Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday word, 30 Mar 2008

Easter Sunday2 (30 Mar 2008) Ac 2. 42-47; Ps 118; 1Pt 1.3-9; Jn 20. 19-31
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Window on Risen Life

Early in the last century a chef and baker and his bride finally had the time and money. They made a delayed honeymoon to Greece, the man’s native land. Enthralled his Irish bride begged they stay and make their life there. He refused because they had too much invested in their new homeland, the United States.

Their Greek honeymoon was not entirely idyllic. The feud between Greeks and Turks erupted into war. The man’s Greek blood boiled. He took his wife to his cousins, and he enlisted in the Greek army and went to fight the Turks. He didn’t see action for long because he was wounded in the face by shrapnel. Medics removed his eye in order to replace it: he never lost his sight. His lip was gashed and required several stitches. The chef-turned-warrior rested away from the battlefields for weeks.

He grew a mustache to hide his scar. When he was hale again he returned to his cousins’ home. His Irish bride answered his knocks and opened the door. Looking she did not recognize him. She asked how she could help him. When he spoke he pronounced her name, “Leona.” She recognized him not by seeing but when she heard his voice. Joy overwhelmed her.

That touching account of my grandparents is my window on the appearances of the Risen Jesus to his followers. From the beginning, the first Christians claimed that something had happened, something that human language was, and remains, too poor to contain. Yet every experience, no matter how mean or how grand, needs the clothing of language in order for us to report it at all. On this Easter day we allow the reports of many to invade our hearts.

What happened was, and remains, an unexpected rendezvous clothed in many forms. It also has consequences. First, some forms. Jesus was not resuscitated, that is, revived after near-death. Jesus had died on his cross. Resurrection is life of a totally new sort, one that locked doors could not exclude.

Eyes could not perceive this wholly new mode of existence. Eyes detected presence where before there had been none, but eyes could not contain that presence any more than a room could contain it or walls and locked doors could exclude it. This wholly new mode of existence was preposterous. Thomas deserves our respect.

My grandfather could only respect my grand-mother’s disbelief that her severely wounded husband stood at her door. Her eyes were kept from recognizing her beloved. As miraculous as she felt their reunion, my grandfather would die. Resurrected, Easter life never dies.

Risen life does not obliterate wounds. It heals them. Jesus’ visible wounds were the marks of nails and spear. However, Jesus, human to the end, carried within him, as we all do, invisible wounds. To take one: Risen Jesus never rebuked his disciples for abandoning him. His risen life healed that frightful wound. And if Jesus lives in the memories of believer and unbeliever alike as the compassionate man, then the Risen Jesus invites: Place your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side and...believe.

The consequences of this totally other encounter, this rendezvous of God in Jesus by the power of their Spirit crowns our fundamental disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as the Acts of the Apostles told us. Prayer: Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple and to breaking bread in their homes. Fasting: They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart. Almsgiving: they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. The first witnesses became a people on mission, and their mission was marked by their devotion; their common life; the eucharist; and the awe of their common life.

We no less encounter the crucified Messiah Jesus, as the First Letter of Peter reminded us: Although [we] have not seen him [we] love him; even though [we] do not see him now yet believe in him, [we] rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy.

In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, feel the presence of risen, living Jesus within you and around you. Ask for the grace of joyful hope and endurance. They mark us as disciples of Risen Jesus. Joyful hope and endurance also hand us our mission: to live as belonging to Jesus, to let him live through us in our world that is sorely fractured and our church always in need of renewal. Converse with Jesus: asking Jesus what you can learn from your wounds, and how you can live with greater joy. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer, which reminds us that Jesus accompanies us on mission by divine power and goodness.
Wiki-images of Thomas before risen Jesus by Caravaggio and detail of Arrival at Kythera by Watteau are in the public domain.

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