Strangers Along The Way

Luke 24: 13-35

The two had recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

I certainly don’t need to tell anyone about the connection we have come to make when Luke mentions the “breaking of the bread”.  It’s of course what we do here each Sunday when we gather at this table.  It is central to who we are as a people.  However, we probably have overdone it at times through our history, focusing simply on the “breaking of the bread” and not paying much attention or giving much credence to the other half of what they recount, which is what happened on the way and their lived experience of the Christ in the form of a stranger as they make the walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus.

That phrase, “the way,” is central to the writing of Luke both in this gospel as well as in Acts of the Apostles which we hear from throughout this season.  Some of the most important things that take place in his writings happen “on the way”.  Long before there was Christianity or any sort of this institutionalized religion, there was what was commonly known as “the way”.  It was a way of life and a way of living for the early communities and so it means something when Luke uses it in his writings.

Think about some of the other instances we hear from Luke “on the way”, from one place to another, like from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  We are certainly also familiar with the prodigal son.  In that case the father has to go out from the house and meet the son on the way to bring him back.  There’s also the story of the Good Samaritan.  It happens between towns and the guy needs to be picked up and carried back.  Or even Paul and his conversion in Acts.  It happens on his way when he’s knocked down and made blind before he can come back.  So it’s no wonder that Cleopas and the other disciples think they’re walking with a stranger and are blind to who he really is.  They have not yet gone through their own experience of conversion and change of heart.  They’re still on the way, at the moment, somewhere between the total absence of what they witnessed in Jerusalem and what they’re about to experience, the fullness of the Lord before their very eyes, when things will finally begin to click and the pieces of their story begin to once again coalesce around a common story.  All of this happens on the way.

What Luke, still some fifty years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, is trying to do is to lower the expectations that they continue to live with about who this Christ is and what it all means.  They say it themselves that they thought he’d be the one to redeem all of Israel.  And we thought he would be this.  And we thought he would be that.  Here we are, some 2000 years later and we often still cling to the same expectations, that somehow this God is going to come from the clouds and fix what’s wrong.  They lived in similar times when they knew about the corruption of the government and even the religious authorities.  But they fell victim to it and felt helpless.  What Luke, in his beautiful way of writing, moves this community to on the way is to recognize the Christ in the ordinary and often the mundane parts of our lives.  That’s his brilliance in reducing their expectations.  In the ordinary element of bread then why not in the ordinariness of our lives.  There it was and yet they were blinded to it, in their own encounter, in sharing their story, in walking along, doing the ordinary things of life, Christ is revealed.

So often in the world we live we want the big and magnificent.  We want that God who knocks us over the head or through some sign.  We become so attached to the extraordinary that we seek and believe we are that we miss God on the way.  We miss the encounters of our daily lives that try to speak to us.  We remain blinded so often by our own expectations and how we feel, trapped in our own little world that soon we become detached from the common story that we share in which we unite around here week in and week out.

Yes, it is in the breaking of the bread, but that doesn’t take away from the call for inner conversion, a change of mind and heart.  Even Luke knew that.  Just as it was with the prodigal son, the beggar on the side of the road, and Paul, they all had to be taken to that interior place within themselves before they could be sent forth.  They all had to walk the way of the inner life before they could become the evangelists that they and we are called to in this life and in this world.  Change always begins first with myself before I am set free to go out.

As we continue this Easter journey and continue to walk the way with the disciples, the way will lead us to this place of interior change, of conversion, as it did with Cleopas and the other disciple when they walked through those doors and shared meal and story together.  It gave them the space they needed to gain perspective of their own pain and at the same time, give them the strength to now journey back to Jerusalem a changed people.  That’s the change this Easter season desires of us, a change of heart.  They already knew that Jesus had been raised from the dead according to the gospel, but as they walked the way, it became coupled with the lived experience of the risen Christ, an encounter with the Risen Christ, and from that point on the scattered pieces of the disciples, shattered through suffering, finally begin to become one and united around the common story, the common story we share in Christ.

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Resurrection Is

John 20: 1-16

If you were in this church either Thursday or Friday you know that it looks much different this morning than it did then, when we began the Easter celebration. One of the things that struck me here, more than any other place I’ve been, in those days, was the empty tabernacle because it’s unlike any other I’ve seen. We’re kind of used to the golden tabernacle that when it’s opened you can see pretty much all that’s there. But on Thursday night as I sat in the front pew, spending a little time reflecting, I was mesmerized by this one because it’s dark inside and from where I was sitting almost seemed endless. It was like looking into the night sky and if I were to put my hand in there it would just go on forever.

As I was preparing for these days and trying to read and listen to as much as I could about John, looking for new ways to preach these gospels, some of his images in the story of Mary Magdala, in its fullness, began to surface when I saw that empty tabernacle. For John, the Resurrection narratives, the first of which is Mary Magdala who goes onto witness the resurrected Christ by herself, become the fullness of the promise at the beginning of the gospel, the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. It culminates at this narrative in particular, but not limited to Jesus nor Mary Magdala, nor ourselves for that matter.

The first image John will go on to use is that of the garden. This all takes place in the garden. Mary will mistake Jesus as the gardner and gardens appear several times in John’s gospel, just as it does in the front of our altar today, and with good reason for John. Even the garden in the passion is different than in the other gospels, but now, even creation partakes in the resurrection narrative. What John tries to create in this image and symbol is a restored Garden of Eden. That this eternal Christ, now resurrected, restores all of God’s creation to it’s fullness and wholeness. For John, creation too has something to teach us and even goes through it’s own gradual conversion from the changing of seasons, if we can allow ourselves to listen to it and reverence it in the way John displays in this resurrection narrative.

But there’s still that empty tomb, and even for us the few previous days, the empty tabernacle. If you know anything about Israel’s history, you got to know that the Temple was destroyed and rebuilt probably more times that we can count. In that temple, beyond the garden, was the holy of holies, which it’s sacredness was only seen by particular people. There was something beyond the veil that was to be seen by those with sight. Think about what many see when they visit a grave like Mary, Peter, and the other disciple do. We often see death, we see end, we are often caught up in our grief, shame, loneliness, like that endless interior of that tabernacle on the days leading up to today, but today is something different, at least for Mary. For Peter and the other disciple, who are so caught up in their grief and shame, mourning the loss of Jesus, they flee the scene and return to the locked upper room out of fear. But Mary will stay behind and through her tears begins to see something very different and things begin to change very quickly for her as the scene progresses.

Now don’t be foolish into thinking that somehow this event takes away the suffering of the world. We all know it doesn’t. But that also isn’t John’s point and why he is the Easter gospel. For John, it’s all about the process of conversion and moving to a life of joy. For John that path was in stark contrast with the Pharisees and Sadducees as we heard during Lent. For them, they had reduced God to an intellectual construct, just as we often have for centuries as well. Think about our own experience of God and faith. We want scientific proof, we want facts, we want it all proven for us. But that’s the thing, as Mary teaches us here, I can’t and I know nothing I say could change someone’s mind. How Mary stands in contrast has nothing to do with intellect. For Mary, she shows us the way to a lived experience of the Christ must come through the heart. She will weep and then she will hear her name said by the Risen Christ, Mary. From that moment on her life is changed forever. She doesn’t need the other disciples to tell of what they have known or anyone else for that matter, for Mary her heart was moved to tears and her eyes were opened, no longer an endless abyss in the tomb, but a resurrected Christ and an invitation to a new life for Mary. Even the fact that it comes not just with tears but in the hearing of her name is a lesson John tries to teach. Think about how he speaks to his mother at the beginning of the gospel where he calls her woman. It’s not being nasty to her. Rather, she too is invited into the same process. When Lazarus hears his name, he comes out. When Mary Magdala hears her name, she comes out and is changed forever.

For John, as we heard in the weeks of Lent and will now hear for the next fifty days, our lives are about the invitation to conversion, to a change of heart so that we too have an experience of the promise that he gives of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Like many of the characters in his stories, we know it happens over time and gradually. It’s sometimes much easier to live with the grief, guilt, shame, and absence that we experience in our lives than to allow ourselves to be opened to something new and a lived experience of the eternal Christ, who has been, is, and always will be. Just as the garden, the tomb, Mary, and others are transformed, so can we. It’s the Easter promise. Just as I said on Good Friday that we must look at that day through the lens of Easter, today is no different. Resurrection is and we must look at Easter through the lens of Easter otherwise it loses its power.

We pray for that conversion in our own lives and to notice the moments when Christ is inviting us into the lived experience of our faith. Just as it was for Mary, it’s change our lives forever. A lived experience of the Christ, who was, and is, and always will be, changes us in ways like none other. If this Christ can do what has been done in and through others, just imagine what this same Christ is trying to do to us at this very moment. We, all too often, have pushed the whole experience of resurrection to some life after this one, but what John reminds us is that Resurrection is. And at this very moment, God calls our names and is preparing our hearts to be changed once again and forever.

Come and See

Ezekiel 37: 12-14; Romans 8: 8-11; John 11: 1-45

‘Come and see’. It seems like a rather odd response from the people when Jesus questions where Lazarus has been laid to rest, entombed, in his final resting place. Maybe even more peculiar is his response to their response. It’s the one time we hear in Scripture that Jesus wept. He cried at what was going on and as the scene moves towards the burial cave of Lazarus.

We must keep in mind who this Jesus is in John’s Gospel. He’s a very different Jesus than we’ll hear in Matthew’s Gospel next week as well as in Mark and Luke. We’re mindful that John’s Gospel is written some seventy years after Jesus had been crucified. We hear in the other gospels about the agony and such leading up to the passion, the suffering servant, but not here in John. If anything, John is more in line with St. Paul and what he has to say in today’s second reading. For John, it’s about the eternal Christ who transcends time and space, the one who was, is, and always will be who happens to take on flesh in Jesus.

So when they respond ‘come and see’ and Jesus weeps, it carries something else with it and as usual, as we heard the past few weeks from John, is not what you expect. See, the invitation that they give is the same invitation that Jesus gives to the disciples in chapter one of John. It is the call of the disciples, unlike the call from fishing in the other gospels. They know there’s something different about him, he peeks their curiosity, and he begins to lead them to this unknown, to this deeper mystery of who he is and who they are for that matter. But today, the people use those words in another way.

Now it’s not even that they didn’t believe in the resurrection. For the most part, many did believe in that reality. It becomes a tenet of faith. It’s not even that Jesus is weeping for Lazarus at this moment in the scene. What’s really going on and why he weeps is because they don’t believe him and they don’t believe in who he says he is. They just don’t. Sure, there may be a resurrection down the road but not in the here and now, a resurrection that happens in this time and space. For the first time, in all of these seeming controversies of the Samaritan Woman, the Man Born Blind, they feel like they finally have him where they want him and they, in their own way, lure him to the place of death, the tomb. Finally, there’s something that can defeat Jesus, in their mind, and that’s death. It’s death. Lazarus is gone. He’s as dead as you can get, done. Four days, stench, all of it, and the people finally smell victory in their fight against Jesus. And Jesus wept.

And it is the eternal Christ and their are certainly glimpses of that even in the prophets, such as Ezekiel whom we hear from in today’s first reading. For him, it’s not just about the death of one person like it is in the gospel. Rather, it’s the death of a people, the nation of Israel. It’s gone and once again obliterated in war and destruction and today Ezekiel stands before it and the field of dry bones. He questions whether there is hope in the midst of such death and enters into this encounter with God who assures him that life will be breathed into the bones once again and a new Israel will grow. It’s not about going back to who they used to be. Like Lazarus, it’s dead, no more. Rather, it’s about God breathing new life into the people and recreating them into something new. In some ways, God invites Ezekiel to come and see in that same way Jesus does at the beginning of John, to a place of curiosity, unknown, and deeper mystery of who they are as a people.

John’s Gospel has presented us with some great images to enter into as well as challenges to our own faith and what it is we believe. He weeps, even for us, that somehow we can continue to recite such words in the resurrection as we do in the creed each week and still not believe that it can happen in our lives at this very moment. We, like in so many of these controversies these weeks, become preoccupied with death and with being right over being led to this place of encounter with the Living Lord who is the resurrection, that we miss the point and become blinded by the tomb and the comfortableness of our lives. More often than not, we’d rather live in that tomb were it’s comfortable, and yet we know it and there is some consistency to it all. The call today, to come and see, is not to prove how Jesus is wrong and how death has won victory. Rather, it’s about being called forth from what has bound us and come and see what God has in store for us individually and collectively. It’s one thing to believe it as a tenet of faith. It’s another to feel it in, what Ezekiel calls, even the dry bones that have become a part of us as well.

Before we head into Holy Week, John once again invites us to use our imaginations and find ourselves in the story of Lazarus. Actually, it’s not about Lazarus at all! Where are we on our won journey of faith and understanding. Are we feeling like we’re being called to come and see how death has had victory, how Jesus loses, as to laugh in his face or is the come and see of Jesus, calling us forth from the tomb we have often created for ourselves, and for that matter, allowed ourselves to be bound by, calling us by name as he does Lazarus. In the end, Lazarus is the one set free as the rest watch idly by ready to cast judgement when the gift is right there before their very eyes. It is the last straw for the people and the gospel begins its downward spiral after this. This preoccupation with death will cast upon Jesus to prove once and for all he’s not who he says and they still won’t come to believe. He weeps for them. We desire the fullness of life, a life of resurrection. That, my friends, though, can only come from an encounter with the Lord of life who today calls us forth to come and see the victory he has prepared for us.

It Means Everything

Acts 10: 34, 37-43; I Cor 5:6-8; Luke 24: 1-12

So what? Why the heck is any of this important anyway? I mean, it doesn’t seem to have much impact on our lives and certainly not on our world. Maybe resurrection is just something of the past that doesn’t mean a hill of beans anyway. But you know what, I think God, Jesus, has the disciples exactly where God wants them. Think about it, the story today picks up where Friday left off. There facing chaos. They feel as if all is lost. There’s darkness, despair, grief. They’re totally disconnected from all their groups and are now in hiding. They’ve hit, as we call it, rock bottom and they have nowhere to turn. God has them right where they need to be, where they can accept death and then embrace the life that comes. But not yet, so it seems.

You know, they will quickly learn that there are serious implications to this event that unfolds in the gospel today as they encounter this empty tomb. It’s unfortunate because we’ve limited resurrection to some other life, this afterlife, that we can hope to anticipate, but for the disciples and us for that matter, it should be impacting us at this very moment. That’s why they become a threat now that Jesus has died and been raised from the dead. The implications are endless, in society, politically, and even religiously. We all know that they saw Jesus as a threat but the threat is about to grow. Paul uses the image of yeast in today’s second reading, which negatively, can grow like wildfire. But so can love and mercy and crazy enough, that becomes the great threat.

You see, God has them where they need to be. For the disciples, they have hit rock bottom and all that they know seems lost. It appears that they have no future. Everything they thought Jesus was supposed to be has been proven wrong. Everything that they wanted Jesus to be never happened. Everything that they thought they were because of their relationship with Jesus has been squashed. It’s all gone. This whole ego structure that they had created, which isn’t real in the first place, has now been diminished to rubble. And so have they. Quite frankly, it would have been much easier for them if the story just ended here. They could return to what they knew, their old way of life. Or could they? Had their hearts been changed. Yeah, at the moment they think it’s all nonsense and crazy and impossible, but very soon things are about to change. The threat of one man, Jesus, is about to grow and expand by leaps and bounds. The resurrection has implications for them and for us because they can no longer be touched by outside authorities, culturally, politically, and religiously, and anyone that thinks they have power in that way isn’t going to like it. It’s not because they fear giving up their lives; it’s because they have found true life and real power. If not, everything else tries to take it’s place and we’re back at the beginning, so what?

Throughout this season we will be hearing from Acts of the Apostles and Peter, Paul, and the rest will try to reconnect the people they encounter back to their roots. That’s what is often lost in faith communities today. You would think that the disciples of all people would have some connection with their own roots in the Exodus, the heart of any Jewish man and woman. But they still don’t see it that way, otherwise they would see such despair at the moment. That story, that root of their faith, should affirm that even in the darkest of times, the promised land is in sight. But they don’t see Jesus yet as the Passover Lamb or the Exodus before their very eyes. When they or we disconnect from our larger story, this great story of mystery, the Paschal Mystery, we begin to make ourselves the center of the world and everything pivots from us. Paul and Peter will remind these communities faithfully to connect with their larger story, the mystery being revealed and lived, otherwise, as Paul warns Corinth today, you’ll fall into the trap of spreading negativity and community will be built around ego and not the deeper mystery of who they are, in relation with Christ crucified, now risen from the dead. They have to get there and don’t even know it because they think what they are holding onto and what defines them is real, and to some degree it is, but it’s not the eternal present now. That’s where the implications come into play for them and us.

It’s no wonder that in the Easter Sunday gospels it’s about the women first pursuing this new reality. Think about it, if they must reach rock bottom and allow all else to die before they can seek the new life, who is it that lives on the bottom of the ladder in the time of Jesus? It’s the women, who’ve followed him from Galilee. They have no status. They have no institutional power. They have no success to pursue. In other words, they have nothing to lose because they’re already there while the men question, doubt, and think it’s utter nonsense. They will need to see with their own eyes this new reality before they can accept death and then embrace the new reality and become the true disciples of Christ crucified, now risen from the dead.

There are implications, or at least there should be, and if there are not, we too must consider our own relationship with the Lord. Unfortunately, we do a much better job of trying to enter into a relationship with the churchy Jesus, which too is often an illusion and something we must let go of, just like the disciples before we get to that place. It’s hard because it’s all we know and it feels like we have everything to lose. We do, but it’s our own and not the true power of the Risen Lord. They are a threat and we can be a threat as people, when we learn to accept death and embrace the power of the Risen Lord already given to us, right now. Right now! All of us! It’s what institutions fear the most because now the disciples have nothing to lose. The death and resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Everything. The power of love and mercy changes everything and spreads quickly.

Throughout these fifty days of Easter we’re invited to go deeper into this mystery that is are larger story. It’s what binds all of us, as we will soon do by renewing our baptismal promises. It’s not about membership. Rather, that even, these events, are about changing our lives and binding us in a way that is beyond our imagination, into the deepest recesses of our being, where we enter into this sustaining love affair with Christ crucified, now risen from the dead. I can finally come to a place where I realize and accept that it’s not merely a historical event that I come here to remember, but rather, the lived reality and the lived mystery of my life. There are real implications to saying we believe. It’s not what the disciples eventually do in Acts; it’s about who they are. They have let the scales of death and of their own ego, fall from their eyes and allow a new recreated order through the great gift and now lifelong relationship, with Christ crucified, now risen from the dead. So what? Well, because it changes everything, even our hearts and souls and the very way we live our lives.

Being Love to the World

Mark 16: 1-7

And they went away seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. That’s how Mark concludes the Resurrection narrative that we hear today at the conclusion of the gospel. It’s seems rather odd, especially coming from those who have been most dedicated to him on this journey, the women, who are prepared to anoint his body and visit his tomb, leave in fear and trembling. In the end, they were no different than the disciples, seemingly faithful only “from a distance” as the disciples were throughout, and even the woman viewed the death from a safe place. In the end, their lives were about playing it safe rather than with and in a radical faith. For Mark, there doesn’t seem to be any “happily ever after” moment, but isn’t that how our lives often are? Mark now gives his listeners and readers the choice as to how they will live their lives forward.

But it’s Easter and none of that makes any sense. They were about to do what was expected of them by visiting the tomb and anointing his body. Their lives were about doing what was expected of them, until they encounter the unexpected and they leave bewildered, afraid, and seized with trembling. They all learned quite well what their fellow humans are capable of by arresting and crucifying an innocent man named Jesus. Like us so often, they were trapped by that lens in life, victims of what was expected and unaware of the unexpected happening within and around them. They knew what their fellow human beings were capable of and maybe missed the point of the Mystery in its fullness before their very eyes in Jesus, failing like the disciples, to see he was more than what can be seen with the eyes; he was more than human but also divine. The unexpected happened in an unexpected place and at an unexpected time, and their lives are about to change forever, no longer living from a distance, but encountering life in love.

But not yet. None of us knows what the women do after this. We can assume that they do eventually do as commanded, once a burning begins within them, because we know and will hear throughout this season how that early community began to grow in Acts of the Apostles. But their work was not done as it wasn’t for his disciples. Once again Peter is singled out in this gospel, like us, needs even a little extra work, but all of them will be called to go back to where it began in Mark’s Gospel and begin to not only view life from a different place but also to live it from a different place, a place from within.

On Holy Thursday we heard of the story of the Passover of the Lord and our sharing in that story and the pain that often accompanies this journey of conversion and discipleship. On the journey we must go to the place where we felt rejected. We must go to the place where we felt abandoned and be healed of our own passion. Good Friday challenged us to pass through that narrow path of the Cross in order to recognize that deeper love and not live our lives from the place of hate and judgment. Easter, though, pushes us through and offers the hope we so often need to be healed of all that holds us back, from playing it safely from a distance, to let go of our own hurt past and history, knowing we must go through it in order that we may live Easter not only at the end of our lives, in the fullness of God’s love, but to live in and with the desire that God has for us at this very moment, to be God’s love in the world, only through an embracing of the fullness of the Mystery and it’s ever-deeper reality.

Now we may not be there yet and certainly we aren’t in its fullness. We may be like the women in the Gospel or the disciples that we encountered these past days. We may still be living in fear, and for them at this moment, the haunting fear of the rejection they will face in believing that there is something more to life in Christ. We may still be holding onto parts of our past, trying to control and missing the unexpected working in our lives. Heck, we may find ourselves square in the tomb, wondering, lost in my own victimhood, trying to do it all by myself, knowing deep in my heart and the place of emptiness within me, that that stone can only be moved by God, in order that I may come out a changed person, living in and through love, being love to the world. That stone can only be moved by a God who works in the most unexpected places of our lives in order to gift us to be God’s love to the world.

As we celebrate the Resurrection of the Crucified Christ, we pray for an awareness that God meets us wherever we may be on this journey and accepts us at that point, knowing the demands and pressures of our society to live one way when God calls us to another. In a world that so often calls us to conform, to play it safe from a distance, on this great feast of Easter, when the Crucified One is raised from the dead, God calls us to be and to live in the unexpected and that our eyes and minds and hearts are opened to be transformed into God’s great love in the world! Happy Easter!

Evening Presence

Luke 24: 13-35

Every year at Easter, Time magazine does a cover story in some way pertaining to God. This year’s cover story was entitled, “Let There Be Night”. The author made the point that if you want to even begin to understand this mystery of God, you must be willing to go into the dark. She says that from the time we are little kids we are taught that light is good and dark is evil and we spend much of our time trying to avoid it, and we fear it, and over centuries have even projected that fear onto people who have different color skin, it’s so embedded into us all our lives. Yet, she says, you must go there and how often it is there that trust can begin to grow.

As much as we hear the stories of Jesus prior to the Resurrection, much of it takes place in the light of day. All the healings and teachings often take place during the day and in the evening goes off to pray and goes to the Garden prior to his death, and yet, all that time in the light and the disciples can’t quite grasp who he really is. It’s so often beyond them.

But these post-resurrection stories are quite often just the opposite. Many of them take place at night just as the new day dawns where it’s still mostly dark or even in today’s story on the road to Emmaus, there is a gradual movement towards evening time and the setting of the sun. As a matter of fact, their eyes aren’t “opened” until the evening! They had plenty opportunity to believe and trust. They’ve heard the stories. They’ve gone to the darkened tomb themselves, and yet, it’s not enough. Somehow it’s still beyond them and so they go back and their eyes are prevented from recognizing him. Why? Because they are still weighed down by their own darkness of grief, lost hope, shattered expectations, wondering if any of it really matters, broken relationships and dreams, and for the most part, now walking towards a dead end in life only to encounter a stranger along the way, a stranger that takes the lead to the end of day, evening falls on that first day of the week. Jesus always walks along. Darkness remains a total mystery and something to be feared. And yet there’s a burning within that pushes them to invite Jesus to stay, to invite him into their darkened home for a meal, a moment of deep intimacy where break is broken.

On this, the first day of the week, during the dark of day, Jesus present, these two disciples finally become present to the Presence, their eyes are opened, and all that was once lost has now been found. In a moment, all that weighed down was lifted and they hurry out, in the darkness, to cast light on all that had taken place along the way. The One who did not avoid the great darkness of death, but rather goes to reconcile life and death, light and darkness, now finally leads these disciples with a renewed sense of vision. Peter remarks in his speech in the first reading today that not even the “throes of death” can hold him or them back and separate!

My friends, we pray, “let there be night,” even if it means sitting in a darkened room for a while and looking at things in a new way, confronting the fear. We know what it’s like when there is darkness…we stumble, fall, feel anxious, and so on, and yet, as it is for the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, journeying from day to evening, holding onto all that prevents us from seeing, but where we can also become present to the Presence, our eyes can be opened, and we begin to see life in a new way, a renewed way, where all can be one, light and dark, and even, as this season reminds us, life and death.

Fearful yet Overjoyed

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Matthew 28: 1-10

“Fearful yet overjoyed.” It seems like a rather odd combination, but that’s how Matthew describes the woman as they run away quickly from the tomb. Yet, if you examine the Gospel accounts of the resurrection it’s as if those two are intertwined as much as life and death are intertwined. Four times fear is mentioned in some way in this passage and the message remains the same as it is at Christmas…fear not! God is once again making things happen! The power of fear is real. Take note what it does to the two guards at the tomb. It pretty much paralyzes them at first as they become like dead men, numb from the experience. They too though will take off shortly after and head back to the chief priests to share the “good news” as they saw it and they will continue to act not out of faith, but out of fear and death. They will then plot against the disciples and the message the women are to deliver and try to convince that the body had been stolen. Now they didn’t have 24 hour social media or any means like that so obviously it wasn’t quite so easy to “sell” their message, but it will often force the early community at times to go into hiding for fear of their lives, fear of Paul as we will hear in this season who made it is primary duty early on to stop the movement and end the lives of those who followed the way. The power of fear is real; the power of death is real, but God gets the last word!

The message to the woman is to act on faith. They are to run and tell the “brothers” that Jesus and been raised and to announce to them to return to Galilee. They must go back to where it all began and begin to look at all they had experienced and heard with Jesus, but now through the lens of the paschal mystery. No it won’t come easily to them and it will take much time before they can move beyond the fear they have experienced and the pain they too have endured through their abandonment of Jesus in his time of greatest need. But regardless, they must go back and view life through this lens.

For us, we return to the font and in a few minutes renew our baptismal promises where it all began for us on this faith journey. As infants baptized we don’t really know what it truly means then, but we too enter into this paschal mystery. Sometimes even in our lives we have to go back to those early days to seek healing and to look at experiences through another lens. So often it is our past that holds us back from living life to its fullest. We hold onto hurts, see ourselves only through the cross, and have difficulty seeing hope. Death holds us back just as much as it did the guards at the tomb, almost as if we become frozen in time at those moments of hurts and everything is viewed through that one lens, separating life and death. Be not afraid to go back and seek out what was lost and so it may be brought back to life. Now, through the waters of baptism, we look through a new lens, where life and death are intertwined. We go back and look through the lens of the great mystery of faith, true faith, where God does more more great act of love by turning death into life, not just in the end of our lives, but God wants us to live today! Go back to “Galilee” and there you will see Jesus, there you will see the Christ, there you will see life through the lens of mystery, there where God’s love will heal and bring to life all that seemed dead! Happy Easter!