Friday Focus: Easter Greetings
Matthew 28: 1-11
“Know that you are risen with Christ.” That text from Colossians is the way Christians have said hello for centuries… not just at Easter, but year round. Kind of makes the whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays kerfuffle sound pretty tame. Imagine living in a world where we greeted each other with the plain truth of the Resurrection and our salvation in it. Jesus did more than imagine such a world, he gave his life for it.
Scientific instruments have recently captured the echo of the first trillionth of a second of creation. From that moment to this, the dividing line between what went before and all that followed, is that first Easter dawn in Jerusalem. Christ is risen and all is changed. Death, the one unbeatable absolute, is beaten. Our fate is no longer a life of flight from the inevitable clutches of death. In the risen Christ we live in the here and now… crossing over seamlessly to the there and then… in the certainty of our own resurrection. In the risen Christ we are safe from sin… knowing that beyond our falls lies the resurrection of forgiveness. Beyond our betrayals, divine mercy awaits the penitent.
Christ’s Easter greeting to his followers is a clear indication of the transformative nature of the Resurrection. Significantly, the women in Christ’s life now emerge from supporting roles to become principle witnesses and messengers of the Resurrection. The fact that women are the medium of the good news is integral to the message of the good news. The word “apostle” from the Greek “apostolos” literally means messenger. Christ’s first messengers of the Resurrection are the holy women who stood by him when others went into hiding. They are the first apostles of the risen Christ.
Jesus tells them not to announce his Resurrection to his “disciples”, but to his “brethren.” In the risen Christ, clearly our relationship to him and to each other has changed. We are sisters and brothers in a bond stronger than the blood of ancestors. We are sisters and brothers in the saving blood of Jesus, shed freely for our salvation.
If this is all true… and it is… if the Resurrection is the turning point of the ages… and it is… what are we supposed to do about it? Go to church and sing a few Alleluias? Stay home and eat some jelly beans? We’ll probably say a few mandatory “Happy Easters” to family and friends, have a good dinner and then raid the kids’ baskets for a bite of chocolate bunny. But it’s unlikely that we’ll run around the neighborhood like the apostles shouting and sharing the good news of the Resurrection. We’re too cool for that… too inhibited… too sophisticated. So do we just call it a day and get back to work tomorrow.
No. Here’s a better idea. Let this feast of the Resurrection mark a turning point in our lives. Christ is risen and he wants us to be risen, too. Greet this Easter in the certainty of the Resurrection. Live this day in the risen Christ. Believe with renewed confidence. Pray with renewed conviction. Love with renewed fervor. Serve with renewed energy. Make every morning a resurrection. And God will give us the ultimate Easter greeting: Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of the Lord.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.
Holy Week Focus: Friday - The Hard Part
Holy Week Focus: Thursday - The View from the Cross
Holy Week Focus: Wednesday - Jesus Christ: Troublemaker
Holy Week Focus: Tuesday - Cross Purposes
|As we have explored in previous gospels this year, Jesus is all man and all God. This week the human Jesus comes face to face with human mortality. In time it is a situation we will all face...hopefully at a very advanced age, surrounded by loved ones and eased into a gentle passage. That's not what confronts Jesus. He knows that his death is imminent. It will be brutal and tortuously protracted. He will be betrayed and abandoned, humiliated and ridiculed. In his agony he will be made a laughing stock. Naturally, Jesus, our human brother, is tormented by this impending ordeal. He reflects that: Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - 'Father, save me from this hour'?|
Through it all he remains faithful to the will of the Father. He knows who sent him and why. At age twelve he told Mary and Joseph that he: must be about my Father's business. On the banks of the Jordan, as he begins his public life the Father affirms: You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased. In his early miracles even the unclean spirit cries out: you are the Holy One of God. In successive sermons and miracles and spectacularly at the Transfiguration, Jesus clearly knows his purpose. And in the gospels of the last few weeks he's been filling in more of the blanks for us. He is the temple that will be torn down and rebuilt in three days. He is God's love incarnate sent that we: may not perish but may have eternal life.
And now the cross beckons. He knows that he will be lifted up in sacrifice. But he sees past the torment. He knows he will be cut down like a grain of wheat. But he can also see the bountiful harvest of his sacrifice...successive generations of Christians following his call, living in his love. Clearly we were not baptized into the body of Christ to let it wither.
Like Jesus, we too must come face to face with the Father's purpose for us. How does it fit with our ideas, our plans, our priorities? More fundamentally, do we even have a purpose and direction? Or are we just more or less advanced, task-oriented primates, grazing our way through life, seeking pleasure, avoiding pain? What we do defines what we are. Christians follow Christ. If that is what we are, then it must also be what we do. In Acts Paul shares with us this perspective on understanding and acting on God's purpose for us: My life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing ...the work of telling others the Good News of God's wonderful kindness and love.
None of us has the inspired gift to preach as Paul did. But our lives can do the preaching for us. Live today with that purpose. Leave everyone you see with more love for having seen you. Take every opportunity to be kind, to be courteous, to be caring. Don't be too busy to listen. Don't be too hurried to help. Don't be too timid to proclaim him. If you don't have an opportunity, make one. Make this day a continuous prayer to the glory of God.
Jesus was not lifted up on the cross, for us to skate selfishly into heaven. Our salvation is not all take and no give. We are not just the beneficiaries of Christ's passion; we are the on-going instruments of his sacred mission. The purpose that brought Jesus to the cross is our purpose now. Like Jesus we know who sent us and why. His love is our legacy and our reason for being.
Holy Week Focus: Monday - Focus on Forgivenesss
|Yesterday we heard St. Matthew’s account of the passion and death of Jesus. It is sufficiently long and detailed to convey the complete sacrificial surrender of Jesus in the face of betrayal, torture and execution. As such, it speaks for itself and requires little or no explanation or expansion. Let us focus instead on a single, powerful lesson for as we enter this most sacred time of Holy Week: Forgiveness - the very first fruit of redemption.|
Forgiveness is a cornerstone of our new covenant with God. It repairs the rupture of sin that invaded Eden. It tempers the Old Testament wrath that rained fire and brimstone. It moderates the ritual rectitude of Leviticus. But the forgiveness of Calvary is no mere theological abstraction. It is a reality written in the blood of Christ. Throughout his passion he spells out plainly that to love is to forgive...and to forgive ...and to forgive. That is how love works.
In Luke Jesus asks forgiveness for his tormentors: for they know not what they do. Then he forgives the penitent thief for a whole life-time of crime, saying: today you will be with me in Paradise. Conversely in Mark, the message is as much in what Jesus does not say, as it is in what he does say. Pilate is amazed at his silence in the face of obviously trumped-up charges. Mark records Christ's silent submission continuing up to and on the cross - no rebuttals, no recriminations, no threats of revenge.
In Mark only at the last minute does Jesus break his silence: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? At first glance it is a cry of despair. On further examination, it is a direct quote from David in Psalm 22, which precisely predicted the method of Christ's execution - more than five hundred years before the Romans introduced crucifixion into Israel. To the end, in obedience to the Father, Jesus shows us he is fulfilling the laws and the prophets. Then finally from the weight of sin, as much as from the agony of crucifixion, he gives up his spirit.
Calvary marks a change in our relationship with God. He is no longer the distant, omnipotent umpire calling balls and strikes. He is the accessible, ever loving, ever forgiving, the source of all unconditional love. But that does not mean that God has become the enabler in chief. There is a world of difference between condoning and forgiving. God always forgives; he never condones. St. Augustine cautions us that: "No one is redeemed except through unmerited mercy, and no one is condemned except through merited judgment." We can always rely on God's mercy. We should never presume on it as a license to sin.
In the Lord's Prayer, only one petition is conditional: that our trespasses will be forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us. Surely, we all have need of forgiveness, so we all have a need to forgive. It is a simple and benign concept, until it is seriously challenged. And then it becomes a harsh reality. Overlooking a minor faux-pas is easy. But what about relationships that become contests ...when words become weapons... when attack breeds counterattack ...when lives are wasted and families destroyed over arguments that have long since lost their meaning? All that calls for some really serious forgiving.
The Yellow Pages are replete with listings of family conflict counselors. The libraries are stocked with volumes on reconciliation. Doubtless, they have merit. But the true path to healing relationships is the way of the cross...to forgive...and forgive...to repent and reconcile...to pray and to love. Then to forgive again... knowing that beyond the Calvary of our conflicts lies the joy of resurrection. Peace is always within our reach, through the door of forgiveness. Jesus has shown us the way.