Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, May 1, 2011:

First Reading: Acts 2:14a, 22-32

Psalm: Psalm 16

Second Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Gospel: John 20:19-31

Now we enter that interesting post-Easter time, when Jesus has returned, but he's not quite the same as he was before. He can make sudden appearances and come into rooms without opening the door. He vanishes the same way too.

But clearly, he's not gone over completely to the spirit world. This is not a ghost that people are seeing. Jesus still has wounds. And Jesus can still eat. In fact, that's one way that people realize they're in the presence of the Lord, one way that they recognize him (more on that when we get to the Road to Emmaus lesson).

These passages have fueled many a church argument about the kind of man Jesus was, both before his crucifixion and after. You may have had similar arguments with people over Easter week-end, arguments about the nature of the Resurrection. Did Jesus have a bodily resurrection? Or were grief-stricken disciples and followers suffering mass delusions?

Or maybe you haven't had these conversations. I found myself feeling increasingly lonely during Holy Week. At least during Advent, the whole world gets involved in Christmas madness. It's hard to keep a sacred Christmas, but at least people understand. During the past month, I've had lots of conversations to explain Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday to people. Lots of my colleagues seemed surprised that Easter was upon us. I realized what a secular society we've really become, as I slipped away to church again and again in the same week (I thought of monks, who worship several times a day, and wished for a similar community).

In the coming weeks, I plan to take comfort in the stories of Jesus' continuing presence in his followers' lives. Not even death keeps him away from the supper table. I like the fact that many of these appearances seem to have been subtle, especially since people didn't even recognize him at first, in many instances.

I must confess that I like the idea of a subtle appearance, because lately, I haven't been feeling the presence of God in an explosive way. I want to run through the Easter dawn yelling out that the Lord has risen. But most days, I just don't have the energy.

That's O.K. Jesus will wait for me on the beach (a different post-Easter Gospel in a different liturgical cycle) as I go about my daily work. Jesus will build the fire and cook me breakfast. Jesus will walk with me wherever I need to go and talk to me. I don't have to be lit with an Easter energy for Jesus to want to be with me.

These gospels give us an even more wonderful promise. I can be full of doubt, and Jesus will appear and let me touch his wounds, if that's what it takes. I can denounce Jesus, and if I ask for forgiveness, Jesus will grant it. I can fail to recognize Jesus in the garden, and unlike other humans, Jesus will stay with me as long as it takes until I get it. I give up on myself long before Jesus would. Happily, as with the best human relationships, Jesus' faith in me will see me through my dark times when I don't believe in myself and can't see that life can ever get better.

That's part of the Good News that Easter grants us. We're redeemed, and God's kingdom has already begun to break through the grave-dark night.

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