Friday, April 20, 2012

Easter Joy: The Union of Glory and Peace

3rd Sunday in Easter Cycle B 2012 –

Incredulous for joy.  This phrase is the reason that Easter is the longest season of celebration in the Church liturgical year.  Let’s recap the some of the things that happened in the few days following the Resurrection.  First, we are given an empty tomb then an appearance of Jesus in the locked room, then another on the road to Emmaus, then again in a locked room and then finally on the shore of the sea with Peter.  In all of these instances, the disciples have a new encounter and level of intimacy with Jesus.  First his body is missing from the tomb.  Not only did Jesus die, but now they don’t even have a way to memorialize him.  Then he appears to them and they lay eyes on him.  Jesus allows them to come so close to him they could experience his scent again and touch his hands, his feet and his side so they can feel his flesh and living body.  Jesus walks with them to Emmaus and opens their minds to the scriptures.  Jesus eats fish and breaks bread with them and sparks a taste for belief in their hearts.  Finally, Jesus enters the heart of his church by Peter’s affirmation that ‘Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.’ During these 40 days of Easter and 10 days of preparation for Pentecost, Jesus slowly reintroduces all the senses of his disciples to his risen presence; their sight, scent, touch, taste, hearing, and finally their minds and hearts. 
I think for most Catholics, the death of Jesus is very fresh.  More than other Christians, we emphasize this aspect of the story we have been instructed to tell.  But we have also been instructed to live the Easter truth.  Just as we limited our senses during Lent through fasting and abstinence, prayer and almsgiving, now we need to be reintroduced to the fullness of life that is promised in the Resurrection.
Take a moment now and think about where you are on your Easter journey.  Did you make it to the empty tomb?  Have you placed your eyes on Jesus or your hand in his hand?  Have you heard his word and opened your mind to its movement in your life?  Have you confessed your love and welcomed his challenge to serve in your heart?
Incredulous for joy.  The disciples were and we still are incredulous for joy. Mistrusting.  Disbeliefing.  Sceptical. Unwilling.  Those are all synonyms for incredulous.  Just like the disciples, we are being led through a never before conceived journey by a man who was dead.  Disbelief is only rational in that circumstance.
When I consider the concept of joy, I always think of Christmas.  Joy to the world, the Lord has come; Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.  Now some of you probably think I just relate everything to Christmas, and you may be right, but this one is actually legitimate. 
I think of joy as the coexistence of glory and peace.  God’s Glory is an aw-inspiring and terrifying thing.  Peace is finding the right fit, coming to rest, being settled in one’s choices and convictions.  When you combine something that is terrifying and also just feels right, you have joy.
Think of the Bruins winning the Stanley cup last year.  They are at the height of their sport and given an enormous parade to glorify their achievement.  The players could all rest with the peace of mind that they did it, they won.  It was a contagious feeling of joy. 
During the Easter season, and the first few encounters of Jesus with his disciples, we see the glory of God in the fact that a man, who said he was God, and did things to prove it, and then died, is now standing before them.  Jaw-dropping disbelief and terrify display of glory; that would be my reaction.  As doubting Thomas exclaimed to Jesus: “My Lord and My God.”  And as Peter tells us today in the Acts of the Apostles:The God of Abraham, [the God] of Isaac, and [the God] of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus” (3:13).  In the face of all this glory, what is the first thing Jesus says to his disciples?  “Peace be with you.” Jesus repeatedly offers them peace. Jesus wants them to see that their belief in him and their conviction to follow him are choices they can rest in and glory in. Jesus wants the glory they are witnesses of to feel right, so they can become bearers of peace from the overflowing joy of their experience.  Jesus wants this to be “truly perfected in us” (1 John 2:5).  The way Jesus eases his disciples into his Resurrection and offers them peace, is such a compassionate, temperate and understanding outreach.
Now, we don’t have the freshness of these events, so how do we process all of this?  How do we transition?  The liturgy of the Church tries to help us experience this Resurrection.  From the bleak days of Lent through the solemn days of Holy Week culminating in the glorious light of the Easter Vigil and Easter celebrations of peace triumphing over violence and death, the Church is inviting us to embrace the sacramental life that renews our senses and the Church is inviting us to engage our Catholic imagination that revels in the joy that is produced by the coexistence of glory and peace. 
In other words, go nuts with baskets of eggs and chocolate bunnies!  Have ham and turkey.  Indulge those things you had sacrificed over lent.  But allow your senses to experience these things anew.  Return to the sacraments of the Church like a child.  Confess your sins and leave them behind you.  Receive Holy Communion like never before saying with Thomas, My Lord and My God.  Serve your neighbor and smile at a stranger and realize that just as Jesus can enter into a locked room and offer peace, he can also enter the hearts of those you share love with.
The glory of Easter is unbelievable. The peace of Easter is a gift.  If you ever wonder why they used the word incredulous, just remember it is because of the union between glory and peace. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  And let us pray that the joy of Easter will be what we share.  Blessed be God forever.

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Ps 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9; 1 Jn 2:1-5a; Lk 24:35-48

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