This is what its all about! An Easter reflection.

This is what it’s about!

With so many readings available for Sunday’s gospel alone (to say nothing of the vigil) I will need to do something a little different this week instead of the gospel reflection. After all, this week is like no other.

When I was studying Christology at uni, I remember the lecturer saying that the message of Jesus (primarily his call to repentance and renewal) was a message that came in and out of fashion prior to his coming. There have been many people who have called the Israelites to repentance. A clear example of this is John the Baptist but there were others.

Naturally the discussion in the common room was, “Well, what made Jesus’ message so special? Much of what he preached was a message already heard.” There were changes and enough unique elements to distinguish his teaching from others, but really, there was nothing new about the general message of repentance, love and relationship.

Then it dawned on us! Oh, it must be that whole resurrection thing! That will make you sit up and take notice!

It can be easy sometimes to overlook the resurrection and especially its significance. Yet it is the core of our faith (when we sometimes skirt the edges); it is the historically pivotal moment (when we are sometimes concerned with the immediate); it is the cause of our hope and joy (when we sometimes despair).

The resurrection is THE sign of everlasting life. It witnesses to the person of Jesus; to who he is.

The resurrection is the singular sign of God. The crucifixion is significant and fundamental for our redemption, don’t get me wrong. But Jesus was not the only person crucified. He was not the first nor was he the last. Though it’s hard to compare it, Jesus may not have suffered as much as others – some early church martyrs went through hell on earth. The crucifixion, though necessary, does not witness to God and the suffering, no matter how redemptive, also falls short of equal witness. It is the act of the resurrection that witnesses to God so profoundly.

But why?

The resurrection reveals to us the uniqueness of Jesus. This is important because it identifies who he is: the second person of the Holy Trinity. It is because of who he is that makes this crucifixion so important. It is because of who he is that makes the suffering redemptive. It is because of who he is that makes the sacrifice efficacious. If the resurrection never happened we would never have recognized Jesus as God.

Incomprehensible! Imagine that. Imagine the joy! You’ve watched your friend, your teacher, your leader die a bloody and public death. And yet here he is; alive more than ever. How in God’s good name…?

Confusion. You’re wanting to believe, but it’s just too unbelievable. Back from the dead? Really? But it was upon seeing when John believed and realized they had failed to understand the scriptures – the scriptures, not the miracle.

As with every other miracle we don’t know how it happened. There is no record of the economy of the resurrection. What we do have is an empty tomb, the cloths and witnesses: witnesses who live in the hope of everlasting life even though they (we) don’t understand it.

Hope is real, as real as love. But this doesn’t have to be a feeling, though it could be. Once a hope has been fulfilled that’s when we encounter a sense of relief, a sense of joy, a sense of awe and wonder. We may not always experience (or rather, feel) these in this life, though we could, but we will in the next. “Our hope is in The Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Do our actions bear witness to the resurrection? Do we live in hope? Do we join our sacrifices to his in an act of redemptive suffering? We live in the knowledge of everlasting life and the privilege of hope post-resurrection. What impact has this had in your life? On the lives of those you know?

 

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The Passion of Christ; the Compassionate God. (Holy Week)

The week that changed the world. 

The renewal, restoration and redemption of humanity. 

There are many descriptions for the most dramatic week the world has seen: the week most accurately observed as the Passion. And so this Sunday it begins; the renewal, the restoration, the redemption. Oh the humanity! 

As one who hopes for ordination into the diaconate at some unspecified and ambiguous future time, and as a lover of the Sacred Catholic Liturgy when done well (let’s not go there today), I know there is a beautiful line that the Deacon says in mass that many people don’t hear. The line expresses perfectly what this week is all about.

“By the mixing of this water and wine may we share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity”.

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Nothing more to be said really. There it is. Plain as day. But let’s have closer look at it.

It was God’s plan that we were made in the image and likeness of God. But without going through all salvation history – there was an apple, a snake, a flood, the temple, some exiling, the Romans, and here we are – God saw fit to correct our sins by sending us his Son. There are more scriptural references to this than to anything else. And many more writings of the Early Church Fathers, as is the significance of such a week. The restoration made possible by the passion of Jesus enables us to become in his image once again; one who walks with God in paradise. Redemption is made possible because of the atoning nature of Jesus’ self sacrifice. The debt has been repaid; through him all things can be made right again. “The truest sign of grace was this: from wounded hands redemption fell down, liberating man!” (Wholly Yours – David Crowder Band). Through restoration and redemption the renewal is made. In one fell swoop God intervenes in humanity like that not seen since creation: rightfully observed as a new creation.

But recreated as what?     

Because Jesus has made all things new through his death (and the resurrection) we can partake in heavenly things more fully. We can partake in the divinity of Christ more fully through the sacraments, and the Prime Sacrament, the Eucharist. During the liturgy we recognize the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Similarly, the wine after consecration becomes the blood of Christ; the blood through which we have redemption, the remission of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). But it is not only redemption and remission that the blood of Christ enables, it also unites believers for he makes peace by the blood of the cross (Col 1:20). United, redeemed, restored, renewed, forgiven. Praised be to God. 

But he didn’t just click his fingers and, Boom! All done! (Though he could have, as sterile, distant and heartless as it would have been.) God chose to be one of us, to feel like us, to do those things we do everyday. He even died like us. But He loved like God. He showed us so much, but his love for God underlined all he did. It is seen through his love for us. His love for us strengthened his in the hours of need. He thought of us while upon the cross. He thought of YOU. YOU were the one he was saving. YOU have had your sins forgiven. YOU he loves to death. Talk about  compassion! He who is divine shed his blood for your sake. He who is divine humbled himself so that you may share in his divinity.

In what ways can we share in his divinity? By following the examples of Christ are we compassionate to others? Not only compassionate, but are willing to sacrifice for them? For God? He died for you; what are you wiling to do for him? After all, there is the resurrection still to come! Do not be afraid to live for death, even death on a cross. It is always about the love of God, the loss of his Son’s life, and the lifting of the veil for all humanity. He has given you life! Live it!  

Of Love, Life, Light and Frustration: A reflection on this weeks Gospel (John 11:1-45)

After a short stint in a cave, Jesus brings Lazarus – and I – out of it back to life; back into the light! (Who doesn’t like a metaphor?) Just as Lazarus has been loosened from his binds, so too have I. And so life carries on, and caves remain. In examining the story of Lazarus much can be read from it and in it, as is the way with much of scripture. Of these, here is what I wish to bring forth.

On finding out that Lazarus is dead, Jesus remains with his disciples rather than leaving straight away. The usual response is to run to comfort or aid the remaining loved ones. Yet Jesus, as usual, works on his own schedule, not ours. But his waiting is to give glory to God. (I wonder what would have occurred during this time? The awkward conversations; the forced normality of life with mentions of Lazarus breaking through.)

How many times do we pray to God expecting things to be done in our timing, not his? In these times, his waiting can still bring glory to God today.

Martha in catching up to Jesus states a perfect act faith: she is seeing the light of which is spoken. Her faith though remains incomplete no matter how more advanced it might be compared to the disciples. In response to Martha, Jesus confirms that he is the Resurrection and the life: a fairly ambiguous association which alludes understanding today, though many have tried. Nonetheless this association is confirmed later in the story with his display of power. Faith precedes power, or as some might say, works.

After waiting patiently for Jesus to come, a time which gives glory to God, do we have faith that he will deliver? He exceeds expectations! He not only fulfills our needs, he gives us more than we could ever imagine! No eye has seen, no ear has heard…

There is a word in this passage – a part of the smallest phrase in the whole bible – which is most commonly interpreted as “wept”, as in Jesus wept. This is not the best translation, according to my lecturer anyway. He says the word is commonly used to describe a horses bray. This though seems to not make sense. Why would Jesus make to sound of a horse? I understand this best that the sound Jesus made is from a sense of frustration. Jesus had been doing all these miracles, for all the world to see, and despite his best efforts they are still not believing in who he says he is; “I AM”. All except for Martha who had already professed her faith in him. On making the sound of frustration, the Jewish leaders sarcastically say, “Look how much he loved him?” The voice of skepticism.

Amid seeming loneliness, doubt and confusion we too can question “how much does God love me?” Despair and rejective doubt breeds contempt, which places our own knowledge above that of God’s. Do we truly let God work in his way, in his time? Trust and know that he is God.

The resurrection of Lazarus, a forerunner of the resurrection of Jesus, comes amid the doubt, confusion and despair. This contributes to Jesus’ frustration. He has worked in his time, in his way, in the very eyes of his skeptics. Taken as a slap in the face by some – and wonderment by others – Jesus continues to distinguish true believers of God from those who seem so: those who live in the light and those who remain in darkness, those who seek eternal life (which the resurrection allows) and those who do not seek it. The distinction is made with love: the love Jesus has for Lazarus and for Martha.

A final word on the different resurrections (Jesus’ and Lazarus’). The rock was rolled away at Jesus’ summoning; Lazarus was summoned out by Jesus; his binding was loosened on Jesus’ command. This is the way John the Evangelist depicts Jesus’ command over death.

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