Sunday, April 26, 2009

3rd Sunday of Easter: A Reflection

Readings for April 26, 2009, 3rd Sunday of Easter:

3RD Sunday of Easter 2009: A Reflection

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
April 26, 2009

From the Gospel for today [Lk 24:35-48] we get the impression that the Apostles still had questions concerning what was happening to Jesus in His resurrected body. The disciples in the Emmaus story had quite a revelation to report. Of how they came to recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread. A point to ponder here. I don't remember where I read this or heard it, but one of the possible reasons for the disciples to not recognize Jesus was that maybe He was clean shaven. My memory also recalls that it was a custom for Jewish men who are on a mission to not shave until the mission was complete.

The suddenness of Jesus' appearance in their midst was for sure startling and surely frightening. Were they seeing a ghost? Of course this means that this resurrected Jesus was not simply a resuscitated corpse, as Father shared with us last week. A physical body does not appear and disappear, or pass through a door as we heard in the Gospel of Mercy Sunday. Another side light that you may find interesting: When I carved Divine Mercy 28 years ago, with no foreknowledge as to rules or information from the Diary, it wasn't released yet, I carved Him with no back. In other words, He was appearing through the door of the upper room but wasn't completely through yet.

On the other hand, Jesus is concerned to demonstrate to the disciples that He is not a ghost. He invites them to observe and even to handle His body. 'Thomas, put your finger into the nail hole and your hand into my side, be not unbelieving but believe.' If they still have doubts, Jesus dispels these by having breakfast with them and eating fish. The body of the resurrected Christ was apparently a transformation of His physical body, so that it retained many of its characteristics but transcended its limitations. What matters is that disciples experienced Jesus as a real and living person, the same Lord they had known and loved.

There is a little good news, bad news to Jesus' resurrection. The good news is that Jesus had truly risen from the dead, the bad news for the disciples is that Jesus was to return to the Father. But we know well enough that this is part of human life. Each day we live is made up of both sunshine and shadows, good news and bad news.

When Jesus called the twelve to follow Him, He did not invite them to live "happily ever after." Following Jesus meant sleepless nights and sleeping on the ground and eating what was available, and persecution as well. Following Jesus meant suffering as he suffered, and for some, to die as He had died. They would be betrayed and forsaken by family and friends. They would endure the loss of all things. Yet they testified again and again, like Paul, that nothing they lost really mattered because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. Forgetting what lay behind and straining toward what lay ahead, they pressed on toward the call of God in Christ Jesus. What many may consider tragic they saw as a Triumphant way to live.

We must wonder if this has any meaning for us today? Does anyone suffer today for following Jesus? Is there any cost in Christian discipleship today? We may respond - Count the ways! Jesus still invites us to the way of genuine self-discovery, the way of becoming who we really are. But it is the way of self-giving, suffering Love. This is the only way we become who we really are. It means there is a time to say No and a time to say Yes! We must say No to the pull of a dying world if we are to say Yes to the Kingdom of God. The triumphant way is the way of Love, which always involves suffering. To Love is to Suffer, to Suffer is to Love.

Saints are described and defined in different ways. All would agree however, that the true Saint follows the triumphant way of the Cross. The true Saint is empty of self-concern and filled with God's Love. The true Saint gives God's Love to others - - warning them, leading them, bringing them back to God's ways. True Saints become instruments of God. They have lost their own will to be replaced by the Will of God.

This is the case of St. George Martyr, our Saint from last Thursday, when he exchanged being a soldier in one army to be a soldier in the army of Christ. It is said of him by St. Peter Damian that he was armed with the invincible standard of the cross, he did battle with an evil king and acquitted himself so well that, in vanquishing the king, he overcame the prince of the wicked spirits and encouraged other soldiers of Christ to perform deeds in His cause.

St. Peter Damian further comments: We must now cleanse ourselves, as St. Paul tells us, from all defilements of the body and the spirit, so that one day we too may deserve to enter the temple of blessedness to which we now aspire.

Truly we must be cleansed of the stains of our past sins and be resplendent in the virtue of our new way of life. Then we can be confident of celebrating Easter, an Eternal Easter, worthily and truly following the example of the blessed martyrs.

Maybe the reason I have a special liking for this Saint is that he was and remained a soldier To be called to be a soldier for Christ is above all callings. In one word, soldier, we know that we are in a battle against evil, and we must know it and put up a good fight. For the salvation of the world and each one of us is at stake. This battle is won only in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His Passion, Death and Resurrection. The disciples knew this, the Saints knew this, and we are to come to know this, for this is what we are called to be. Soldiers for Christ!

More-or-less related posts:
'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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