Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday word, 04 May 14

A Phrase and a Presence
Easter Sunday3 A (04 May 2014)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
We may join the two disciples on their way…to Emmaus at any juncture. I will join them at the place of four words: was it not necessary. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer [crucifixion and death] and enter his glory? Two things about the phrase. First: it is necessary was a three-letter word available to Luke. He used it in his story of Jesus at turning points to disclose God was shaping the story. Translating it with have to and must dims Luke’s meaning. Second: it is necessary has no person acting. Personal action would be: Mary remembered all that had been said, pondering them in her heart.1

When no human can affect what is happening in his story of Jesus, Luke used the phrase it is necessary to alert us that God shaped things for human salvation. God completed the work of our salvation in ways beyond understanding—not to mention good taste. Our best authority for that is Jesus. He told his disciples at the Last Passover he ate with them: I tell you it is necessary that the Scripture be fulfilled in me: ‘He was numbered with the lawless.’ Indeed, that which concerns me has its fulfillment.”2

God acted with our salvation at heart. Nothing or no one could stop it: thus the phrase, it is necessary. Nor was God’s action distant: it happened in Jesus. Salvation, God’s desire, came to term in Jesus: that which concerns me has its fulfillment in me. To the two disciples on their way…to Emmaus Jesus remembered Scriptures for them. To get a feel for that we may recall how Luke remembered the boy Jesus.

When Jesus was 12 his parents took him to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.3 When they left with their traveling companions Jesus stayed behind without their knowing. That led to their three-day, frantic, anxiety-ridden search. At finding him what did Jesus say? “Why did you seek me? Did you not know it is necessary that I be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand him.

When a child is lost—even momentarily—anguished fear falls like a tsunami over parents and guardians. Take it from me: I routinely wandered from my parents, sister, aunt and uncle. Shopping and other outings began after lectures from them at home and before leaving the car!

Some of those lectures echoed Luke’s imagery: losing me was death and finding me was life. Luke words: my son…was dead and has come alive; he was lost and has been found.4 Our experience as parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles makes sense of Luke’s imagery. It also connects us with Mary and Joseph and the two disciples on their way together. Let me suggest one way.

My teacher called Jesus and his earthly ministry an “open secret”: Jesus served, healed, taught, celebrated and suffered for all to see; yet few, his disciples included, understood him. Mary and Joseph received angelic prophecy about Jesus before his birth. Yet Jesus asked his parents when they found him after three days why they sought him. They were astonished. The two disciples on their way…to Emmaus had lost their hoped-for redeemer. They were astonished. They were astonished on the third day angels asked women they knew, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead—and lost?”5 Connections you are making between a promised son and a crucified Messiah link you with Mary and Joseph and the  the two disciples on their way…to Emmaus. 

The growing boy Mary and Joseph found and took home had begun to inhabit God’s desires. In Nazareth Jesus’ presence with his parents was a different sort than they had known. For the two disciples on their way…to Emmaus Jesus recalled in the Scriptures God’s desires to save through him. Then Jesus broke bread: their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Yet he vanished from their sight. Vanished yet present: his presence with them—and us—is different. It is more powerful than anyone’s presence.

We give a personal name to the manner of risen Jesus’ presence: Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is the person inside the impersonal phrase, it is necessary. Holy Spirit mothers faith anew in us from the womb of Scriptures we remember yet again. Holy Spirit helps us imitate the two disciples, who rushed to the Eleven to share the truth that the Lord has truly been raised! When we let that truth reshape our words and deeds, we assure that wherever we are risen Jesus will abide as an open secret: open because he is available through our Christian living; secret only in that we do not control his presence is. He is a temporary secret until his glorious return.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask the two disciples to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with Jesus: praise and thank him for fulfilling all Scripture to die and rise for you.
  • Ask Jesus for grace to be like the two disciples: to long for what he promised; and to make him an open secret where you live, work and play.
  • Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words, give us…our daily bread, remind us risen Jesus responds to us and our needs with himself. His Spirit-presence may surprise us; it may feel remote; it will even enflame our hearts to do what we never dreamed—like the saints.

Link to this homily’s Spiritual Exercise

  1. Luke 2.19.
  2. Luke 22.37.
  3. Luke 2.41-50.
  4. Luke 15.24…32.
  5. Luke 24.6.

No comments: