N.B. This is one of those homilies that sounded fine when I wrote it. . .at 4.30am with three cups of Cafe du Monde coffee vibrating through my system. Once I actually preached it, not so much. Reading it again, definitely not.
6th Week of Easter (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatoula
For the last several days, we've been hearing how Jesus prepared his disciples for his inevitable death. Today, he tells them, “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” This teaching distresses the disciples, but it shouldn't. Jesus has said over and over again that he and the Father are one—their words, their actions, their intentions, all one and the same. Had the disciples understood this teaching they probably would not have been so distressed about his death. The incarnate Son can freely give himself to death, but the Father is eternal, utterly deathless and always present. Therefore, while the disciples can lose Jesus the man, they cannot lose the Son, a divine person “one in being” with his Father. Confused about what Jesus means by “a little while” but afraid to ask questions, the disciples struggle to understand, “What does this mean that he is saying to us?. . .We do not know what he means.” Because they fail to fully comprehend his teaching, Jesus has pity on their ignorance and prophesies, “. . .you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.” All our grief, every worry, all of our anxiety, and every burden is transformed into joy by the promise of the resurrection. The whole of the Easter season is designed to hammer into our too thick skulls that nothing of this world endures. Not its pleasures nor its pains. All of creation is redeemed and will be renewed, but the world—the enemies of God and His Christ within creation—that world will vanish forever. However, those who belong to Christ will endure, will always live again.
We have two problems here with the resurrection. First, we have difficulty living now as if we believe Christ's promise of the resurrection. Second, we resist the idea that we can suffer well knowing who and what awaits us. Both problems are problems of faith, problems with trusting God's Word. We are unable or unwilling to throw ourselves wholly into God's plans and surrender control of our destiny. We've learned too much about how to attain secular happiness, too much about the power of positive thinking, too much about how to live in a world that requires compromise and deceit. Our hearts and minds are focused on this world's horizons: a conflict-free marriage, well-adjusted kids, a comfortable bank account, a satisfying job. None of which is evil per se but none of which will ultimately fulfill our longing for God unless each is directed towards giving God glory by preaching His Gospel. Our daily joys and sufferings must glorify God. They must point to God, mark Him out as source and summit. They must serve as the means to our divine end lest they become traps to meet the Devil's needs. Whatever mourning we must do, whatever grief we suffer now will be transformed into joy in the light of our promised resurrection. If we can't believe this, we are lost before we even start the journey.
The disciples are confused, frustrated. They don't understand what the Lord is trying to teach them. He's told them everything that they need to know to survive in the world as his apostles, yet they are still frightened of his absence. What they cannot know is who and what they will become once he's gone. That bit of knowledge must wait until he's gone and the Holy Spirit sent among them. What is yet to be revealed is their lives in the Spirit. This they must live in order to know. And so must we. We can read, pray, attend Mass, and listen to homilies but until we surrender to God—wholly, without reservation—the promise of the resurrection is a myth, a pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by trick to make us behave. Until Christ's spirit of renewal burns through us, leaving us with a single heart and mind united to his Body, we are frightened, frustrated, and driven by fear. Live as if you are already resurrected. Live as if you see God face-to-face.
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