Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday word, 14 Apr 13

Risen Is Real, Not Romantic
3Easter (14 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 isn’t about dating the world’s end. In its 22 brief chapters the phrase, I saw, appears more than 50 times. The Book of Revelation is about seeing: it is a graced vision of heaven given an early scriptural witness. That disciple’s vision was not only the revelation about risen Jesus, the vision reveals risen Jesus: “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.” Its seeing seems strange because it communicated in ancient Jewish symbols of prophecy and worship.

One manner John saw the risen Lord, the first and the last, the one who lives [forever though he] was dead, was the paschal Lamb. Paschal means “having suffered,” and John saw standing in the midst of the heavenly throne, angels, living creatures and elders, the Lamb who was slain yet lives. That paschal Lamb is worthy of our worship and ourselves because that Lamb first won victory over evil and death. Even more worthy of our worship is that this Lamb, standing alive though seemingly slain, assures us of his life and heritage now and offers us glimpses of heaven.

Risen Jesus is our paschal Lamb. Risen Jesus lives with us now and gives himself to us not as a feast for our eyes but as food for our journey each day. The Eucharist, the sacrament which sustains baptism, nourishes this vision and deepens it in all who let it. To see this vision is to soak oneself in it. It consoles and comforts despite appearances to the contrary around us: war; hunger; pestilence; disease; vandalism; racism; and fears we can’t imagine afflicting others.

The first hearers of the Book of Revelation suffered severely for their faith in the dead and risen Messiah Jesus. We do not, one reason we find John’s vision so alien, not only its very different symbolic world of expression. John wrote down his vision to comfort those suffering for their faith. Its comfort, like all comfort, does not remove suffering; rather, it assures us that the heritage of the Lamb is also ours. Jesus went through death, and the God of our ancestors raised Jesus.

The message of this heritage is straightforward despite the elaborate imagery of the Book of Revelation. From the 2nd century people were and still are steered away from its straightforward message by its menagerie of beasts, angels, living creatures, elders, locusts, four horses, eagle, as well as earthquakes, plagues, eclipses and its doorway to heaven. The straightforward message of the Book of Revelation is this: God is in charge of the world. Not at all a new message, yet how easily we forget it!

Throughout his ministry Jesus warned that experiences of suffering mark the Christian life. Our suffering will probably pale in comparison with the first audience of the Book of Revelation, the disciples before it, as well as Jesus himself. Instead, subtle temptations surround us and vie for our allegiance not to heed and obey God. To obey God is scriptural language to devote our-selves to God. Often we devote ourselves instead to what opposes Jesus’ ways.

The Book of Revelation prevents us from romanticizing the ways of Jesus. To forget that our risen Lord still carries the marks of his death romanticizes our Messiah Jesus. When we romanticize Jesus; his body, his church; our communion together in his Body and Blood; and the mission on which our Eucharistic communion commits us daily: we lose touch with the heritage of the paschal Lamb, the communion of his saints, and risen Jesus’ desire to nourish us.

Risen Jesus’ desire to nourish his friends is intimate and without pretense. In today’s gospel we met the first disciples still getting used to their risen Lord. Risen Jesus shattered the fear which imprisoned them, yet they gravitated to their familiar, former fishing lives. Risen Jesus met them there again to include them in his mission with familiar words, Follow me. Transformed by his resurrection Jesus’ words, Follow me, are new each moment. Jesus’ words renew us. They make us disciples not romantics duped by spiritual fads or fantasy.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest yourself in our triune God.
  • Ask John on Patmos to present you to risen Jesus.
  • Speak to Jesus about your life and how it moves toward and away from him; of the temptations which vie for your allegiance. Be alert to how Jesus desires to communicate to you after your review of yourself.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be more alert to him walking with you.
  • Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It is Jesus’ living charter for all his disciples.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

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