Easter Sunday4 A (15 May 2011)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Reassess and Reorient (Or, 15 Minutes)
The Easter mystery invites us to reassess. It was so from its first proclamation. When Peter stood up with the Eleven...and proclaimed: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made [the crucified Jesus] both Lord and Messiah….,” they heard differently than we do. Hebrew thinking flowed from action not ideas. Its language flowed from action words—verbs got reshaped into nouns. We think differently.
When we hear that God made [the crucified Jesus] both Lord and Messiah we admit that Jesus is both. When members of the house of Israel heard Peter, they heard functions of Lord and Messiah belonged to risen Jesus. Those functions were clear. Lord was supreme creator of all things, possessing all power.1 Messiah (Christ translates that Hebrew word) meant anointed one.2 The long-awaited one whom God would anoint and send would save people from harm, from danger and offer life. As we heard Jesus in the gospel, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
The way we hear first acknowledges Jesus as the Lord and Messiah who saves. Members of the house of Israel heard that risen Jesus shared the life of God (Lord), and offered to all who are baptized into him abundant life, that is to say, life you and I cannot give ourselves (Messiah). We admit Jesus is Lord and Messiah. Those of the house of Israel heard Jesus acted as Lord and Messiah. Begin to appreciate the difference? We admit with our minds that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. Those of the house of Israel heard no ideas but that risen Jesus possessed all power as Lord and was the saving one, who rescued people from harm, from danger and offered life no one else could.
This was no matter of having been with Jesus. Jews from all over the world visiting Jerusalem heard Peter. Hearing was not enough. They had to reassess Jesus, who had died an apparent failure and a criminal’s death on the tree of the cross. One scripture made reassessing Jesus very difficult: God’s curse rests on him who hangs on a tree.3
The apostles reassessed Jesus as more significant to them after his death than before it. His risen significance was so powerful that they re-met Jesus as the ultimate norm and measure of all things; Jesus replaced scripture as ultimate. Risen Jesus—no other exists—speaks through scripture, so scripture is crucial. As our norm for everything, risen Jesus shapes how we understand and use scripture as well as how we live.
One thing risen Jesus, our norm, means for us is conversion. Conversion answered the question his hearers posed to Peter: “What are we to do?” Conversion means reassessing and reorienting one’s life in an ongoing way. It includes repenting, not only from faults, but from ways of living at odds with Jesus’ faith, hope and love.
In this place we want to reassess how we receive Jesus at his table. Jesus is not something, even a sacred thing. Jesus is a person. We meet him in his word and welcome him in his sacraments. We consume Jesus to let him nourish us day to day. Yet his nourishment is not private. As Thomas Aquinas grasped, Jesus’ eucharist brings us into relationship with risen Jesus, and his body makes us one body, whose vocation is living his love.4 Eucharistic living reshapes our thinking; gives new motivation to our living; and helps us appreciate conversion in healthy ways.
So, “What are we to do?” A brief preface begins my answer. The difference between this homily and all my others is this: I let you in on my goal for having been with you. To preach and to live the faith of risen Jesus so you and all I meet might enjoy a deeper, more intimate relationship with risen Jesus; to meet him moment by moment as one’s Creator and Redeemer—which was St. Ignatius of Loyola’s favored way of naming the Lord and Messiah he had met and with whom and for whom he lived. My goal was never “classified”; it shaped my ministry with you. Many of you have already told me that you have a new relationship with our Good Shepherd. Do what you can to renew your relationship with your Lord and Messiah each day. You already know how to begin: with the ending for which I have become known.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the presence of our triune God. Ask Mary and your patron saint to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus for creating you; dying and rising for you; and giving himself to you. Ask Jesus for grace to help you to be attentive to him with you and to turn to him daily. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, thy will be done, on our lips invite us to reassess our relationship with risen Jesus and to reorient our lives according to the shape of his love, at once gentle, strong, life-giving and our door into the kingdom risen Jesus has prepared for us.
- Even Hellenistic governments gave this title to their emperors.
- Christos (Χριστος) translated Messiah.
- Deuteronomy 21.23. Yet Peter boldly proclaimed that God raised Jesus nevertheless (Acts 5.30).
- “Now the sacrament of the Eucharist belongs chiefly to charity, since it is the sacrament of ecclesiastical unity, inasmuch as it contains Him in Whom the whole Church is united and incorporated, namely Christ: wherefore the Eucharist is as it were the origin and bond of charity.” Summa Theologica, Supplement. q. 71, art. 9, reply; also, objection 3.