Every aspect of life is monitored and controlled by systems and their norms which we know and try to observe. System is effective in how we think, act and comport ourselves. Hope emerges from within all this not as an escape from dead-end living, nor as the natural completion of what we are already doing but as an unexpected breakthrough, an open door where there seemed to be no way out – because it is not where we tend to look.
The common understanding of hell is the violent separation of the good from the bad – where we have lost the Good News. This is system – a story already told, and when based on the final redemption of all – through God’s mercy: a drama with a beginning and a happy ending. There is no need for hope! If the story is already known – there is no place for it. The Good News is that system is not essential, we can leave it and discover what hope really means.
Revelation shows us how hope was born for the women at the tomb – out of what made them run away in fear [how often do we hear Jesus say don’t be afraid?] Nothing could ever be the same again after Easter Day. There is no system that can show us how to experience life that survives death and actually includes death. Jesus did not die and then come back to life, he is at one and the same time dead and alive – which is why there is such emphasis on the five wounds. Death has been emptied of its power by love at its very best. This is how the women’s fear was transformed [not ignored] into hope. When Revelation concludes with Maranatha [come Lord Jesus] we are asking that the forgiving victim be present with us – do not be afraid, it’s only me and I love you.
Is not our deepest desire to be desired by another for who we are, just as we are? This may be true but there is much more. We grow into desiring in imitation of what he have seen in others. They have a nice car, I’d like something like that. We are recreated, not by someone desiring us, but by what that desiring brings about in us – the Resurrection urges us to love as we are being loved. It means having the freedom to accept God’s love. Love creates only lovely things, love created me so I can rejoice that I am lovely, lovable and able to love.
For this to happen I need to let go of all concerns about worthiness. How awkward this can be comes out when we reflect: if you give a friend a present and then you say thank-you, how much do I owe you? We would be taken aback – so why do we do it with God? He has given us to ourselves as gift – why do we ask what do we owe – keep the rules – go to Church? We need to become less concerned about our reputation to make room for being loved and wanting to love. This love will know nothing of revenge or needing to blame, and so embraces the persecutor as well as the persecuted [with God it is always all] no matter how late we turn up for work. No mortgage.
When we stand free of concern for reputation, and from the need to settle old scores through our minds now fixed on things above – then we are beginning to love our neighbour without discrimination [which is what things above means].
The central theme of Easter is that Jesus was present to them as forgiveness – and more, it is resurrection in the flesh not just a purely spiritual happening. Jesus walked with them entirely imbued by the ever present love between Abba and the Son – the Spirit. Such living is totally removed from any shadow of death – death has no place in this way of life [as is the case with the life we know now].
The only reason there is Christianity is Easter. The Resurrection was not a miracle happening within our understanding of God, but the way God makes it possible for us to respond to the presence of God. This is the Resurrection, Jesus enjoying this way of living including his death. This is why he told the Sadducees: You are very much mistaken. Every reality from within the death culture cannot speak adequately of God. God’s love is totally unaffected by death, also death was not a necessary separation – love carries on being mutual and complete even through death.
With the Resurrection we receive the grace [gift] to experience the presence of God, not just know about it. Access to God’s way of revealing is not ours by nature but by grace. This is revealed through the Resurrection, not because it never existed before, but we cannot understand with minds clouded by death. This man who is dead is alive. It is the total immanence of God – God totally involved with us – that is God’s transcendence.
This has something to say about sin. The Resurrection reveals there is no divine necessity for death; death is present as something that is – but now we see it does not have to be. Not only is our understanding of God very much mistaken, but contrary to the understanding God desires us to have. Death is a human reality; and as such is sinful. Putting Jesus to death shows how we are actively involved in death-dealing. The necessity of human death is a necessity born of sin. For us death is not just passive to be endured, but also what we actively deal out.
God did not raise Jesus simply to show his immunity from death, or to rescue him. Jesus is raised for us. The victim of our death-dealing ways is raised up as forgiveness: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him – John.3.16-17. Death is seen as a human reality infected with sin, but it is a human reality capable of being forgiven by exposure to love – greater love there is not than you die for another.
None of this happens for the benefit of God – it is all for us, when forgiveness enters into human death. Forgiveness, the fruit of the Resurrection is not about what we have done or failed to do, but what up until now we had believed what was natural for us. If death is something that can be forgiven, we are wrong, not just about God but also about ourselves.
If God can raise someone from the dead in human history what we thought as being inevitable [death as the end] is clearly not so. It is not just a biological reality but a cultural one – and so is capable of change. Sin as related to death need not be. God created us mortal – mortality means experiencing death – we need to ponder on how death would have been experienced if there had been no sin. This has implications for understanding Original Sin – what we are as human beings moving towards death – now seen as capable of forgiveness.
One time I thought it was my brain
That made the songs I sing;
But now I know it is a heart
That loveth every thing.
And while his heart’s blood feeds his brain.
To keep it warm and young
A man can live a hundred years,
And day break into song.
Here, for Mary Magdalene, are two more stanzas from The Song of Love by W.H. Davies.
Which sit well with three verses from Psalm 119 (145-147):
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord!
I will keep your statutes.
I call to you; save me,
that I may observe your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I hope in your words.
Mary rose before dawn – but was there hope in her heart that Easter morning? She did not give in to despair, but rose before dawn to make her way with her women friends to observe the laws and anoint the body of their Beloved.
Their hearts were still full of love and that daybreak her brain caught up with her heart and hope rose within her. ‘Rabboni!’ (John 20:16).
We celebrate that moment in song to this day:
Dic nobis, Maria.
Quid vidisti in via?
Sepulchrum Christi viventis
Et gloriam vidi resurgentis.
Sudarium et vestes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea;
Praecedet suos in Galilaeam.
Tell us Mary Magdalene, say, what you saw when on your way.
I saw the tomb where Christ had lain; I saw his glory as he rose again;
Napkin and linen clothes, and Angels twain.
Yes, Christ my hope is risen, and he will go before you into Galilee.
I love watching for sunrises
I mean surprises
proclaiming without fanfare that
we are not selfish
pre-determined muddles but have
at least a sky’s worth
of space in us just waiting for
that warm sunrise of
empathy and so here is one
Mister Darwin sir
fossils prove Neandertals cared
for the weakest ones
in their tribe and didn’t leave them
to die oh surprise
for love loved the most fragile and
not just the fittest
and survives from barely biped
to barely upright
humans God I love sunrises
Sister Johanna sees more sunrises than most of us. If I got up as early as she does, with a ladder and some glasses I could see to Minster marshes – if it wasn’t for the houses in between. Let’s enjoy her sharing the blessings of sunrise. An appropriate image to ponder when we have the feast of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth tomorrow, a truly ‘warm sunrise of empathy’ and a neat challenge to Darwin.
Last Easter – well last Low Sunday – we visited Plowden, a small country church which would have been crowded if seventy people had gathered there. It was comfortably full, and comfortably friendly.
The priest, Fr David, was a visitor as well. If his homily had been written down, I would have published it here, but he said that he prepares his homilies and then lets them flow, hoping that the Holy Spirit can get a word in edgeways.
Well, the Spirit made an impression. One thing I will share. I paraphrase, wishing I could have recorded Fr David’s every word:
Saint John wrote for us, knowing that a different sort of Faith would be needed after Jesus had gone. We should be grateful to him for showing the disciples not understanding Jesus, betraying him – except John himself who stood by the Cross to the end. And we should be grateful to Thomas for his doubts – people do not come back to life, do they? Saint John tells us what we need to hear, that the twelve, whom Jesus had trained up for three years, doubted, let him down.
But Jesus came back, smiling, with no recriminations, just ‘Peace be with you’, and ‘touch my wounds.’
+ + + + +
And those are two excellent mottos for our task of spreading the Good News.
Image from http://www.otherood-devos.com/2015/04/believe.html
‘He reproached them for their obstinacy and incredulity because they had refused to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.’
There is a strong temptation in me not to believe good news until it is proved to me beyond doubt. Perhaps, somehow, experience has taught me that it’s less of a trauma to be proved wrong by good news than to hope for good news and be let down by bad.
The challenge I take from Jesus’ reproach is this: can I praise and thank God for His goodness to me before seeing the desired outcome to my prayers? What if I don’t see the results I hoped for? If I believe God is the Lord of my whole life and is all good and directs everything for my good then I should be able to praise Him whatever happens in my life. But the temptation is always to wait and see God’s goodness proved on my terms before I will trust Him.
I feel God is currently asking me to take up the challenge of the advance ‘thank You’. Can I offer God right now the unseen outcome of all my intentions, and thank and praise Him in advance? I pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to move me, like the eleven disciples, from a default state of disbelief towards the astonishing ‘assurance’ shown by Peter and John in proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:13-21).
Image from: http://fatherkevinestabrook.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/homily-easter-friday-2016.html
‘None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, “Who are you?”
I was wondering why such a question would even arise? Didn’t the disciples know what Jesus looked like after going around with him for three years?
Then it occurred to me that perhaps Jesus’ appearance was different after the Resurrection. After all, the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognise Him either. It was only Jesus’ familiar actions – breaking bread, feeding and caring for them, creating miracles of abundance that gave Him away.
The lesson from this for the disciples is that, from now on, the Christ will be recognised not by an individual physical appearance but by what he does. That is why He asks Peter to feed and care for the people of God, continuing His ministry. It applies to us, His followers, who continue His mission today. People should be able to recognise Christ in us by our actions: breaking bread in the Eucharist, feeding and caring for people, trusting in the Father’s providence for our needs.
I ask God to keep reminding me that my actions should always be those of Jesus, to witness that He is alive in the world today.
Amen – alleluia!
Image from: http://theproclaimedword.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/disbelieving-and-wondering-luke-2436-48.html
… While I was still with you…
Luke 24:35-48 ”
So if He was no longer with them, saying those words, … where was He? Two of the disciples, just returned from Emmaus, were sharing their memories of meeting Jesus.
This was when they became aware of Him ‘among them’.
It does not say He walked in or even ‘appeared’ so we don’t know how long He had been there, but while they were talking about Him, He stood among them. Perhaps Jesus’ reference to being ‘with you’ in the past tense, implied a different mode of presence from that the disciples were experiencing, post-Resurrection. Jesus, having entrusted Himself to His friends in His words and in the breaking of bread, would now be present ‘among them’ in the sharing of His memory and His love.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus walked beside the disciples as they were discussing their memories of Him. He explained to them how to find Him in the Scriptures. Then He brought them to recognise Him in the breaking of bread. When they finally realised that He had been present as they shared His memory on the road, in the sharing of Scripture and in the sharing of bread, Jesus disappeared. Why?
Perhaps He had only appeared to their eyes in order to teach them how He would be present to them from now on. He would not need to walk physically ‘with’ them as a man because His life had been completely shared ‘among them’ and entrusted to them for the spreading of His Kingdom.
Image from http://www.metrovoice.net/2009/0409_stlweb/0409_articles/crushing_weight_of_the_gethsemane.html
Jesus, in order to redeem the world, had to go through a trial – a period in which he had to give up his life. Christ almost wanted to avoid it, but he surrendered to the will of his Father, I would say there was a time in my life I didn’t want to continue living. I told God “that is it, I have had enough.” Often, I pray “let the will of God be done” but sometimes the will of God is not always as sweet or simple as I would wish it.
I was having difficulty singing – not that I didn’t have a good voice to sing, but I found that in the middle of the singing my voice would change completely. The most painful thing was, I was always reminded of how my voice affected everyone. My last option was to stop singing.
One day, I thought: “what if I ask God to sing in me?” At that moment, I decided to hand over the situation to God, to lead the way.
My singing pattern changed. I became happy with myself. Only through God and in God can I/we achieve that which seems impossible in the eyes of men and women.
We are celebrating today the resurrection of Christ because Christ relied on and believed in his Father’s ability to see him through his agony. So it shall be for all of us who believe and trust in God. We shall be victorious no matter what challenge we face in our life’s journey.
Image from http://breakopenword.blogspot.co.uk/
“Do not be afraid…Go and tell…”
These are usually God’s instructions to the prophets. Jesus is giving the women a mission as the first prophets of the Resurrection. These women looked after him in Galilee and followed him to Judea to continue caring for him. They were the ones who stayed closest to Jesus in His darkest hour and even prepared him for burial. Now, by God’s design, they are the first to see Jesus after his Resurrection.
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent taught the woman a lesson that she passed on to the man – to trust her own will more than her Creator. That message caused both man and woman to separate themselves from God. So, from Genesis onward, generations of people blamed woman for the Fall of humanity. She was treated as inferior to man, who dominated her.
In the garden of the Resurrection, God entrusts to women a message for men that will save all humans and reunite us with our Creator: Jesus has undone death and is coming to be with you again.
Later, Jesus will have to reproach the apostles for refusing to believe his chosen messengers.
I pray that I, like those women, may remain faithful to Jesus, trusting in his will and eager to carry it out.
Image from http://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/april2013p3.htm
Easter Sunday Morning Year A
John 20: 1-9
‘…linen cloths on the ground.’
When a person has conquered the fear of death, there is nothing left to fear in life. He/she has complete freedom of soul and peace of mind. Fear and death both come into the world in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, feeling shame for the first time, cover their bodies and hide from the Lord.
In the garden of the Resurrection, Jesus, having conquered death and fear, leaves his covering behind in the tomb and comes out into the open, fearless and naked as a new-born human.
St. Francis intuits what it means to be freed from fear by Christ’s Resurrection. When he comes out of hiding from his earthly father and openly claims his Father in heaven, he also sheds all his clothes, facing his new life with the fearless innocence Christ has won for him. Now that he can even look on death as a sister and a blessing, he no longer finds any enemies in God’s creation – only sisters and brothers.
Father, may we, in union with Christ, be unbound from all our fears and claim our true created nature in the power of his Resurrection. Amen.