Sunday, April 03, 2016

Sunday word, 03 Apr 16

Faith Is Relationship
Second Sunday of Easter C (03 Apr 2016)
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 one early scriptural witness. That witness’ vision is not only a revelation about Messiah Jesus; his 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 Christians who let it. To see with the scriptural witness is to soak ourselves in his vision. It consoles and comforts despite all contrary to it around us: war; hunger; pestilence; disease; racism; poverty—and fears we hesitate to name.

Living the vision has always challenged—the first disciples as well as us. Risen Jesus, the Living One, appeared to his disciples: they did not rejoice for long; they remained behind locked doors. When they let in Thomas, is it any wonder he disbelieved them? Is it any wonder that Risen Jesus, oncedead, but nowalive forever and ever, shakes and shatters all we call real?

What the disciples considered real caused them deep suffering—death took from them their Teacher. Risen Jesus came to console them: with not a word about their betrayal by not standing with him. John wrote down his vision to comfort those who suffered for believing in risen Jesus, he who is alive forever and ever. Not to entrust ourselves to risen Jesus is suffering: it is not what first comes to mind when we consider it. Consider again: probably everyone of us has experienced some sort of grief. It stabs us and warps us in manifold ways. Keeping risen Jesus away from us—or worse, letting him be an idea, however pious—draws us closer to the first disciples than we may imagine.

If we are like the first disciples in their grief, is it impossible to be like them and receive the Spirit of risen Jesus? Receiving is the operative word. Everything the first Christians enjoyed—all the ways they had been touched, transformed and empowered—they received as risen Jesus’ gift to them. Everything they enjoyed was undeserved, unearned; and more real! They gave themselves to risen Jesus and his Spirit-gifts. They cultivated and nourished what they received. For generations of Christians down to us it has been so.

Receiving, giving, entrusting nourishing: they describe humans relating to one another. Christian faith is relationship with the Source of life. How might faith register in us? Let me suggest three ways: freedom; peace; witness.

Freedom. Risen Jesus embodies our triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and their living love overflowing in creation. Jesus reveals the Trinity holds the keys to death and the nether-world. Neither image is close to us; yet keys evoke release, freedom to live. Do we believe risen Jesus frees us from death, creates us for life? Does our relationship with risen Jesus shape how we choose, act and breathe our faith-commitment to him? The more it does, the more free we are as his disciples today. Being Christian disciples responds to being touched, transformed, empowered by our crucified and risen Messiah.

Peace. Jesus often encouraged,“Do not be afraid.” He offered deep, interior peace which much frustrates and crushes. On Patmos 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 embraced John 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 let others feel we have been embraced in risen Jesus’ life?

Witness. Embraced by risen Jesus’ indestructible life does not leave us feeling smug or locked in ourselves or our trusted groups. Embraced by risen Jesus’ indestructible life issues in mission. Jesus desires us who know him to know him better so we may proclaim him and his life with our lives: in our relationships, choices, actions and each breath we take. That is Christian witness, testimony to Jesus. It is not always easy, and is itself a choice. At times proclaiming God’s word hurts. Jesus warned that experiences of suffering mark the Christian life. No less real is having no commitment and  its fog that darkens daily living.

Relationship with risen Jesus causes us to shine. It registers as freedom, peace and Christian witness. Faith is not theory but our way of living. We live because Jesus creates us and all people. His recreating 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.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week
  • Rest in our triune God.
  • Ask John on Patmos to present you to Jesus.
  • Chat with him: Praise him for dying and rising for you; thank 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 slowly the Lord’s Prayer. It 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

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