Saturday, March 29, 2008
When Jesus appears to the disciples on the evening of his resurrection he says, "As the Father has sent me, so I also send you." Just as the people who saw Jesus saw the Father who sent him, whoever sees us is to see Jesus who sent us.
We are to re-present Jesus to our world. To do this we need help.
So immediately after Jesus says, "As the Father has sent me, so I also send you," today's Gospel says '....he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."' When God formed man out of earth God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and brought into existence a human being in God's own image and likeness. Now the Risen Jesus breathes his own Holy Spirit into us and makes us in his own image and likeness. The more we let this Spirit have his way with us, the more we will resemble Jesus, loving everyone we meet, re-presenting Jesus to our time.
Monday, March 24, 2008
I find it very appealing that Mary Magdalene is the first person to see the Risen Jesus. It is her love that takes her alone in the dark to the tomb of Jesus. After Peter and the disciple Jesus loved have left she hangs around sad and confused. Resurrection has changed Jesus so much that when she sees him she thinks he might be the gardner, but when he speaks her name, she recognizes the voice of the one she loves.
She has been a devoted disciple and she calls him "My dear Rabbi" and seems to expect to resume the teacher-disciple relationship that she had with him before. But as she reaches for Jesus he says, "Don't cling to me." Not "Don't touch me," but "Don't hold on to me. Don't try to keep me. Don't expect our relationship to be the same."
In fact the relationship will be deeper, more intimate, closer than it could ever have been before resurrection. The Risen Jesus will share his Spirit with her now and so will be able to live within her.
It is this intimate interior relationship with Jesus that for me is the heart of what Easter means. No matter how intimate any relationship is between two people there is always our bodies that keep us separate. But resurrection has so changed Jesus that he can live within us in the most intimate way. We will never be alone again.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
In John's Gospel right next to Jesus at the Last Supper is someone called simply "the disciple Jesus loved." This is the first time this person is mentioned. He shows up again when Jesus is taken to the high priest's house for trial, and again at the foot of the cross next to the mother of Jesus.
In the first Resurrection story the disciple Jesus loved runs with Peter to the tomb to check out Magdalene's story that the body of Jesus has been stolen. When Peter enters the tomb he finds only the burial cloths. Anyone stealing a body would not take time to unwrap it. When the disciple Jesus loved enters the tomb and sees the cloths, the Gospel says simply, "He saw and believed." The Gospel writer seems to suggest that the love Jesus had for this disciple enabled him to come to faith immediatly.
Each of us is also the disciple Jesus loved. His full and gracious love enables us to believe that he rose form the dead and that he lives within us now in a deep loving relationship.
Saturday, March 22, 2008
i who have died
am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday,
this is the birthday of life
and of love and wings
and the gay great happening
This is one of my favorite e.e.cummings' poems. It helps me think about the New Life that is the Risen Jesus and the exuberance I feel as he shares that Life with me.
I took some time this morning to reflect on some famous paintings of the Resurrection while I listened to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This music never fails to lift me into that joy which is at the heart of Easter.
In his account of that first Easter morning Matthew says, "Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell his disciples." (28:8)
Friday, March 21, 2008
By Christ's blood we were redeemed,
our sins forgiven
through extravagant love.
This verse has meant a lot to me each week when I pray it and is especially meaningful on this Good Friday.
"Extravagant Love" expresses so well what Jesus is all about. Some time ago I read that the story of the Prodigal Son should be called "The Prodigal Father" because God is so wasteful, so extravagant in loving and forgiving us.
John begins the second part of his Gospel, which is often called "The Book of Glory," with the words: "It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to pass over from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love."(13:1) There follows the Last Supper, the Passion and Death of Jesus, and his Resurrection. In his first mention of Jesus' love for his followers, John makes it clear that it is love that informs all the events that follow.
It is Love that hangs on the Cross. In his beautiful and unusual painting "Christ of Saint John of the Cross," Salvador Dali presents the crucified Jesus as if viewed from above by God the Father. The Cross seems to unite heaven and earth.
The outstretched arms of Jesus reach out to us in a loving embrace. A famous 12th century hymn of lamentation, which was often sung in Passion plays, has the line: "Rush to the embrace! While he hangs on the tree of the cross, he offers himself with outstretched arms to the loving for a mutual embrace."
Jesus holds us in his warm embrace forever.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This picture is a detail from DaVinci's Last Supper. It was painted on a wall which turned out to be too moist and the painting is fading away.
At his last supper with his apostles Jesus gave them and us something more permanent to remember him by. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, written about 57 A.D., well before the Gospels, St. Paul tells us, "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'" Each time we celebrate the Lord's Supper Jesus is present with us in a much more vivid way than in the most enduring painting.
I read this passage first thing this morning and soon found myself singing an old love song:
O give me something to remember you by
When you are far away from me.
Some little something meaning love cannot die,
No matter where you chance to be.
Then later in the morning I found a sort of poem called "Friends Meeting" by Michael Moynahan. It ends,
So now it comes down to this: leave-taking.
What to say? What to do?
So much to say, So much to do.
All poured into this last parting gesture:
a sign, a prayer.
Relying on memory's gift
and on what a transformed meal can possibly recall
celebrated miles and years from here and now
with people gathered in his name.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
It is worth noting that those who wrote the Gospels were not interested in stressing the physical pain that Jesus experienced in his passion and death. In Matthew's account of the Passion which we heard on Palm Sunday he handles the crucifixion in five words that are not the main sentence, "After they had crucified him".
Matthew and the other Gospel writers are more interested in the meaning of these events. The faithfulness of Jesus is contrasted with the betrayal of Judas and the denial of Peter. Jesus is faithful to the work that he came to do. He will not let a sword be used to save him nor will he call on armies of angels. Only Matthew gives the words to the second prayer Jesus says in the Garden: "My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done." In the same four words that he taught us to say in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus wants to bring his will in line with the Father's will, to want what God wants. The faithfulness of Jesus gives meaning to all that follows in the Passion. The same Jesus lives in us and can share with us his faithfulness and his willingness to do the Father's will in the face of whatever difficulty or suffering comes our way.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
My first experience hang-gliding gave me a good appreciation of the Paschal Mystery. It was at Kitty Hawk (I took the picture above in far eastern Oregon.) Carrying the glider up the high sand dune in blistering heat was hell. Floating back down was heaven. Pain and joy go hand in hand. The Paschal Mystery is the death and resurrection of Jesus.
"Paschal" comes from the Hebrew word for Passover (which this year is a month later than Easter.) Some version of the word, in fact, is the name for Easter in many countries. Spain has Pascua; French,Paques; Italian,Pasqua. The angel passed over the houses of the Hebrews. God delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and wandering in the desert into the Promised Land. Passover celebrates this great event.
The death and resurrection of Jesus happened during the Jewish celebration of Passover. God delivers Jesus from death into new life. To the two disciples at Emmaus Jesus said, "Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?" In Philippians Paul says that Jesus emptied himself by becoming one of us and dying on the cross, and God raised him up.
God will raise us to new life as well, but first we must die. Death and new life go hand in hand. Hardship and glory are two sides of the same coin. In the days ahead Christians take part in this Paschal Mystery.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Among the four seasons' perpetual jokes
Is the winter appearance of overdressed oaks.
Refusing to fall with the sleet and the snow
Oak leaves cling, lifelike, through fifty-below
Until they are nudged by the force of the sap
Rising to fashion the oak a spring wrap.
I hope when it's autumn and winter for me
I can look as alive as the overdressed tree
And during the lengthening nights I can cling
To my wits and my heart--the tokens of spring--
Only releasing them into the sod
The moment I'm dressed in the glory of God.
(written by the fictional character Richard Falcon
in Jon Hassler's The Dean's List.)
Thursday, March 6, 2008
"Jesus offers you two things: your life has meaning and you are going to live forever. If you get a better offer, take it."
This is a quote from Father Eugene Walsh, the most influential priest in my life. We called him "Gino" and when he died these words were on the cover of the Mass program and on cards that people have cherished for a long time.
It is my belief that I am going to live forever that gives my life here and now meaning. I know that some people can dedicate their lives to art or to social justice, and they say that that gives meaning to their lives. No matter how satisfying the things to which I have dedicated my life, no matter how happy I am right now, that's not enough meaning to satisfy me. I believe that my relationship with God and with all the people that I love in this life will continue on into the next. That's what ultimately gives meaning to my life. I haven't gotten a better offer.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
I just started reading How Big Is Your God: The Freedom to Experience The Divine by Paul Coutinho.
In the Introduction Father Richard Rohr says,
"Organized religion appears to be coming to a significant impasse in many parts of the world....What I see emerging is quite simply a desire for authentic God experience--instead of mere external belief systems, about which we can be right or wrong. People do not feel they have to leave their existing group, call its beliefs into question, or overreact to any particular part that they do not yet understand or agree with. They just quietly move toward a much deeper renewal of encounter at levels of prayer, inner experience, spiritual disciplines, and various kinds of contemplative practice."
Our world seems to be evolving into a new consciousness. Many people hunger for some satisfying experince of the Divine. It is one of the reasons that I chose to come to live here by the lake by myself. The Divine comes to each of us in our own individual way. In everyday ordinary things like shadows on a road. In the extraordinary beauty of snow clinging to pine needles. In a work of art like the movie Juno. If religion is to flourish, it is crucial to encourage this desire for authentic God experience.
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
In John's Gospel, before he raises Lazarus from the dead, Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life." In telling us about Jesus' bringing Lazarus back to the life he had before, John wants to help us look forward in the story to the resurrection of Jesus into new life beyond this one. John also wants to remind us of our resurrection after we die. Resurrection of the body is an important belief of Christians, one of only a dozen or so beliefs professed in the ancient Apostles Creed. Like all important religious beliefs, it is mystery. The Risen Jesus who appears in the Gospels has a body but there are times when his apostles do not recognize him. He is the same yet different. What "resurrection of the body" means for me if that I will be myself for eternity. I will not lose my identity but I will be glorified.
Saturday, March 1, 2008
We get so used to the word "God" that it might tempt us to think that we have a concept of who/what God is.
But whatever we call God can only be a name or symbol that points to the Mystery.
In First Letter of John he says simply, "God is Light." In the great prologue to John's Gospel he tells us, "The Word was the real Light that gives Light to everyone." And in chapter nine of the same Gospel Jesus himself declares, "I am the Light of the world."
"Light" is one of the best names we could use for God. It helps us to reflect on the Brilliance and Glory that God is in Godself. It also helps us to reflect on what God is in relation to us: the One who dispels the darkness of evil that threatens to engulf us.
Light becomes flesh in Jesus and destroys the blindness and the darkness that we choose when we sin. St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians assures us, "You were once darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. Live as children of Light."