Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter 2

Readings: Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

Thomas said he wouldn’t believe
until he saw the body.
And who can blame him;
it seems, after all,
a pretty incredible story.
Thomas said he wouldn’t believe
until he touched the body of Jesus
with his own hands,
saw its wounds,
put his fingers in the nail holes,
put his hand into the wound in his side.
Thomas said he wouldn’t believe
unless there were some way
in which he could experience for himself
the concrete presence of the risen Christ.

Thomas said he would not believe it,
and who can blame him?
Why should we believe something
without at least some evidence?
Why should we believe
not only that death could not defeat Jesus,
but that his very body itself was raised to life?
If his body still lives, show it to me.

In the Gospel today,
Jesus gives Thomas what he asks for:
“he said to Thomas,
‘Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’”
And Thomas responds
with one of the boldest confessions
of faith in Jesus
in the entire New Testament:
“My Lord and my God!”

So much for Thomas;
he got what he asked for.
But what about us?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those
who have not seen and have believed.”
And yet, we still want to see;
we still want something tangible
to make this incredible claim more credible.
If Jesus is truly risen, then where is his body?

“The community of believers
was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed
that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common. . . .
There was no needy person among them.”

Among the first disciples in the city of Jerusalem
the new life of the risen Jesus was palpable
in their love for each other,
in the concrete actions that showed that love,
in their unity of heart and mind.

If Jesus is truly risen, then where is his body?
At Corpus Christi parish in Baltimore Maryland
people give many hours of their time
planning liturgies,
toiling over budgets,
preparing music,
distributing food,
taking communion to the sick and shut in.

If Jesus is truly risen, then where is his body?
At Corpus Christi parish in Baltimore Maryland
people gather to pray
for themselves and for the world;
they sing their songs of praise
to the God of life;
they initiate children and adults
into Christ’s family;
they take, bless, break and share
Christ’s Eucharistic body and blood;
they mourn with each other in sorrow
and rejoice with each other in gladness.

I do not mention these things
in order to flatter you.
We all know that we,
both as individuals and as a community,
are far from perfect,
that we often fail to be a clear sign
of the dying and rising of Christ,
that we can be as petty or ill-tempered
or lazy or selfish as anyone else.
Sometimes it takes an act of faith
to believe that we are
what our name proclaims:
Corpus Christi, the body of Christ.
But our faith tells us that by God’s grace
we are that risen body,
that in our best moments
the Spirit of truth finds a way
to bear witness through us
to the truth that Jesus Christ is truly risen,
that his body lives.
And not only in us,
but in the many members of Christ’s body
throughout the world.

Like Thomas, the world will only believe
if it can see the risen Christ for itself.
St. Thomas Aquinas said,
“nothing shows the truth of the gospel better
than the love of those who believe”
(Super Io. cap. 17 lec. 5 no. 2241).
So let us seek to love one another,
let us open our hearts to the Spirit
who can make of us that risen body,
so that the world might see,
so that the world might believe,
that Christ is truly risen.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Vigil

Why are you here?
Could you not think of anything better to do 
on a Saturday night
than to come to church for two-and-a-half hours
and light candles and listen to huge chunks of Scripture
and bless water and remember you baptism
and celebrate the Eucharist late in the night?
Why would you do such a strange thing?
What have you come looking for?

Maybe you came because your life is going well
and you want celebrate the joy that you feel in you heart.
Maybe you came because you seek solace 
for the sorrow you carry 
and cannot seem to  put down.
Maybe you came because you always come,
because at some point you fell hopelessly in love
with the liturgy and lore of Christ’s Church,
and despite the ups and downs of your faith
you simply cannot imagine Easter without the Vigil.
Maybe you came because of all three.

I know that our parish as a community 
and we as individuals
have in the past year celebrated 
new births, new jobs, new homes, new friendships:
all of which we come to celebrate in the joy of this night.
I also know the some of us have suffered losses:
frustrations at work, financial troubles,
illnesses, anxiety, disappointments, deaths.
We bring these things too to this night.

For “this is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death 
and rose victorious from the underworld.
This is the night 
in which the stone that sealed the tomb 
where hope was buried
is rolled away.
If you brought joy with you,
let this night increase your joy a thousand-fold.
If you brought sorrow,
let this night drown those sorrows
in the flood of new life 
that has burst forth from the tomb.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!

But what about tomorrow?
What about the next day?
What about when Easter is over 
and we are back in the midst of our daily lives,
back in the midst of our everyday joys and sorrows? 

Notice that in Mark’s account of the resurrection
the women do not see the risen Jesus –
rather they see only the empty tomb 
and the stone rolled away,
a sign of hope.
Remember the message 
that the women who find the empty tomb
are given to carry back to the disciples:
“He is going before you to Galilee;
there you will see him as he told you.”

the obscure province 
where they first encountered Jesus;
the place of their daily lives 
as fishermen and tax collectors;
the place that they left 
to follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem
where the great drama of death and resurrection 
would be played out.
Back to Galilee,
back to daily life,
back to their everyday joys and sorrows.

This is the night, 
in which we have been given a sign of hope,
a tomb burst open.
But when you leave here tonight
you will return to your own Galilees,
your own daily lives,
your own joys and sorrows.
The message of this night is that, 
“there you will see him, as he told you.”

Why are you here?
Because this is the night:
the night of the great drama of death and resurrection,
the night when we are given a sign of hope
that we cannot live without.
But tomorrow, 
and the next day, 
and the day after that –
as you celebrate your daily joys
and struggle with your daily sorrows –
in that place of your daily life,
“there you will see him, as he has told you.”
On this night of nights
may God bless you 
as you go forth to Galilee
to meet the risen Jesus. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday

What a waste.
An entire alabaster jar of expensive perfumed oil
broken and poured upon the head
of an obscure rabbi 
from one of the more distant and impoverished districts.
It could have been sold
and the money spent for some practical purpose.
What a waste.
In a few days he would be dead anyway.

What a waste.
Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to the joyous cries of the crowds,
ready to accept him as their king, as David’s heir.
Now could have been the moment
when he leveraged his political capital
and brought change that we could believe in.
What a waste.
He squandered that political capital
by claiming to be more than a king,
by claiming to be the Christ, the son of the Blessed one,
by claiming that God is his Abba, his father.
And now he is publicly tormented in a shameful death.

What a waste.
“Though he was in the form of God,”
the eternal Son, fully sharing in divinity,
“Jesus did not regard equality with God 
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,”
pouring himself out like the perfumed oil 
from the woman’s alabaster jar,
“taking the form of a slave, 
coming in human likeness, 
humbling himself. . .
becoming obedient to the point of death, 
even death on a cross.”
What a foolish, senseless waste.

But the foolishness of God is wiser than worldly wisdom.
“The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint, 
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”

Because he willingly poured out his life
for love of God 
and for love of each and every one of us,
“God greatly exalted him,”
raising him up and revealing him 
to be the Lord of creation;
raising him up so that the lives of all those
who have poured themselves out 
in the cause of love,
like precious ointment from an alabaster jar,
might rise also with him,
their lives not wasted
but truly found, truly saved, even unto eternity.