Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sunday word, 07 Apr 13

Take Three
Easter Sunday2 (07 Apr 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Every three years the second reading at Sunday masses in the Easter Season is from the Book of Revelation. It is not about dating the end of the world. The Book of Revelation is about seeing: it is a graced vision of heaven given an early scriptural witness. That witness’ vision is not only the revelation about Messiah Jesus, the vision reveals him: “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever.” The Eucharist, part of Easter’s sacramental trio with baptism and confirmation, nourishes this vision and deepens it in all Christians who let it. To see with the scriptural witness is to soak oneself in his vision. It consoles and comforts despite all contrary to it around us: war; hunger; pestilence; disease; racism; poverty; and fears we can’t imagine afflicting others.

Our distance in time and culture from the first hearers of the Book of Revelation make its images alien to us. Much of the way John expressed convictions about God is also alien. The first hearers suffered sharply for their faith in dead and risen Messiah Jesus. People today still suffer like them. Our ease with faith makes Revelation’s vision alien.  John wrote his vision to comfort those who suffered for their faith. Suffering, comfort and strengthening faith united as the message of John, who found [himself] on [the Mediterranean] island called Patmos.

What might we take from the beginning of the vision? Let me suggest: Jesus; peace not fear; and testimony. Risen Jesus lives with us now. Risen Jesus embodies our triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and their living love overflowing into all creation. In Jesus the Trinity holds the keys to death and the nether-world. Neither image is close to us. However, keys evoke release and freedom to live. Do we believe the risen Jesus frees us from death, creates us for life? Do our choices, our actions, each breath we take embody the Psalmist’s words: my strength and my courage is the Lord?

Peace. One of Jesus’ frequent responses to people was, “Do not be afraid.” He meant deep, interior peace which much frustrates and shatters. Risen Jesus spoke his familiar words to John with a gesture. John wrote: He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. Jesus touched him, who had fallen down before him. Jesus’ touch included John—and us—in Jesus’ indestructible life. The gospel expressed this with another gesture and words: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, [Jesus] breathed on them. Do our choices, our actions, each breath we take reflect being included in risen Jesus’ life?

Testimony. Jesus includes us to share his indestructible life. Jesus desires us who know him to know him better so we may proclaim him and his word with our lives in our relationships and in our choices, actions and each breath we take. That is Christian testimony to Jesus. It is not always easy, and it always requires our effort. At times proclaiming God’s word hurts. Jesus warned that experiences of suffering mark the Christian life. I wonder if the first disciples imagined they would experience fear as their first experience of suffering as their apostolic lives began. The first disciples are a pattern for disciples in every age from theirs to ours. 

Relationship with risen Jesus; peace; and testimony are three ways our Easter faith registers. Faith is not theory but our way of life. We live because Jesus creates us and all people. Jesus dispels fear so we may live peacefully. Jesus includes us in his mission so others may come to know him intimately. The newly initiated among us remind us that cultivating a devoted relationship with Jesus is a lifelong choice. The close of John’s Gospel sounded the ongoing, deepening and living texture of our Resurrection faith. Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, [God’s Son], and that through this [faith] you may have life in his name. And not only us; many others will live faith because of us and through us.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Pause with our triune God.
  • Ask John on Patmos to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: consider telling him what you feel you hide from Jesus. Praise him for his patient attention to you and for the ways he touches you with his risen life.
  • Ask Jesus, the one who lives, for grace to be alert to his presence in your distress as well as joy; and for endurance to be his disciple in our world today.
  • Close saying slowing the Lord’s Prayer, which shapes us to offer peace with generosity rather than fear. That is the finest way we testify to our risen Messiah.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
Wiki-image by GFreihalter of John on Patmos used by CC BY-SA 3.0. Wiki-image of Confession of Thomas is used by{PD-old-100}.
  • Many visit the cave which remembers John and his vision on Patmos: make a virtual tour.

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