Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday word, 21 Apr 2013

Already and Not Yet
4Easter (21 Apr 2013)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
The Gospel of John, prominent in Lent and Easter, opens in its unique way. No genealogy, annunciations or nativity like Matthew and Luke. Nor like Mark, who painted the Baptizer’s ministry to prepare the way for Jesus. John began with 18-verses about the Word of God,1 who is God’s only begotten son.2 Jesus both revealed God3 and offered life;4 Jesus continues revealing God and offering life by his Spirit. The opening verses of the Fourth Gospel work as a table of contents. Later chapters expand the gospel’s opening images and convictions.

Our gospel selection highlighted Jesus as giver of life. Jesus gives no ordinary life but eternal life. We may quickly think “everlasting,” but the point is not time but a share in divine life. Jesus can give that because the gospel’s table of contents cued us that Jesus was in the beginning with God.5 So we grasp that, Jesus said to us in today’s gospel, “The Father and I are one.” 

We also heard Jesus say, “I give them eternal life.” His grammar is telling: I give is present; now. You and I already share the divine life risen Jesus offers. None of us needs anyone to tell us that our share in divine life is partial. We are well aware that the effects of sin still mar us and all creation. Yet our desire to know6 and welcome Jesus into our lives; our sharing in worship and the sacraments; our belief in his name give us new life as children of God,7 shorthand for being reborn by God.8

Along with this already—sharers in God’s life—is a promised not yet. The community of the Book of Revelation already shared in God’s life. Many suffered alienation and persecution for it. Their present share in divine life would not be snuffed out even if their human lives were violently ended. A great tribulation appeared to annihilate them, but Jesus, the Lamb, who also had suffered the tribulation of his cross, shepherded them will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water. Jesus, who had suffered the tribulation of his cross and was raised to absolutely new and indestructible life, assured their future life like his.

John on Patmos, we heard, received a graced vision of that future:

I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

What might we take from this portion of his vision? Two things suggest themselves.

First: those who suffered for giving witness to Jesus, shared the witness of Jesus, who was slain but now lives9 and ransomed humans—past, present and future—by his blood.10 “But it is not only the martyrs who share in his passion by their glorious courage,” St. Leo reminded us; “the same is true, by faith, of all who are reborn through baptism. ...our sharing in the body and blood of Christ [changes] us into what we receive. As we have died with him, and have been buried and raised to life with him, so we bear him within us, both in body and in spirit, in everything we do.”11 

Second: our already and not yet. Both fairly respond to any who ask us to describe our Catholic faith. Because risen Jesus lives among us now by his Spirit his victory is ours already. We experience it without now living the heavenly life. It registers in daily living as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.12 The not yet of Jesus’ victory he guards for us. It is more than we can imagine. Even if we received a vision of it, like John on Patmos, our words to describe it would fall over themselves and fail to do it justice. Instead, we begin anew each day and desire to know and welcome Jesus into our lives; to share in worship and the sacraments; and to live in ways that respect others, protect them and creation and act in peace to build peace. Our already is not less important than our promised not yet. Living our already is how we gain our promised future.

In your daily 15 minutes 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; and how Jesus is leading and guiding you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be more alert to him walking with you and to follow him more closely.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave us his words for us to keep close the already of new life in him and the not yet of its promised fullness.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise
Wiki-images of the Good Shepherd and of adoration of the Lamb in the public domain.

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