Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Spirit is coming, 6th Sunday of Easter


They remembered that it had been an uneasy and foreboding night.
They remembered being afraid of the future. What are we to do without the Lord they said to each other.
Thomas remembered that he had said to Jesus " we do not know where you are going. We do not know the way"
He also remembered, and he reminded the others, that Jesus had answered saying - I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life."
And now, gathered together, after the horror of the crucifixion and mysterious glory of the resurrection they remembered Jesus’ promise of another Advocate. And they would learn that this Advocate would be for them nothing less than the ongoing presence of Jesus.
Another, remembered that Jesus had reassured them - “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you”
Yes, Lord come back to us, they said, but how will we know you?
Jesus answers, not with a description, but with a direction, You will know me by your actions.
And now they remembered
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments"
And they all remembered Jesus revealing to them.
"This is my commandment, love one another, as I have loved you."
Which simply says - If you love me, you will love one another.
Or in the negative - if you do not love one another you do not love me.
There is a clear correlation between loving others, as he did, and loving him.
They had experienced, through all the Jesus said and did, that to truly love is to love justly and in truth, without judgement, restrictions or boarders. And it is always to love beyond ones capabilities.
They might of cried out, "How can we do this a Lord. How can we love like you, you who loves like the Father loves. We are incapable and fearful to even try."
Do not be afraid “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.
Whatever you ask in my name, I will do.
And do not be afraid, when I go my Father will send you another advocate."
This advocate is rightly called another.  Because, only by Jesus going to his Father was the second Advocate sent. The Spirit reminds us that Jesus himself is our first  advocate.
It is Jesus, God with us. Jesus the Word come into the world. Who's life, death and resurrection saved us and continues to save us. It is Jesus who now sits at the Father's right hand to plead our case unceasingly. He is our first advocate.
This new advocate is not the Word made flesh, but the Spirit of Truth, the peace Jesus left for us. Who teaches us all things, helps us to remember all things, and who makes Jesus himself present to us.
But, the world does not accept the Spirit of Truth, because it accepts only its own illusions and lies.
 It does not know the Spirit, because it only knows and accepts; power and wealth, fear and hatred, injustice and oppression. It does not know and accept the Spirit of Truth because it has forgotten what Truth looks like, what Life looks like, what the Way to God looks like.
But, we know and accept the Spirit. Because, we have seen the Holy Spirit remaining with us in the Church, the People of God and her sacraments. We have experienced the work of the Spirit in us, through our our own transformation, our own prayers and our own deeds of love.
 And most of all, through, and in the Holy Spirit, Jesus is present to us and if Jesus is present then God is present. 
"You will realize" Jesus says "that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you"
This indwelling unity is the truth the world cannot accept, because it does not want to. It does not want to, because it does not want to keep the Lord's commandments to love one another. Where is the profit in that, the world laughs.
But, we love the world. Because the Spirt of Truth, the Holy Spirit, is in us.
Reminding us, teaching us, strengthening us to do the work of love without weighing the benefits or counting the cost.
And in the doing the work of love, the Spirit reveals Jesus to us, making him present to us, drawing us to him. The Spirit says; this is the only Truth, the only Way, and the only Life. And we say Amen.

It is only in the intimate and transforming reality of the Spirit, that we are capable of keeping Jesus' commandment to love one another (even the unlovable).

 And when we love others, we love Jesus' and we love Jesus, we are loved by God.

 

 

 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Easter





We are Easter people. Our faith is grounded in the Risen Lord.
In the transforming light of the resurrection we are are bathed in Truth.
And Truth has sent us free.
Not free from care and concern for others.
Not free from the responsibilities of discipleship in it widest application.
But, set free from the bondage of the sin of the world. Free from fear and death.
Free to do the acts of love that imperfectly mirror and reflect what we heard Peter, confess in the first reading.
God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and he went about doing good.
 Peter's humble phrase describing the works of Jesus as "doing good" captures the saving totality of the  Paschal Mystery; Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

Peter goes on to say with equal simplicity, "they" (describing the fearful principalities and the hateful powers) put him to death.
But, we know, experience and celebrate, that the horror of injustice, torture and death was overcome, once and for all, because as Peter (filled by the Spirit) proclaims, God raised Jesus on the third day.
This is why we are here today.

 But, in the darkness of the first day of the week, it was Mary of Magdala that came to the tomb, in the heavy gloom that seemed to mirror their sadness, confusion and lack of faith.
In that dim cold light of dawn she saw the stone, that had sealed the tomb, rolled aside. She did not go in, but she had a troubling sense that the body had been stolen and so she ran to those disciples still in hiding, still reeling from the horror of the crucifixion.
She ran to Peter, the bearer of authority and John, the beloved disciple and told them what she had found and what she feared.

Peter and the other disciple (still unbelievers) ran to the tomb, the younger man, with what seems to be a greater urgency to know, gets there first, but he does not enter, rather he waited and let the senior man enter the tomb first.

Peter, sees that the body is gone. The burial cloths neatly placed. And with a detail that must have come from that very moment and held dear in the reselling, the cloth used to cover Jesus' head was set aside, neatly folded up in a separate place.
 Not only was the tomb empty, but the trappings of death were also empty.
 The Risen Jesus would have no need of them.
And besides anyone stealing a body would surly have left it wrapped for speed and ease of movement. No thieves would take the time and effort.

 It is interesting, and surprising, given Peter's rash character, that his reactions to the empty tomb are not revealed.
But, when the other disciple enters and sees the same evidence, the Gospel says - he believed. For him the experience of the empty tomb was not troubling at all. It was the first seed of faith. It was Imperfect and without understanding, but it had been sown.

Perfecting faith would only come in time, with real encounters with the Risen Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things and who would enliven their lives and through a new Spirit driven understanding of scripture.
We know that upon hearing the good, but utterly unbelievable news, the twelve were still unsure, torn and fearful. Each heart racing with mixed emotions and opinions as to what it all meant. For them the peace of Christ and love of God, communion with the Holy Spirit was still to come.

But, on that day, for the beloved disciple, the empty tomb was the first sign that death had been defeated. God's light had vanquished death's darkness. Jesus had been raised. All that he said and did had be ratified by God. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ.
At Easter we celebrate this saving truth; Jesus, God's beloved son, lived among us, healed, forgave sins, loved us until the end. He was unjustly put to death, and on the third day is Risen and Glorified.

So, beginning with today, let the Easter Mystery transform our lives.
 Let it be a new invitation to encounter the Risen Lord; in prayer, the sacraments, by doing the next good thing, through others and always, when we least expect it.
Rejoice and be glad. It is Easter and we find ourselves also risen to a new life.
 Alleluia, alleluia.

 

 

 

 

 
 
















Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent


We are human beings. Living creatures dependent in so many ways on the world around us.
Many of us live with abundance of what we need and even what we desire.
Many live with adequate means of existence. But, the sin of the world is far too many live in want of the most basic needs that sustain and nourish body and spirit.

Our bodies need of food and water. A person can live perhaps up to a month with food.
This same person would likely parish in a week without water. The body is, of course, how we engage the world and reach out to each other. The body is that important.

We know Jesus took the body and its needs seriously. He enjoyed a good wedding, he healed by touching, he washed the feet of the twelve, he walked town to town, wept when moved, broke bread when hungry, drank wine when thirsty and rested when tired.

But, we are not just bodies, we are also spirit.

We have a biological reality, but we go beyond this, because we are persons, creatures that are self-aware and questioning. Where did I come from? Why Am I here? Where am I going? What does it mean?
We do not just enjoy the good and endure the suffering, we ask; what is good, why is there suffering?
We are temporal beings living moment to moment bound by the present. Yet, given our memory we can revisit and even re-interpret the past. In hope and imagination we can already live in future.
As persons we desire the abstract good, what cannot be found in physical nature; friendship, happiness, fulfillment and love.

We all know by our human experience that we are entwined as body and spirit. Theologians say we are inspirited bodies and embodied spirits.

The simple truth is body and spirit are inseparable and both need to be sustained and nourished to thrive, develop and reach fulfillment. And when either the body or the spirit is diminished or dimmed, broken or starved both suffer. Yet, knowing this we service and nourish the body while neglecting the spirit.

 This is why the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan women begins with a
mis-understanding. She's is simply taking care of the ordinary business of the day, getting water for the body. But today she meets, by chance, a stranger who is simply resting.

We know she is "the other", poor, a women and Samaritan. I imagine she was a first trying to ignore this stranger.  And perhaps, was startled and even annoyed when this Jew asks her for a drink.
She responds defensively (because for much of her life, as the marginalized other, the she had to be). So with an uneasy sharpness she replies “how can you a male Jew ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink?”

Even in her prickly response, this chance encounter, buried in the ordinary, which began clouded by the cultural, gender and political differences begins to open up.
Jesus never needs much of an opening. She expects a rebuke and a certain meanness would seem natural to her. But, Jesus offers an invitation instead, a bridge that changes an everyday, unpleasant situation, into a moment of revelation and grace.

 A meeting at a well, on a hot day, opens up a new reality for the woman.
 And this new reality was the concreate presence of God. Not in Jerusalem and not on the holy mountain, but at a well in Samaria, in the chance encounter with a stranger.  And we know this stranger is Jesus. And he offers her more than courtesy and politeness. He was offering her God’s Holy Spirit – true life giving water.

The women, like us all, in many of our own everyday encounters, assumes to know what’s up and she acts without thinking based on those assumptions.
“How can you give me water, the well is deep and you don't have a bucket?” she says.

Jesus tells her that this doesn’t matter because the water from the well can only satisfy the thirst of the body. But, it cannot end thirsting, either of the body or the spirit. And in that moment, through a stranger, everything changes and the woman, who had known only the possible, but now experiences the impossible.

Jesus' invitation turns years of hurt, disappointment empty longing into unexpected relationship, unconditional love and divine presence.  Give me "this" water she implores.
And Jesus gives her this spiritual water by revealing; in his presence, actions and words, that in encounter him, she has encountered God. Not far off and distant, but even here, by a well in Samaria.

Stunned, with faith newly awakened, she says (not unlike a Peter himself) I know the Christ is coming and he is Truth. And this tired stranger replies simply, but with all the love in the world - I am he.

From that moment, she knew who was speaking. Her embodied spirit and inspirited body was relieved by faith and hope, from its thirst for goodness and truth. 

This is a long multi part Gospel, but her story ends, as many Gospel stories end, with the woman, newly heal and now alive, testifying to others and bringing those others to Jesus who is life giving water and the bread of life.

There are many lessons here.
But for me, what began as a chance encounter, on an ordinary day, in ordinary circumstances, which began in mistrust, suspicion and ignorance was transformed by openness and trust into a moment of understanding and conversion, healing of body and spirit.
An encounter with a stranger led to an encounter with God.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Know about or Know; 12th Sunday


You could say it is a question of life or death. It is certainly a life changing question. It has to be.
There is no other way. It is a question that can only be answered in truth and honesty. It is useless
to lie or pretend.

And our answer can only come from freedom. It can’t be made for you. It cannot be forced. It will do no good to follow the crowd or take the pulse of popular opinion. All other choices flow from the one fundamental answer to “Who do you say I am?"

 Who is Jesus was a hot topic. This question was ask and argued about everywhere; in the
courtyards, the synagogues, the roadsides and the taverns. Who was Jesus, this man from
Nazareth? Son of Mary and Joseph. Was he a teacher, healer, or prophet, a troublemaker or the
messiah? And if the messiah, then what kind of messiah is this man of forgiveness and peace?

 A lot of people knew about Jesus, certainly the Romans and the temple authorities knew about him. They had heard the stories. But, knowing about something is not the same as knowing something. I know about the Amazon rain forrest, but I have never been there. I have not experienced its heat, its closeness and sounds.  We can know about parenting, but unless you are a parent you really don't know its dynamics and inner workings. We can read poems about love, but unless we love we know precious little. Ideas and words are grand, but experience is the king.

 This distinction between knowing about and knowing is what makes Jesus' question critical to our lives. Knowing about Jesus changes nothing, but knowing Jesus changes all.  Because knowing is experience and experience is transforming.  Experience becomes a part of us.

 The conversion from knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus is what happened to the disciples and those who were touched by Jesus' words and actions.  It is what happened when the sinful women, who knew about Jesus, came to the Pharisees house where Jesus was dinning and experienced directly his forgiveness and mercy.   In that moment of grace and transforming love her knowing about Jesus became knowing Jesus. It was conversion and it changed her forever.

 So when Jesus asks Peter who do you say I am, he certainly is not asking him what have you heard about me. Jesus already knew the rumors, opinions and speculations. Jesus is not asking Peter his opinion, or what his thoughts are on the topic.

Opinions are shallow notions, they come and go and they change nothing, but our dinner conversations. But, what we know from experience remains a part of us, gets into us, affects who we are.

Jesus is asking Peter - what is your experience of me. What is it about that experience that cannot be forgotten or denied? Have you changed, Peter? Where is your heart and mind?

Of course, Peter’s answer, as does our own answer, tells us more about Peter and ourselves then it does about Jesus. The answer reveals who we are. At least at that moment.

In the first reading the prophet Zachariah proclaims that God, who Israel no longer knows, will still pour grace upon Israel, but only after they have rejected and pierced him.  Israel's knowledge of God will come only after they recognize who God is.

When they come to know the Messiah and know he comes not as retribution and vengeance, but as forgiveness and love. This new understanding and experience becomes the fountain of living water that will pour out a new spirit to purify lives and cleanse sins and soften hardened hearts.  Then they will proclaim, as Peter did when he answered Jesus’ question with “You are the Christ.”

 In the second reading Paul tells the Galatians that it is through faith that they become children of God. He reminds them they have gone beyond merely knowing about Jesus.
 And this experience of knowing Jesus, of being in Christ Jesus, St Paul calls it, begins in their

baptism. Through baptism they are made new and they are clothed in Christ, that is, they now

resemble Christ. And in reassembling Christ they are no longer many separated by race, gender, or

class.

 They now belong to Christ and they experience this belonging in the Holy Spirit and through their Faith, Hope and Charity.  And because they belong to the Lord Jesus they must do as the Lord commands them to do. And this is the hard part.

 Jesus reveals to Peter that the Son of Man, Jesus own term for himself, must first be misunderstood, feared and hated. He would suffer cruelty and even death.
He must be the grain of wheat that dies to give rise to the abundant harvest that is the Kingdom of

 God. Jesus is asking Peter do you want to be a part of this? Are you ready for what you must do?

Jesus then says (and this qualifier is important) to ALL.

 “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and pick up his cross daily. For who wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it."
This is illogical and unreasonable. How can anyone do this? How can I do this?

How can deny myself and follow Jesus, if I only know about him? He is only words on a page or in my head and not in my heart. If he is only a character in a story and not my Lord and Savior how can I take up the cross daily? How can I hand over my life to someone I don't know? How can I sacrifice anything, if I am not in love?

 The truth is, to follow Jesus, I must first come to know Jesus, experience in my life his forgiveness, and mercy.  Be touched and healed by his love. Challenged and enflamed by his words. I must come to know him through an ever deepening prayer life, in the sharing of the sacraments, and through fellowship with people of good will. I must come to know him in the kindness, patience and the generosity I show everyone.  I must come to know him in humility and service. It is only then that I can love him. It is only then that I can lay down my life for him and for the Kingdom of God.
It is only then that can I ever hope to answer his question, put directly to me “who do you say I

am?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Only the Fig tree knows


Sometimes we get lost in the details. We cannot see the forest for the trees, the saying goes. Sometimes we get tied up in the minutia of Christian morals and ethics, forgetting why we are concerned in the first place. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of the big picture, the really big picture.

 
The apocalyptical writings in scripture is big picture stuff; Daniel, Revelations stand out, but

 we see it today in Mark. All use visionary language and imagery to tell their story on a

cosmic scale.

 
 "In those days" and "at that time" Daniel, makes time, a specific moment in time, the focus of our attention. He then starts to give this time a shape. "It shall be like" Daniel try's to describe the un-describable. At that time it shall be like an earthly, as well as, a cosmic transformation. This happening will disrupt the flow of human history. It will fulfill, and so end, creation itself.

 What was and is, will never be the same.

 This sublime transformation will not come without warning. Here Daniel describes it as beginning with unsurpassed distress, days of human trial and tribulation along with nature's own storm and stress.
It will not come without warning and it certainly won't come easy.
There will be resistance as the powers of this world fight to keep their place.
And there will be struggle and suffering in this epic confrontation.

 
But, Daniel is not all doom and gloom. His vision reveals that in this time of peril (which apparently must come) a great prince (devine and messianic), a new high priest according to St Paul in Hebrews, will also come and many will follow this prince, and so many will escape, and even those who sleep in death will awaken, and many shall live forever.
 In the midst of darkness where some will be in everlasting horror and disgrace, the wise shall shine bright like the firmament and those who lead the many to justice shall be like stars shinning forever.

 
Daniel is clear enough - however it plays out, whatever shape it takes - out of darkness light shall come.  Out of suffering good shall come. Out of death, life shall come.

 Mark, responding to the signs of his own time takes up Daniel's grand and sublime vision.

In those days after that tribulation. Again, a marking of a specific moment in history that changes existence, the sun will darkened, the moon will not shine, the stars will fall from the sky, even the powers of heaven shall be shaken. This is cosmic, cataclysmic, stuff.

 But, like Daniel, Mark is not all doom and gloom.

In the very midst of the darkest hour a glorious thing will happen, the Son of Man will come, in the clouds with great power and glory. Think of the towering thunder heads over Mt Miguel.

 The Son of Man, is the term taken from Daniel and always used by Mark to describe Jesus' divinity. When the Son of Man (Jesus Christ, as Lord) comes there be a gathering of his people, (the People of God) from out of injustice and oppression, out of suffering and division.

 The faithful, who have lived the faith, stayed the course amidst temptation and trial, will be gathered together as one from the ends of the earth, no one of good will, will be forgotten.

 And when will this happen? This has been the big question. The earliest church thought it would be soon, perhaps in their own generation. As it became clear the end was not so near,countless predictions began to appear and these have haunted people from that time.


When will that time come and what are the signs of its coming?

All we know is what Jesus told us - It is like the fig tree, whose new shoots and leaves announce the coming summer.

This cosmic transformation (like the fig tree announcing the proper season) comes,

in its own proper season. When it is meant to happen. In God's time. Because, this is God's business.
 Though Jesus cannot give disciples the answer they want, he comforts them.
I cannot tell you when, but I can tell you that even as earth and heaven pass away, my words (my Holy Spirit) will stay with you until the end of time itself.
In the face of this mystery of coming, this is a promise worth holding onto.

 Now, what are we to make of the apocalyptic imagery in Daniel and Mark?
The basic problem is the coming reign of God is bigger than our intellect or imagination can grasp. It is a devine, future oriented, transcendent reality.

 Space and time itself, though we mark it by coordinates on a map and hours in a day, and with concepts such as; now & then, going & arriving, here & there, all of this bends to God's will, extending beyond human existence. And this vast eternal reality boogies the brain.

 But, this is a good thing. The reign of God, is necessarily bigger than us, grander than us, beyond us. The reign of God is relentlessly coming or growing or unfolding or being revealed or even being discovered and you and I can do nothing to bring it about faster or slower.  We can only wait in joyful expectation, persevering faith and confident hope for its coming. But, this waiting is not passive. Because, there is another part of this story.

 We know that Jesus inaugurated the reign of God through his own teaching, healing and miracles. His life, death and resurrection, always pointed to his father's kingdom, both here and coming.

 But, the kingdom is work in progress, the kingdom which is here and now is incomplete and imperfect, because we are incomplete and imperfect. The Church herself is incomplete and imperfect.  There is much work to be done, individually and collectively.
For all our efforts God's kingdom remains in the future, transcendent and always beyond the horizon.

 And so, we are left with Mark’s vision, the vision of the early church, a vision that saw the coming of God's kingdom as a hard birth of sorts, involving a time of testing for the people of God and creation itself. It would be a cosmic disruption that would usher in the final and definitive revelation that the risen Jesus is Lord, and he comes on the clouds to establish the reign of God, where the righteous, who have suffered, will be vindicated.

 But when, who knows? The hour and day of fulfillment is unknown; to man, to angels, not even the son himself. Only God knows and only God can accomplish it.

And so you and I live out the little picture, details in a still life, the string of hours and days,
living our faith in Jesus and his Gospel message. Meeting all that comes our way, whether it be peace and joy or storm and stress with Christian virtues and Christian hope that God does what he promised he will do -

I will bring light out of darkness, I will make straight the crooked, I will make all things new.

Monday, August 17, 2015

16th Sunday

We know the transcendent God is beyond knowing, but we also know he graciously came into the world and was made known to us through his son Jesus, and we know he remains with us in the Holy Spirit.

But another, very ancient, expression of God, in fact the center piece of the Old Testament understanding of God is the he is the Lord, the rightful sovereign king of not only Israel, but all creation.

 In our human history God's reign on earth had be hidden by the veil of the human condition and distorted by the power and darkness of sin.

 God’s rule through the anointed kings of Israel, was tarnished by their jealousy and pride, God’s sovereignty was hidden in their sinfulness and the forgetfulness of his people..

 Scripture promises that God will come again to set things right and to take up his rightful throne and rule in justice (for he will judge in mercy) and in righteousness (for his glory and joy will fill creation).

This was unstoppable and his judgement on the nations will be on everyone - Kings, princes and subjects, shepherds and flock. All would be held accountable on the Kings return.

 In the first reading.

 The prophet Jeremiah points to Israel's kings and princes and condemns them for their failure, their hardness of heart and betrayal of the people and of God.

 They were meant, with the help of faithful people, to be good shepherds.

 But, they had become hirelings and even wolves, protecting their own self-interest, relying on force, intrigue and deceit to hold onto power - and the people, dis-satisfied, stubborn, went their own individual way.

They all had turned their backs on the common good and so they had turned their backs on God’s plan which is always unity.

 But all would be set right for God will come again and to take up his rightful place as true king and he will rule on earth as in heaven. God himself would be the good shepherd and all would be his obedient flock.

 The responsorial echoes this new reality in profound simplicity - the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

  God's joyful, abundant wedding feast will be shared by every person of good will.

Every person will be anointed in a new unity, a new goodness, and a new righteousness.

 And the Good News for us is that this has already happened.

St Paul describes how this is being done in Jesus.

By Jesus' death, resurrection and ascension into heaven Jesus now rules, as Lord, over heaven and earth.

It is Jesus who now gathers together the scattered flock. It is Jesus who now sheds light on the darkness of abusive power, as well as, the obstinately unfaithful.

  In Jesus the far and the close are now brought together into one new creation; a new heaven and a new earth, a new people reconciled with God as their rightful king and with each other as faithful subjects in their Lord's fellowship.

 Jesus, breaking bread with sinners, forgiving sins, healing the wounded and comforting the broken hearted. God is at work on earth because Jesus is doing the work of God. This is what God’s kingship looks like. This is our model and this is now.

  The Gospel today continues this thought. It is a brief transitional passage between the sending out of the disciples and the feeding of the multitude. But it is not filler.

 Jesus gathers the disciples who have come back from spreading the Good News.

Jesus invites them to forget about who did what and to instead come with him to a deserted place to pray and rest.

 Of course, their quite place turns out not to be not so quite. Jesus always drew a crowd and so he does here; the curious, those wishing to hear the teacher, those desperate to be forgiven and those crying out to be healed.

 Jesus was moved by compassion and the words of Jeremiah, Isaiah, the psalms must of swirled in his head for these before him were indeed like lost and abandoned sheep without a shepherd.

 Jesus began to teach them that they (and us) are not lost nor abandoned. God is faithful, and God will find us and care for us and he will lead us.

 And not only that, Jesus' is telling them that this is not some distant promise, it had begun, in Jesus himself something new had started and it would continue in him and through him, and those who follow him, and this transformation of life will come to completion as God had always intended it to - in unity and peace, justice and righteousness.

The earth and its people will be healed and brought together in the power of God's love.

Jesus changes everything. In him God's reign had begun.

 And because this new reign has started we must get on board as faithful and obedient subjects. Even if God's sovereignty seems hidden by our worldly desires, agendas and power structures.

 No matter what it seems like, the truth is, God's reign has begun in Jesus and we are his rightful subjects; as leaders and followers, shepherds and flock we each have a responsibility to the sovereignty of God.

 To be good shepherds and a faithful flock is to listen to God and to each other and to contribute to the building up his kingdom here and now, and do everything in our power not to harm, tear down or scatter it. 

We must lead and be lead in openness and understanding, in kindness and generosity.

 We owe allegiance to God as King and Jesus as Lord and to each other as faithful servants s brothers and sisters.

We are obliged to do his will, striving always for peace and unity.

We are obliged, as faithful subjects of our Lord Jesus, to cling to each other.

And together rejoice in hope and together be patient in trial.

We are obliged to pray for each other and to love on another.

We do this because our rightful Lord, comes, with power and like a shepherd he gathers the lambs, carrying us in his arms and leading

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Not seeing is Believeing, 3rd Sunday of Easter


The author of life was put to death, but God raised him from the dead, of this we are witnesses.

Peter, in Acts, tells the people what is the fundamental living truth proclaimed by the Church.

 It is the heart of all confessions and creeds.

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Or

"By dying he destroyed our death and by rising again he restored our life."

So fundamental is this truth that St Paul says

"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching and your faith is in vain"

Christianity stands on this truth (experienced in countless ways from the earliest church till today), Christ is risen from the dead. We stake our own lives on it.

 

In the second reading John describes what staking our lives on this truth looks like.

The way we may be sure that we know him (that is, be in communion with him) is to keep his commandments. Those that say, I know him, but do not keep his commandments are liars and the truth is not in them, but whoever keeps his word (by living it), the love of God is truly perfected in them.

This reality of knowing and keeping and sharing, that permeates every aspect of our lives, has been described by Jesus as simply loving God and neighbor.

This is not limiting the commandments, Jesus expands them to include every person everywhere, especially the poor, the sick, the broken hearted and the oppressed.

 

In the Gospel we see this knowing, keeping and sharing in the foreshadowing of the saving activity of the Church - evangelizing - witnessing to the love of God made known in Jesus.

 

 Two disciples recounted how the Risen Jesus was made known to them.

 At first we know they fail to recognize him because their faith had not yet been awakened and Jesus himself had be made new.

But, in an action that was familiar yet now new and somehow richer - the Risen Lord was no longer hidden, but was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

 

In knowing this, their hearts were enflamed and they were compelled to share this knowing.

They could not keep the encounter with Jesus a secret. They must witness (in Faith and Love) to this new truth, this new reality that was still far beyond their understanding.

 

As the disciples gathered in the room, listening to the two telling them how the Lord was made known to them Jesus appeared, in their midst.

Appeared is an important and accurate word.

 He did not enter through the door nor was he discovered hiding in some dark corner.

As the two tell their story, he is simply there.

They were terrified (by the sheer unbelievability of it) and they first thought he was a ghost.

 

Peace be with you he says to them.

Jesus asks them why they are troubled, why they doubt.

 Even has he stood there before them he knew there were many questions in their hearts.

Because disciples were still trying to get their heads around a crucified messiah, much less the risen Jesus. And risen not at the end of time, but in their time.

Like the empty tomb their first thought was the dreadful, but possible Jesus is dead and this is his ghost.

 

 We know that their encounter with Jesus was not some temporary movement the soul.

It was not an otherworldly encounter with a spirit (disembodied and still belonging to the dead).

This was the very real encounter with the very real and very much living Jesus, risen (not resuscitated) from the dead.

 

Look and see, I am real. Touch and feel, I am he who you love.

He showed them his very real hands and feet.

And they were amazed and overcome in joy.

Jesus asks them for food and this gesture awakens in them the memory and a new understanding of the feeding of the multitude, table fellowship with sinners, the last supper, the two disciples at Emmaus.

 

This was table fellowship, sharing of bread and wine which they recognized and associated with Jesus of Nazareth,  but it is also something new, something Devine, fellowship with the Risen Lord.

And now risen Jesus spoke directly to heart, mind and spirit.

He revealed to them, that everything written about him, every account and prophecy is true and must be fulfilled.

He opened, in and through his Spirit, the scriptures for them.

They began to understand not just with their minds but to believe with their hearts and their whole being that Jesus, is the Christ, and he had to suffer, but that he would be raised, by God, on the third day.  In Jesus death had become life.

 

On that day, in that room, the Risen Lord was made known to them, and it not only changed them, it changed the world.

 

Jesus was not dead, but living, compelling, life giving and life transforming.

Their encounter with the Risen Lord gave birth to new faith and new hope in them, in us, and for the world.

 

And this is our faith and because we did not need to see to believe we are especially blessed, because the Lord said

Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.

And those are us my brothers and sisters.

 

We who believe and who have received the Holy Spirit in baptism also received Jesus' mission

As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

Jesus has been made known to each of us.  We keep him within us by doing his will - to love God and neighbor.  And we share this Good News by being sent, as the disciples were sent and as the two who recounted how Jesus was made known to them were sent.

One person telling their story of encounter and conversion.

 

And isn't it true, that there is no better way of handing on the Gospel than by sharing with another one's own personal experience of the love of God in Jesus.

We who have encountered the Risen Lord now need to go out, as witnesses of these things.