3rd Sunday of Easter Reflection
A NEW FUTURE REVEALED
Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread. They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts? See by my hands and my feet that it is I myself. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and his feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, as they were dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes. Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this. (Luke 24:35-48)
Too easily we speak of human dignity, posture with our beautiful prayers, our placards, and our glib social media posts. Life is sacred, all lives matter, unborn life matters, black lives matter… Our lives matter… Do they?
The unfolding of Sacred Scripture calls us to remembrance, challenges and entices us to question the reality of our lives. Do our intentions, our words, and our actions, speak with one voice, speaking truth, goodness, and beauty, birthing life, light, compassion, forgiveness, and healing?
Together, let us look again at our scramble for medical interventions, for relief from pain, to live longer and more beautiful lives. Do our own private and tribal needs and priorities make a mockery of our preaching about universal “intrinsic human dignity”? Look again at the glitzy advertising of our medical insurance: “if you can afford the privileges of our Platinum cardholders, you also can live a third longer than those “others”.
Each one of us has an essential need to feel loved and to return love. But we are not disembodied spirits and so we also require food, clothing, and shelter. As we get older these needs increase and we come to require care and chronic medication. To live simply and in accordance with the gospel and our vow of poverty does not mean the lack of our basic necessities which would be a moral evil, but rather an un-attachment to the need for control.
All of us have attachments that require a transformation of the heart. I have seen religious whose total earthly goods would fit into a shoebox, yet are so attached to the illusion of control that the present moment is continually being manipulated in accordance with how they consider things should be. But let us not point fingers, each one of us has some or other attachment that binds us and holds our hearts captive. Perhaps it is our good name, our reputation. “In Jesus’s name transformation of the heart and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
This is the simple and straightforward message of Jesus for his disciples to carry to all the nations. They were given no books, doctrines, dogmas, or catechism. All that they carried within them was Jesus, Body, Soul, and Divinity, which is the essence of Mercy and of Love.
The way that we understand this one sentence in the Gospel, will be the way we lead our lives. That is why the first followers of Jesus, the Christ, were called followers of “the Way”. It is Jesus who is the active agent in this transformation of the heart, of this repentance. It is not something that comes about because of my actions or through my worthiness. God has loved us first and because of that love has given God’s self to us.
Eight hundred years ago St Francis of Assisi taught the friars: “We must bear patiently not being good and not being thought good.” It is a rare insight, as the common assumption is that one primarily needs to “think well of oneself.”
St Thérèse of Lisieux, who lived just over 100 years ago, teaches the same thing and says it is a “new way.” She called it her “Little Way” and called herself a “Little Flower” in God’s big garden. This spirituality of imperfection undermines the egoistic use of religion and spirituality for purposes of self-esteem.
Both Francis and Thérèse recognised that you come to God not by being strong, but by being weak; not by being right, but through your mistakes; not by self-admiration but by self-forgetfulness. This teaching utterly levels the playing field of holiness, so all losers can win; which is everybody! This is pure Gospel, and worthy of being called “Good News for All the Peoples” (Luke 2:10)
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