The ups and downs of eternity

Standard

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)

Standard

“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.

A Popes request (a couple days after Easter)

Standard

A day or so ago the pontifical tweet was that the faithful should spend the week pondering the resurrection gospels. Today’s readings do just that. In Luke’s account Lk 24:13-35, the disciples are walking along and encounter the risen Christ. The reading emphasizes that “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.”

The Lord was cautious in how He was revealed go the disciples. It was not by sight. Is there not a bible quote that says blessed are those that do not see and believe? In that walk amongst themselves they are discussing the events of His resurrection, and Jesus asks what they are discussing. Subtly the Lord tells them to proclaim His passion and resurrection.

They do, they tell the story of Holy Week. They tell of the woman’s encounter with angels at the tomb. They tell that angels had announced to the women that Jesus was alive. The pope had asked that we read the gospel accounts of the resurrection. The risen Christ asked that the disciples tell their story. The gospel accounts were an oral tradition long before they were written. Small point but worth mentioning. The other point is that the Lord was not revealed through the eyes. Go the woman it was through angels, and my mind drifts towards the Annunciation at Christmas. It is repeated at the tomb.

The Lord revealed himself to the women through an angel, how did He reveal himself to the men? What does the story say? It says first he walked with them. It says Jesus asked them to give account of what happened. Jesus then challenged them, they had said they did not see the Lord at the tomb. Jesus revealed himself through the scriptures, just as He did prior to Holy Week. How important that they came to a fork in the road, and they ask Jesus to stay with them. It is by choice. Finally those men’s eyes are opened with the breaking of bread. Now they see the Lord with their eyes.

What’s the point? The women trust the Lord through an angel. The men take a different journey, they reach the Lord through scripture and scholarship, and dialogue, testament, and finally in the breaking of bread. They are two separate journeys. I cannot help but notice that the women’s journey follows the Nativity gospel so closely and that the men’s follows the journey of the Mass. The Mass of the Lords Supper.

Finally, to go to the first reading. A crippled beggar asks the disciples for Alms outside the Temple and Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”

The flicker of light

Standard

Today I wonder how it is that I know that Easter has arrived. Is it by a day on the calendar? Is it through a liturgy, or by decorations? Is it communicated through a newscast? Is it by a meal, did someone tell me? What is the hint that proclaims Jesus Christ has risen? Is it through scholarship, or theology, or catechism? How do I know?

I know I can read a paper, I have seen Christians in the news. Most recently it was about Christian churches bombed in Egypt. Was that a sign? Are these questions any different from those the first disciples asked after Good Friday? Where is the proof of the risen Lord? There was no advantage for those gospel writers to include the resurrection, and there is no good reason for me to write the same. It gets me nothing. So why believe in a risen Christ?

Today especially it depends on how this Easter is approached, and that is a bit of philosophy. Each person examines this event from a different angle. For some its the science of the day. For others it is religion, others counter-culture. Some want to believe and others simply don’t. People often take sides, to them its personal preference. It’s an answer to a question, often it’s an argument. Religion is a polarizing topic, and this holds true for Easter. Easter isn’t an argument, its an observation. It’s not what one thinks, but what one sees.

Is it acceptable to see Easter as a flicker? A flicker of light in darkness, and then a flicker of darkness illuminated by light. The contrast. A glimmer of good surrounded by evil, and then evil that comes to view through its contrast with good. Light and dark, angel and devil. The gospel accounts talk of seeing angels, and often accompanied by dazzling light. They talk of seeing the risen Lord in flickers, only visible to the disciples. Their eyes were on the lookout and they knew what they were searching for. They were observant, shouldn’t we be the same? They kept their eyes open, and their hearts; even though they did not have a clear expectation. In their darkness (the same darkness that plagues the same region today) they witnessed the flickers of light that made them proclaim Jesus has risen. As they wrote they felt the earth shaken, and their world changed. I wonder if today we can experience the same? A flicker of light in the darkness.

Silent night

Standard

Silent night, Holy night,

All is calm, All is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

That song has been running through my head since 3:00 pm  yesterday. I know it’s the wrong season, but is that really true? Silent Night comes from the Nativity, and last night was the night after the crucifixion. In the hymn Jesus lies in a manger, the LORD has descended to our realm. God becomes man. Yesterday Jesus dies on the cross, and is placed in a tomb. In that tomb the LORD descends into the deepest and darkest depths of our existence. Jesus descends into the depths of Hell to liberate all who helplessly lie there. Jesus brings the dead back to the living and sets humanity free. Death is destroyed, it looses its grip. The promise of Christmas is fulfilled. It is done. Silent night, Holy night.

Good Friday to Holy Saturday