Easter Sunday5 C (02 May 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Not Like Madison Avenue
The seasons of Lent and of Easter together present us with ways to appreciate better the paschal mystery of our risen Messiah. For example, the gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent put before us the transfiguration of Jesus. Well removed from his suffering and death, Jesus offered some disciples a glimpse of his glory; Jesus wanted to prepare them for his approaching death.1
From the opposite direction, the selection from the Fourth Gospel we just heard looks at Jesus’ glory from the viewpoint of his suffering and death.2 Not only are the aspects of the paschal mystery—Jesus’ suffering, dying and rising—unified, they complete each other: Jesus’ suffering and dying interpret his rising. The separate aspects complete each other.
To appreciate the paschal mystery better—we can’t ever hope to understand it—think of this: spouses and siblings are individuals, yet all of them form a family. We may say that from different vantage points the Second Sunday of Lent and this Fifth Sunday of Easter remind us that Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection complete his paschal mystery. We celebrate it, rejoicing that Jesus suffered, died and rose for us, each one.
I came to appreciate better the paschal mystery one more time as I kept vigil with my dying mother. She began dying on Holy Thursday, and she breathed her last on Easter Wednesday. On Easter Sunday afternoon I told mom to take her time because each day of the Easter Octave is Easter. I also told mom she did not have to hold on for Elaine and me because she had taught us well how to care for ourselves.
The liturgical season and the season of human dying put me in touch with the paschal mystery of our Messiah Jesus in a poignant way, presenting me all its faces at once: suffering, death and resurrection. Celebrating them—as I did through the Triduum and Easter Octave; as people do in their ways—celebrating the faces of the paschal mystery continues to put us in touch with the roots of our faith.
Our faith-roots allow us to stand in the created world with our sight set on the new creation awaiting us. Risen Jesus assures the churches, “Behold, I make all things new.” Because each person completes creation, risen Jesus means us. Yet, the new from Jesus’ mouth was not Madison Avenue’s “new and improved.” The word John wrote to relay his vision through the Book of Revelation meant unprecedented, unheard of and not only not at all ordinary but of a completely different kind.3
Baptism in Jesus’ dying and rising does not remove us from the world or make us immune to the challenges and limitations of human nature. Baptism does transform us; we become more than ordinary humans among the world’s sorrows and joys, limitations and wonders. The eucharist sustains the transformation our baptisms began. As we died and rose with Jesus in baptism, eucharist nourishes us and strengthens us to cultivate our new selves and identify more closely with whom God has created us to be: individually apostles of the resurrection of his son; and collectively a community of believers who put our faith at the service of each other and our world.
In a word we are agents of the paschal mystery not by our doing but by power of an unprecedented and unheard of kind. A poet, long ago, expressed the graced human presence in the world this way:
To run and work the law commands,
Yet gives me neither feet nor hands;
But better news the gospel brings:
The Easter message is comfort that more than soothes; it encourages and inspires us to live in an altogether new way.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, praise the Trinity for saving us through our human nature. Ask the apostles to present you to Jesus. Speak to Jesus about how you notice him creating you anew, filling you with his risen life. Ask Jesus for the grace to be more alert to Jesus recreating you and respond to him more generously. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words on our lips remind us that Jesus transforms us with his risen life when we ask for what we truly need, even if we are unsure of what it may be while we pray his prayer.
- Preface of the Second Sunday of Lent, Roman Missal.
- The Fourth Gospel presents Jesus as glorified by his suffering and death; his throne is his cross.
- Jason C. Meyer summarized these connotations with examples from scripture in his The End of the Law: Mosaic Covenant in Pauline Theology (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2009), pp. 36-38.
- Quoted in F. F. Bruce, Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, 1985, p. 154.