Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Matter of Life and Death

Well, friends, we are hardly a third of the way into our joyful celebration of this Easter season, and a tragedy has struck this week, reminding us that, despite the Resurrection of the Lord, we still live in a violent world. We still live in what John Paul II called the “culture of death.”

So we pray especially in these days for eternal rest for the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre and for the consolation of their families and friends in their overwhelming loss. And we pray too for the perpetrator, that somehow, in the eternity of God’s irresistible gentleness, he might be freed from the horrible inner torment that drove him to these crimes.

And thus we are reminded in our Easter joy that the Resurrection does not magically remove suffering and violence from our lives. We are reminded that in Jesus Christ we are freed from death, but not from dying.

In fact, the kind of violence and brutality we witnessed this past week are part of the very mystery we worship! As the book of Revelation says today, “Worthy is the Lamb…worthy is the lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” And as the apostle Peter proclaims in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “the God of our ancestors raised Jesus,” the very Jesus we killed by “hanging him on a tree.”

Jesus Christ enters into all of the violence and isolation and brutality that we have brought upon the world with our sins, not to take violence away, but to open for us a path for its transformation.

And so, as Peter says later on, the Holy Spirit is given to us who obey God. This is the same Holy Spirit which conceived Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and which raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And it is by this Holy Spirit present in our hearts and minds, that we will be able to see the Risen Lord. The Spirit will help us to notice ways that we can begin to transform the meaninglessness of suffering and death into the joy and peace of gentleness and new life.

This movement and possibility are clear from our gospel today. The disciples had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. But once they are able to perceive Jesus Christ risen from the dead and present with them, eating with them, fishing with them, their efforts are transformed and they catch an overwhelming number of fish.

And the same thing is possible for us. As the disciples found courage in the Lord to keep fishing after a discouraging night, we must not let something like the Virginia Tech massacre or the horrifying situation in Iraq make us discouraged in our faith. We must ask for the Holy Spirit, who will give us the eyes to see through the culture of death to the possibility of proclaiming a culture of life.

God is always inviting, always calling us back to the path to new life he has established for us in the Passion and Resurrection of his Son. Today at the end of our gospel we have the beautiful story of the rehabilitation of St. Peter. Having denied Jesus three times on Good Friday, today the Lord asks him three times, “do you love me?” And each time Peter responds that he does, the same imperative comes from the Lord: “feed my sheep.”

Let us pray for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who will teach us the path to the transformation of our violent culture of death into a gentle culture of life. The strength of the anger and bitterness that breaks out into wars and school shootings can be transformed and re-directed to gentleness and the conviction of faith in goodness. We call this transformation the Resurrection.

Feed my sheep, don’t shoot them, says the Lord. And the pattern and path to do this have been provided for us by Jesus, the first-born of the dead and the beginning of the new creation. Let us believe in him, and in whatever small way we can, begin to gather up the whole world into the new life of his Resurrection. The world is desperate for it, though they don’t know it. Let’s make the new life available to us in Jesus Christ risen from the dead the worst kept secret in the world. They need to hear it.

(3rd Sunday of Easter, C)

1 comment:

Don said...

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."--John 16:33. Peace Brother Charles.:-)Don