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Gone AWOL

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Back for the last week in April. Keep well, my dears.

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Both Luke and John describe post-Resurrection encounters where the disciples didn’t recognise Jesus until they’d spoken to him, or where he didn’t look as they remembered but they somehow knew it was him. Various people have speculated about why this might be so. I wonder why Luke and John recorded it. No. That’s not quite true. I assume they recorded it because it was true. What I wonder is why people think the writers of Luke and John might have invented such an unnecessary and confusing detail. One is a skilled story-teller; the other scholarly writer. Such a narrative blunder seems highly unlikely.

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“As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them. ..Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (St Jerome, from a letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)

In a few weeks, they went from a broken group of disappointed men and women, hiding behind locked doors in an upper room, to fervent evangelists, ready to proclaim their faith out loud in the synagogue and the marketplace, and to die for it if they needed to do so.

To me, this seems strong evidence that they believed they had witnessed everything that Jerome talks about above. Their belief in the resurrection makes sense of the survival of Christianity past its early start as a persecuted minority favoured by the lowest classes. Does this ‘prove’ the resurrection? No, of course not. You are free to believe with the disciples or not to believe. Does it explain the reason for the resurrection? No, again. For that, we look to the Church, and 2000 years of meditation from devout, thoughtful, and intelligent men and women.

Rise up and walk!

We’re not told in today’s first reading how the lame beggar felt the next morning, when he woke up and realised that he no longer had a job. Perhaps he’d learned skills before he was lame that he could now turn to? We can trust that, filled with the Spirit as they were, John and Peter gave the lame man what he needed.

I think, though, that those of us who are not saints need to be careful about the charity we give and the charities we support. It’s far too easy to make judgements about what people need, and insist that they take it. The best aid stories I’ve heard have involved the Western aid agencies setting aside their preconception and working with the communities they try to help to find out what the communities perceive their needs to be.

My beloved and I won $78 dollars on the Lotto last week, which led us to talk about what we’d do with the current big prize (which is several million). We agreed we’d like to see it used effectively at a local community level – some in our family, some in New Zealand, and some overseas. We’d like to have more money to give to one of the causes we care passionately about – such as freedom for slaves, education for girls and women, access to clean water and to safe housing, protection from violence. But we wouldn’t want to just hand over money without being sure that the actions were grassroots actions – local initiatives arising from local needs supported by local effort and structured in a way that local people can become independent of external help.

To me, that’s love in action. Helping people to rise up and walk.

36e7vzLast week, we had a combox discussion about what in the Church needs reform. David Schutz, in a thoughtful post on the reform of the Curia, reminds us that reform can’t stop in one place, and that – in Church history – those in most need of reform have usually been those most resistant.

Read the whole post for gems like this:

Don’t think that the Curia can reformed without the whole Church being reformed; and don’t think that the Church can be reformed without YOU (and me) being reformed.

…and this:

…it isn’t a “liberal vs conservative” thing, it is an “inward vs outward” thing. The Counter-Reformation was, of necessity, “inward”. But the time for “inward” is gone, and the time for “outward” – Evangelisation – is here. Yet a characterisation of both the old fashioned dyed-in-the-wool liberals and new Rad Trads is that they both share the view of an “inward looking”, aka, “self-referential” Church.

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Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, Happy Easter!

What a joy it is for me to announce this message: Christ is risen! I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons…

Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!

We too, like the women who were Jesus’ disciples, who went to the tomb and found it empty, may wonder what this event means (cf. Lk 24:4). What does it mean that Jesus is risen? It means that the love of God is stronger than evil and death itself; it means that the love of God can transform our lives and let those desert places in our hearts bloom.

This same love for which the Son of God became man and followed the way of humility and self-giving to the very end, down to hell – to the abyss of separation from God – this same merciful love has flooded with light the dead body of Jesus and transfigured it, has made it pass into eternal life. Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope.

This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. Because God is life, life alone, and his glory is the living man (cf. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 4,20,5-7).

Dear brothers and sisters, Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us. God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14).

So this is the invitation which I address to everyone: Let us accept the grace of Christ’s Resurrection! Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.

And so we ask the risen Jesus, who turns death into life, to change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace. Yes, Christ is our peace, and through him we implore peace for all the world.

Peace for the Middle East, and particularly between Israelis and Palestinians, who struggle to find the road of agreement, that they may willingly and courageously resume negotiations to end a conflict that has lasted all too long. Peace in Iraq, that every act of violence may end, and above all for dear Syria, for its people torn by conflict and for the many refugees who await help and comfort. How much blood has been shed! And how much suffering must there still be before a political solution to the crisis will be found?

Peace for Africa, still the scene of violent conflicts. In Mali, may unity and stability be restored; in Nigeria, where attacks sadly continue, gravely threatening the lives of many innocent people, and where great numbers of persons, including children, are held hostage by terrorist groups. Peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in the Central African Republic, where many have been forced to leave their homes and continue to live in fear.

Peace in Asia, above all on the Korean peninsula: may disagreements be overcome and a renewed spirit of reconciliation grow.

Peace in the whole world, still divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family, selfishness that continues in human trafficking, the most extensive form of slavery in this twenty-first century. Peace to the whole world, torn apart by violence linked to drug trafficking and by the iniquitous exploitation of natural resources! Peace to this our Earth! Made the risen Jesus bring comfort to the victims of natural disasters and make us responsible guardians of creation.

Dear brothers and sisters, to all of you who are listening to me, from Rome and from all over of the world, I address the invitation of the Psalm: “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever. Let Israel say: ‘His steadfast love endures for ever’” (Ps 117:1-2).

[Unscripted remarks] Dear brothers and sisters who have come from all over the world to this Square, the heart of Christianity and to all of you joining us via the media, I repeat my wishes for a happy Easter! Bring to your families and your nations the message of joy, of hope, and of peace that every year, on this day, is powerfully renewed. May the Risen Lord, who defeated sin and death, sustain us all especially the weakest and those most in need. Thank you for your presence and the witness of your faith. A thought and special thanks for the gift of these beautiful flowers that come from the Netherlands. I affectionately repeat to all of you: May the Risen Christ guide all of you and all of humanity on the paths of justice, love, and peace!

[Pope Francis then imparted the “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.]

He is risen!

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