Saturday, April 19, 2008

Living Stones

(5th Sunday of Easter, A)

As we come to these later days of the Easter season we are always aware of a shift in our reflection. At the beginning of Easter we are overwhelmed with wonder at the re-creation of the world and the renovation of our humanity in Jesus Christ risen from the dead. But as the Easter season moves on, we are invited more and more to reflect on how it is that the Risen Lord continues to be present to us.

This is, after all, the core of our faith: to confess that the blessing of God abides with us, his people, in the mysterious presence of Jesus as Risen Lord and in his gift of the Holy Spirit. We Christians are always using language that affirms this truth. We begin and end our prayer together with a confession of Jesus’ presence among us: “The Lord be with you…and also with you.” In the deepest way we affirm the presence of Christ among us when we receive Holy Communion, and someone looks at us and addresses us with our truest name and identity, “The Body of Christ.”

We who are Christians—the people who are “of Christ”—are meant to live in this world as the presence of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. We are to be witnesses of the possibility of living a risen life, freed from sin, freed from anxiety, freed form depression and from anything that holds us down to earth. And we live this risen life by the power of Christ and his Spirit living within us.

This is what St. Peter is getting at in the second reading when he urges us to allow ourselves, “like living stones,” be built by the Holy Spirit “into a spiritual house.” That’s what the Church is, not a place we go or a building—no matter how beautiful—but a people. Each of us is a stone made living in Christ and together we are built into a spiritual building by the Holy Spirit present in the world. And this spiritual building that we form is meant to be a place of safety and refreshment for the world around us that has made itself tired by violence and sin and despair.

This is what it means to be “in Christ.” That’s why this assembly, the church, is called the “body of Christ”. And this is exactly what we confess in Holy Communion—the Communion we receive, the body and blood of Christ, is who we really are who we are to become.

It is us who are meant to be the presence in the world of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. We who are buried with him in our baptism and made into this body in this Eucharist are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be the risen Body of Christ in the world. And thus our mission as individuals and as a Church is to continue Christ’s work of teaching, of healing, of reconciling, and of making peace. These missions are to be our work in our most personal relationships and activities all the way up to our intersection with public debate, politics, and issues affecting our whole society and world.

In short, that’s who we are, a people who form the Church which continues the presence and mission of Christ through history. And let’s not forget the Gospel we hear today, which assures us that if we do this, if we live in Christ in this life, we can trust that Jesus in his Resurrection has prepared an eternal dwelling for us in the Father.

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