, to be influenced by sudden fears, sudden contrition, sudden earnestness, sudden resolves, which disappear as suddenly. Nothing is done effectually through untrained human nature; and such is ever the condition of the multitude. Unstable as water, it cannot excel. One day it cried Hosanna; the next, Crucify Him.”

And so it would be, Newman  argues, that because of this “unstable”  human nature, some would claim that they could not certify that the risen man was Christ, or think that Christ had been taken down alive from the cross.

“This is the point to be kept in view: and consider that the very reason why Christ showed Himself at all was in order to raise up witnesses to His resurrection, ministers of His word, founders of His Church; and how in the nature of things could a populace ever become such?”

Newman explains that “It is, indeed, a general characteristic of the course of His providence to make the few the channels of His blessings to the many; but in the instance we are contemplating, a few were selected, because only a few could (humanly speaking) be made instruments. As I have already said, to be witnesses of His resurrection it was requisite to have known our Lord intimately before His death. This was the case with the Apostles; but this was not enough. It was necessary they should be certain it was He Himself, the very same whom they before knew. You recollect how He urged them to handle Him, and be sure that they could testify to His rising again.”

As St. Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles: “Him God raised up the third day, and showed Him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead.” Acts x. 40, 41.

 “It would seem, then, that our Lord gave His attention to a few, because, if the few be gained, the many will follow. To these few He showed Himself again and again. These He restored, comforted, warned, inspired. He formed them unto Himself, that they might show forth His praise. This His gracious procedure is opened to us in the first words of the Book of the Acts.”

Jesus chose to instruct His disciples for 40 days; this would have been difficult if He were among a busy crowd. This is God’s ordinary Providence, Newman opines:  “It is plain every great change is effected by the few, not by the many; by the resolute, undaunted, zealous few.”

In addition to these reasons, there is yet another  Newman gives as to why the witnesses to the Resurrection were few in number:  because they were on the side of Truth, and there were few faithful Israelites to be found. We are ever warned by Christ to watch.

Newman exhorts us: “All who obey the Truth are on the side of the Truth, and the Truth will prevail. Few in number but strong in the Spirit, despised by the world, yet making way while they suffered, the twelve Apostles overturned the power of darkness, and established the Christian Church.”

He invites us to live as witnesses to the Resurrection, spiritual witnesses. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. Truth bears witness by itself to its Divine Author. He who obeys God conscientiously, and lives holily, forces all about him to believe and tremble before the unseen power of Christ.”

“To the world at large he witnesses not; for few can see him near enough to be moved by his manner of living. But to his neighbours he manifests the Truth in proportion to their knowledge of him; and some of them, through God’s blessing, catch the holy flame, cherish it, and in their turn transmit it.”

Newman concludes his sermon setting forth the example of St. Ignatius of Antioch who, like St. Peter before him, gave witness in Rome to the power of Truth, to Christ Crucified and Risen. We Christians today are the living witnesses to His resurrection. Our faith in the Risen Lord is a light to the world, with so many living in the darkness of uncertainty,  of the fear of death. Are you allowing the current pandemic to steal your joy or do you remember to have faith in the Risen Lord? Ask yourself, “And am I living as a witness of His Resurrection?”

 

 

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The world which sees only appearances cannot comprehend the hidden reality of a heart captive to Christ. 

With this indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have the indwelling of Christ in our souls. Christ is born in us. The Holy Spirit makes us children of God, crying out Abba Father, and restores in us the likeness of Christ.

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A Guide to John Henry Newman will interest educated readers and professors alike, and serve as a text for college seminars for the purpose of studying Newman.

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I bought this book for my son and he loved it, he wrote this review and urged my to submitted: “I think this book has a very beautiful message, because it shows how the young Newman was so determined to achieve his dream of becoming a priest, but even after his dream he continued to work in the church with passion until the day he died, it’s so admirable that even Newman so old and so weak still had that urge to continued his work of being a priest. And the book is well written with words not too complicated with very enjoyable texts and well illustrated pictures. I highly recommend this book for a 5th grader.  

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He also explains how many Universities have changed the true meaning of Liberal Arts, and the subjects, and gives advise on how to choose College Campus, Subjects, and Teachers.

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In Passion for Truth Fr. Vélez gave us an outstanding biography of Cardinal Newman. In this work, he provides a concise overview of his thought and his devotion. This is a great work for someone who, perhaps hearing of Newman for the first time because of his beatification 13 October, 2019, wants to know more about this English saint.Vélez is a wonderful writer in his own right, and the frequent quotations from Newman round out the work nicely. I especially appreciated the frequent citing of Newman’s Meditations and Devotions, which show a different side of his spirituality than his more well-known works, Development of Christian Doctrine and the Grammar of Assent.

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“There is a time to put direct inquiry on hold and give ourselves to prayer and practical duties.” Sound advice from one of the earlier, thought-provoking reminders in this sparkling gem of a book: Take Five | Meditations with John Henry Newman, written by Mike Aquilina and Fr. Juan R. Vélez and published by Our Sunday Visitor. This particular paragraph, referenced above, which begins with a direct quote from soon-to-be canonized priest, cardinal and poet, John Henry Newman: “Study is good, but it gets us only so far . . .” is actually the 15th in a series of 76 concise, logically organized meditations moving from the elementary to the sublime. Each meditation–one per page–is built upon the great man’s writings and remarkably rich spirituality. Whether taken whole in one reading or in part page-by-page over a course of weeks and months, these wonderfully insightful meditations will open up, even to the busiest reader in the midst of the world, a unique pathway into prayer and contemplation. My advice to spiritual inquirers at all levels, from the novice to the spiritually adept, is to follow the authors’ recommendation to use this book as a guide for daily prayer and meditation. The structure of the book itself is ideal: first, the authors introduce us to Cardinal Newman, the man, where we are given the opportunity to get to know him through a brief sketch of his life and spirituality at the beginning of the book. This is something readers will likely find themselves referring to again and again, prompting many, I suspect, to even wider explorations of this most gifted Christian leader. Then comes the meditations, consisting of a short summary of Newman’s thoughts on subjects taken, as the authors explain, from various salient points for which Newman is justly remembered: The pursuit of objective religious truth; Teaching on the Virtues; Defense of the Catholic Church; A devout spiritual and moral life; and Generosity and loyalty in his friendships, which sets the topic and tone for each meditation to follow. Each meditation consists of an excerpt taken from Newman’s thirty-plus volumes of writings and diaries. Next comes three brief and extremely useful sections entitled: “Think About It,” which establishes a prayerfully resonant tone throughout the book; “Just Imagine,” which provides a vivid, prayerful experience of the Scriptures that tie in, and finally, “Remember,” a pithy summation which the authors suggest may be used as a daily aspiration. Each meditation is given its own page, which makes it ideal for daily reflection for readers on the go. This book is a must have for every serious Catholic who wants to take their faith to the next level, which is to respond appropriately to the universal call to holiness and seek interior union with God.
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