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In his Easter Sunday ‘Urbi et Orbi’ message, Pope Francis did what he does best – reminded us of the universal applicability of the Good News:

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

The litany of disaster areas which followed attested eloquently to the absence of love, the absence of Christ; where men attempt to enforce their wills, there Christ is absent; there love is absent. We know well enough what mankind does without God. Indeed, we have enough evidence of what mankind can do in the name of God to be fully aware of Satan’s ability to work on our pride. It is no accident that the author of Genesis focuses in on Satan telling our first parents that if the eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge they will have the wisdom of God himself; we do, indeed, tend that way. When we do, we become that whited sepulchre of which Christ spoke; gleaming in the outside but full of dead things on the inside. He is not there with us, He has gone; we have made no room for Him there.

Newman spoke of the effects of what he called ‘the prejudice of honest religious minds’ when describing the hostility of the Apostles to Jesus’ revelation of His fate:

Our Lord said, “Behold we go to Jerusalem, and all that is written of the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked and scourged and spat upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again.” Could words be plainer? Yet what effect had they on the disciples? “They understood none of these things, and this was hid from them, and they understood not the things that were said.” Why hid? Because they had not eyes to see.

The same was true of the reaction of the disciples to Mary’s story of the appearance of the Risen Christ to her. They had been taught

that the promised Messiah or Christ, who was coming, would be a great temporal Prince, like Solomon, only greater; that he was to have an earthly court, earthly wealth, earthly palaces, lands and armies and servants and the glory of a temporal kingdom. This was their idea—they looked for a deliverer, but thought he would come like Gideon, David, or Judas Maccabaeus, with sword and spear and loud trumpet, inflicting wounds and shedding blood, and throwing his captives into dungeons

and they could not reconcile this with the suffering Messiah, despite the fact that there is plenty in Isaiah and the Psalms which pointed in that direction. Newman comments:

You see that the mistake of the Apostles, and their horror and rejection of what nevertheless was the Eternal and most blessed Truth of the gospel, arose from a religious zeal for the honour of God; though a false zeal. It were well, if the similar mistake of people nowadays had so excellent a source and so good an excuse. For, so it is, that now as then, men are to be found who, with Scripture in their hands, in their memories, and in their mouths, yet make great mistakes as to the meaning of it, and that because they are prejudiced against the true sense of it.

We, too, can, in our zeal for our Church, make the same mistake as the first Apostles. We can conceive in our mind an image of what the Church should be, and when it is not that, retreat into criticism, or the search for the ‘real’ church – one which satisfied what we think she should be.

The real Church is where it always has been, and always will be, comforting the afflicted. Nor is that to say that it does work which can be done by the State or aid agencies, because, for all the good these can do, they cannot touch what really ails us. Our hearts are, as Augustine wrote, restless in us until they find their rest in God. To love those whom no one else will love, to show the patience of Christ in the face of the brokenness of this world, these are the marks of the Church, quite as much as orthodox doctrine; indeed, without the former, without love, what use is orthodox doctrine alone – we are as sounding brasses? We do not preach salvation by works, but if our faith prompts us to no works, then not all the preaching in the world, even though we had the tongues of angels, will avail us. Anyone who thinks of Christian love as some pink fuzzy warm feeling does not know it, or the real and permanent sacrifices it demands of our pride.