Road trip (sort of)

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Road rip. 40-days on a bus. Forty days, or 40-years. It’s a journey. A journey across a continent, a journey across desert, a journey through time. What difference does it make? At the Ascension, I ponder Jesus and His 40-days in the desert doing battle with a demon. A trip across time. At the ascension, what was the beginning point? Forty days before was Christ’s resurrection, and three days before that was the horror. To see the resurrection was not to be blind to the horror, the crucifixion still was prominent.(Manchester, May, 2017) The brutality, and the inhumanity did not disappear. They were present, society did not change. The horror that predated the Nativity is in full swing Easter morning. It is not baskets full of chocolate bunnies for the disciples, the Good Friday brutality was in full swing the following Easter Monday. That is a realistic interpretation of their world. A bus load of Coptic Christians was just slaughtered for their faith.(2017)That is something to imagine. When those first disciples saw the risen LORD, they were not blind to the horror that accompanied Jesus. ISIS. In that time they saw flickering glimpses if the LORD, a flickering light in near darkness. Don’t underestimate that contrast. If Christ was the Light, the world was an abysmal darkness; yet the Apostles saw that light, a glimmer of hope. They pondered a risen Lord, they proclaimed Him and they marveled at what occurred. A light that cut through the darkness. Don’t underestimate the Light, but don’t underestimate the darkness either.

(Note: in Manchester an ISIS terrorist ignites a bomb at a concert. In Egypt ISIS slaughters a bus full of Coptic Christians on pilgrimage. May 2017. Brutality then and now.)

If the resurrection was a flickering light, what was the ascension? The resurrection was a realization that the Christ could not be defeated. In the resurrection they saw a Christ alive on earth, a Christ that was not cast to a distant galaxy. A God that was near to them, they were not abandoned. They saw proof, and with that proof the scales dropped from their eyes. A flicker of light becomes a bonfire, a light for all to see. It cannot be denied. Christ wandered a desert for forty days and defeated the devil, the Apostles wandered through the resurrection for forty days and proclaimed their God. It’s a journey in time and in space. A journey from desolation towards the divine. A promise fulfilled.

With that proclamation and that ascension the Apostles and disciples could not be defeated. Death had been conquered and their persecutors had no hold on them. They could be hunted, and tortured, and mocked, and imprisoned, and murdered. They could not be defeated, powerful men had no authority over an almighty God. That is the realization of the Feast of the Ascension. It is the realization that the Kingdom  of God is truly at hand. As the Hebrews wandered the desert for 40-years to reach their promise, The Apostles promise is fulfilled at the end of their Easter journey. 40-days. The LORD ( their LORD) ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. After 40-days in the desert tempted by the devil, Jesus begins His ministry. Standing together watching their Lord ascend on a cloud, the Apostles begin their journey in Christ..

The ups and downs of eternity

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Ok, I get it. An angel falls and a serpent slithers up a tree. Cain versus Abel, and Joseph into slavery, an exile and an exodus. Free will and good versus evil. Challenges and pitfalls. Pitfalls and a very (very) deep pit. Pushed into a cistern, and pushed to hell. A struggle to rise. It is the grand battle, and a grand chaos of a fallen order. I understand a messiah in the simplest of terms. I understand leaders like Moses, like Caesar, like Herod, like a pharaoh; and ultimately like the Son of God. I can understand the messiah of the nativity. I understand the messiah of Easter, and the need for the Apostles to record the resurrection of Christ. I understand they did so to the best of their abilities. I can also understand the Messiahs need to ascend, and the amount of time Jesus spent explaining His return to the Father. Finally I get the Holy Spirit, and how it proceeds from the Father and Son. With that ascent and decent, the serpent is crushed. That is the end game, the conclusion.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always,
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept,
because it neither sees nor knows him.
But you know him, because he remains with you,
and will be in you.
I will not leave you orphans

The feast of the Ascension and Pentecost defuse the other Messiahs. It steals their thunder, it silences their voice. It allows, in the quietness of contemplation, one to hear the truth. It explains why at the resurrection only a few select followers were permitted entry to the vision. To see they first had to seek. They had to die themselves, so that they might rise anew. They had to answer that first call to “follow me.” Follow me was through cavalry, and into the grave. It was to walk with Christ, and to die to the world. It also was to rise again, and to see anew. There was the vision of a risen LORD. It was the journey of their baptism, their death and life.

This is a transition, from Easter to Ascension. It is a transition of a God that needs to rise on earth and be present here. That speaks of an eternal presence, and eternity is nothing easy to understand. It is a presence that is alpha and omega, first and last. Eternal. The transition is also one where the physical transitions to the eternal. That ascension leaves no room for false prophet, it does make that path for spirit. Eternal is not something easy to understand.

Sixth Sunday of Easter
Lectionary: 55

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17

1 Pt 3:15-18

Jn 14:15-21

A few weeks after Easter (about a shepherd)

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“I am the good shepherd.” Shepherd, old title. Ancient title.

King David, good shepherd, many not. Look around today, North Korea. (And how is that shepherd?)

Shepherd idyllic. Good king. Imagery. Old Testament and New.

Descriptive. Pencil and paper; what does a shepherd do?

Tending sheep, and lead to pasture. Protector, from the predator. They bind wounds. Bring to market. Heaven.. .

“Blessed are those who do not see, and believe.” Write that ten times. Write that one hundred times, write it a thousand. It is that important.

Jesus the Christ is the Good Shepherd. Most times when the LORD assumes this title people think of an image of Jesus walking with a lamb about His shoulders. The lamb rescued by the shepherd. There are other images. The lamb rescued from the thickets and the thorns, where is the image of the shepherd struggling to free the sheep? That shepherd hangs on a cross bloodied by the thorns and consumed by the task. The shepherd feeds those sheep, and where is the image. It is the host above a chalice, the paschal lamb. A shepherd that enters the herd to walk with that herd. A shepherd that becomes a lamb. The Lamb of God. A lamb of Sacrifice.

The Shepherd of “Good Shepherd Sunday” was present in the previous Sunday too. Hint, the Bread of Life.

The same Shepherd is that bread of life, that same bread where the disciples recognized the risen Lord. The Good Shepherd also is present as the Easter Christ, the Christ of our lives. Pope Francis wears a pectoral cross engraved with the image of Christ and the lamb atop His shoulders, the classic image of the Good Shepherd. Francis is in the person of Christ, Christs Shepherd on earth. Through apostolic succession the priests accept the role of shepherd. Priest, Pastor, Pastoral, Shephard. They are connected. But where else is this Shepherd, where can He be seen?

At Mass, common during this season a pastor fed his lambs the first food for a journey. The priest presented the sacrament of first communion. The Shepherd in bread (and wine). Feed the sheep! (Manna from heaven)

A body is consumed at communion, it becomes part of us. A Shepherd walks with us and us with Him. A tabernacle to make Him visible. Trample back a few Sundays ago, just after the resurrection. The risen Lord described by an angel. A risen Lord discovered through conversation. Discovered through the breaking of bread. Companion, travelers with bread. Shepherd not seen with eyes. Until they were opened. Blessed are they who do not see and believe. Write that ten times. Write that one hundred times, write it a thousand. It is that important.

Witness.

A shepherd feeding the lambs. Shepherd present in so many ways. Priest. Blessed Sacrament. Church. Shepherd today, visible as the body of Christ. Mystical.

Some simple examples. They guide a flock through their schools.

The mystical body of Christ, is a mystical body of the Good Shepherd. “A young flock beginning a journey, go back to that first communion. “To educate is to Shepherd.”

From teachers, to scholars, to writers, to artist.

They shepherd in their unique way, as Christ’s shepherds. Visible today.

The Good Shepherd to guide them as they shepherd others.

Angus Dei.A mystical Shepherd and a mystical Body of Christ. A Good Shepherd of the Resurrection.

The Good Shepherd reaches for the lost sheep. That is the reason for the Nativity. But where is that shepherd today?

The Mystical Body of Christ. Charities is love, the love of the Shepherd. They bring food and shelter to the injured and the marginalized and the lost and the starving and those in despair. Hospitality to hospital. FYI a Franciscan tradition. They are the original purveyors of Hospitals. Remember Francis encounter with a Leper? Did he simply leave that lost sheep, or tend his wounds. Shepherd. Not just the parish (though that counts for certain) but the Church. Big organization and many branches; from schools to relief services to charities. Mystical: of or relating to mystics or religious mysticism:
spiritually allegorical or symbolic; transcending human understanding: Mystical !

This is the Easter season, a time to seek a risen Lord. A Good Shepherd, present in the desert battling the devil, is the same one with a Lamb about His shoulders. That He might seek us out, but can’t we do the same?

Is it possible to look for signs of HIM at every corner of life, to seek his presence here and now? Situational awareness, calling out for salvation and keeping an eye out for danger. Easter is about witnessing a risen LORD and the gospel tells it is not only about eyes. Vision an also a function of the mind, the intellect. Mystical body and mystical shepherd, today. Bonaventure, journey into the mind of God. I must read it.