Saturday, March 29, 2008

Some reflections

When I first started this blog I thought I'd like to post reflections on the Sunday readings. Not so much homilies since, well, I'm not ordained (although, yes, that Diaconate bell rings louder with the passing of time, but that's another story) but simply reflections. Hard as it may seem to believe, I didn't start this blog as an attempt to foist my insufficiently considered opinions on matters nearer the edge of my grasp than the center on anyone, even though it seems that's what I've spent more of my column-inches on.

Doing this is more than just a little unnerving because it opens me up to the realization of just how shallow my theological grounding is. But hey, these are just reflections, so take them for what they're worth. I'll start with the readings for this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter - Acts 2:42-47; Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Pt 1:3-9; Jn 20:19-31.

First, let me ask - how many of us realize that this is the "Second Sunday" of Easter? When I entered the Church it amazed me how many people did not realize that Easter wasn't just Easter Sunday. You could see lights clicking on in peoples' heads as it was explained to them that, akin to how our Triduum is in fact one great event, the significance and the joy of Easter cannot be contained in just one Sunday. For some the concept of the liturgical season of Easter is familiar, but an entire eight days - Sunday to Sunday - comprising a great feast, the octave of Easter comes as a revelation to many. As we say each Sunday is a "mini-Easter" so the one great Easter celebration needs to break out beyond just the one twenty-four hour period and stands at the center of our year proclaiming the joy of all joys, that Christ is risen!

Of all the themes we see running through the readings today it is joy that is paramount:

They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. -- Acts 2:46-47a
My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my savior. The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just. -- Ps 118:13-15
and again
Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. -- 1 Pt 1:8-9
and finally
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. -- Jn 20:20b
Indeed there is great joy in all of these readings - it is simply bursting out of all the seams. And it is for good reason too! Just as the ancient Israelites rejoiced greatly at their exodus from slavery in Egypt these readings speak to us of the great joy of our ancient Church at our exodus from heretofore unbroken bondage of sin, those chains broken by our Risen Lord. That joy breaks forth ten and a hundred and a thousand times more than even the joy at the first exodus for this was a far greater enemy - the Egyptians could harm and destroy the body, but sin damages and corrodes the soul; the former in its form is temporary, the latter is forever. This was a freeing that I would venture to guess very few ever saw coming.

As we stand in church this Sunday, doing as we always do, let us remember that great joy that is ours if we reach for it - the great joy of God breaking into our world, taking on humanity including all its trials, sufferings and heartaches, dying - dying - and rising again all because He loves us so much He wants to offer us the one thing that will truly make us happy, life with Him. This joy is ours, offered to us every day in the Eucharist and indeed in all the sacraments of the Church, a joy unlike anything the world could ever offer. We rejoice because, well, how else can you respond to such a tremendous gift? We rejoice because Jesus' words we heard a week ago, "Do not be afraid" now make sense - how could we be afraid? Jesus, the Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God, Our Savior has defeated death and offered to us the remission of our sins. We stand every day at the threshold of a life so new, so full, so pure it boggles the mind to even contemplate. Jesus stands before us, beckoning us on; He will come to us in the Eucharist in a form wholly unlike any other offering to make His home in us if we will make our home in Him.

When you go forth to receive Communion, remember Jesus' words 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." Let our response be as Thomas' - joy so overwhelming it transcends speeches and reduces the Apostle to one of the most beautiful statements in the whole Bible: "My Lord and my God!" Be not afraid, brethren. Our God is good. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!