Chapter Talk – Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 12, 2019 – cycle-C
‘Faith and Recognition’: could these two words together encapsulate what the Easter season calls us to? From the second Sunday after Easter where we have the appearance before Thomas whose weak faith takes a huge leap when he recognizes Jesus in and through his wounds. We recognize through hearing and we recognize through seeing. Many of the resurrection gospels show us this: ‘They recognized him through the breaking of the bread’. When the risen One says ‘Mary’ at the tomb, Mary Magdalene, through the voice calling her name, suddenly recognizes the person standing before her as Jesus. As the Easter mystery unfolds during these forty days the Church gives us readings from John’s gospel. This gospel is written almost one hundred years after Jesus’ death and its literary genre is very different from the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are written earlier. The gospel of John depicts the Christ of faith, the risen One in an array of very rich images.
All the post Easter gospels circle around the encounter with Jesus, the risen One. To encounter the risen One we need the eyes and heart of an Easter faith, for then we indeed see and hear. The Easter faith opens us up to apprehend the risen One who meets us along the road of our everyday lives. After the accounts of the ‘appearances’ to the disciples in all four gospels, the gospel of John takes front and center stage. In this gospel we are given images of ‘bread’, of the shepherd and shepherding, of the vine and vinedresser, to describe the many ways the risen One is revealed to us. All these gospel readings during the Easter season are about LIFE. However, it is a ‘Life’ that blossoms forth through surrender, through dying, through letting go of all that gets in the way of devoting our flesh and blood to God. Jesus is the Icon of this paschal dynamic, a dynamic reality which he has lived and now enlightens the way before us. ‘The bread that I will give is my life, my very being for the world.’ ‘The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ ‘Attached to me you will bear abundant fruit.’ ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one another.’
I have been re-reading the homily of Pope Francis that he gave at the Easter vigil. This homily is very rich and, in its density, could be the only commentary on the Easter mystery that we take to heart during this Eastertide: “‘Why do you seek the living among the dead’? Why do you think that everything is hopeless, that no one can take away your own tombstones? Why do you give in to resignation and failure?” (Pope Francis, Homily at Easter Vigil, 2019). As I said these post Easter days are about LIFE, eternal Life. The risen One is beckoning us all the time and so our faith is very important because faith opens the heart to see or to hear the life bidding us forth. Faith breaks down the walls of discouragement, hopelessness, despair, to let the breath of Christ’s life breathe into our interior sense organs and to lift us up out of our ‘sink holes’. I believe that we all seek ‘life’, yet even with this longing our tendency more often than not is to give into all that is about ‘death’. Here, in this following passage, Pope Francis describes how God sees and how God invites us to see as well: “God asks us to view life as he (God) views it, for in each of us he never ceases to see an irrepressible kernel of beauty. In sin, he sees sons and daughters to be restored: in death brothers and sisters to be reborn; in desolation, hearts to be revived. Do not fear, then: the Lord loves your life, even when you are afraid to look at it and take it in hand….With him, we too can experience a Pasch, that is, a Passover – from self-centeredness to communion, from desolation to consolation, from fear to confidence. Let us not keep our faces bowed to the ground in fear, but raise our eyes to the risen Jesus”. Is this not dear sisters an Easter faith where the veil is dropped, even for a quick moment of time and we see as God sees?
The Easter faith that enables us to see and to hear with these inner senses can help us to turn away from all that pulls us into the trappings of death: “We keep seeking the Living One among the dead…how many times, once we have encountered the Lord, do we return to the dead: digging up regrets, reproaches, hurts, and dissatisfactions, without letting the Risen One change us?”
So, dear sisters here is the dialectic carved into our being: the risen One is everywhere present along the path of our lives offering us Life and then, there we are at the ‘graveyard’ of our problems, where we give them so much power that they dominate our daily lives. How often do I dig up and cling to those hurts, reproaches, dissatisfactions? That these will emerge daily is part of the human reality. But, where is my Easter faith in these moments? ‘The Lord is my shepherd…he leads me through these dark valleys into Life’, eternal life. Let us alone and together hold on to our ‘Easter faith’, which removes the scales from our eyes and the stone from our hearts.