Sunday, April 22, is the Third Sunday of Easter (Year B, Cycle II).
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-9; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48
Regina Doman, author of young-adult fiction, spoke at Benedictine College recently and demonstrated a common modern fallacy.
“Who is more interesting: bad guys or good guys?” she asked the students.
The answer came back: “Bad guys!”
She asked them why and did an exercise with their answers that was very instructive about what our culture trains people to think of the lives and lifestyles of the good and bad — and how wrong our culture is.
The truth is: Evil is more banal than good, the virtuous are more complex than sinners who have abandoned themselves to their sins, and goodness is, in the end, more fascinating than evil.
Jesus is a perfect example of that, and today’s readings provide good examples.
In the first reading, Peter confronts authorities about what they have done: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.”
Where are the great stories about the fascinating people who put Jesus to death?
Caiaphas, Herod, Pilate, Judas — their actions weren’t interesting in themselves; they were only interesting insofar as they came showed Christ’s goodness. If Christ were really a criminal and had simply died and not risen from the dead, no one would remember the details of that day.
Meanwhile, Peter is interesting not because of his sin, but because of his redemption. He denied Christ, but came back. And, next to Jesus, the single most popular character from the Passion story is his mother Mary, who never sinned at all. It fascinates us that she stood by her son on his execution day.
In the second reading, St. John gives clear advice to Christians: “The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.”
To love Christ means to keep his commandments. What is the most common way the commandments begin? “Thou shalt not.” To follow his commandments opens up a vast field of possible actions. To break the commandments means to do just one of 10 things that you aren’t supposed to do.
To steal is, well, to steal. There are varieties of amounts you can steal and ways to steal it, but it all comes down to the same thing: stealing.
If you want a bicycle, you can steal one. Or there are a million things that fall into the category of “not stealing.” For instance, there is the drama of working hard, saving up, sacrificing and buying the bicycle. Or there is the drama of charity. If someone in your neighborhood needs a bicycle, you can surprise him with one. Shows like Extreme Home Makeover are premised on the excitement of charity.
Or there is the drama of not getting a new bicycle at all. The movie The Bicycle Thief is about a man whose bicycle is stolen but who refuses to steal one himself.
Says the Gospel: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
We have already noted that Christ suffering and rising from the dead is a lot more interesting than Pilate caving to a crowd or Judas selling out his master and then despairing.
But the task given to the Christians is also more interesting than his opponents’ task. They will go on living their lives in the manner they always have. Christians are given a mission: to travel the world preaching his name or perhaps to stay home and encounter on their home turf those who do not believe.
“He who does not bellow the truth when he knows the truth makes himself the accomplice of liars and forgers,” said the French poet Charles Peguy.
To live for a truth means to be in conflict with the world. And not just the conflict of disagreement. The Christian’s is an interesting conflict: The Christian has to oppose the world while loving the world and trying to help the world understand the error of its ways.
That’s way more interesting than just following the pack.
Today’s song celebrates just how exciting good is. “Know that the Lord does wonders for his faithful one,” it says. “Alleluia!”
And that may be the best example of why good is clearly more exciting than evil: Good is worth breaking into song over.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.