Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sermon Easter 3 2017

Acts 2.14a,36-41
1 Peter 1.17-23
Luke 24.13-35
“They stood still, looking sad.”
The disciples are walking with Jesus, but don’t realise who they are talking to. He is there in front of them, and yet hidden from their sight.
That is not the only way that Jesus is hidden from them. They describe, to Jesus, with supreme irony, all the things that had happened to him – how he was a great prophet in word and deed, and yet had been handed over to be crucified. Their hope had been that he was the one to redeem Israel. But now, it seems, their hope is over. The fact that Jesus is the Messiah, the redeemer, is hidden from them by the very things they are describing. How can a crucified prophet be the redeemer?
And Jesus is hidden, too, in the scriptures, even though as devout people they would have bene very familiar with the law and the prophets. Jesus upbraids them for their slowness of heart. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
But still, he remained hidden from them, though he was with them. Until he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew him at last, even though he vanished from their sight. Then, they could look back and recall how their hearts burned within them.
Suddenly they recognise all the ways in which Jesus had been hidden, even though he was there all along. Hidden while walking with them. Hidden in their hearts. Hidden in the contradictory events of his betrayal and death. Hidden in the scriptures. And hidden, at last, in the bread. But it is from there that he breaks through into their consciousness, as he breaks the bread. Yet he vanishes from their sight.
The risen Christ is hidden, but not confined. He is not a prisoner in the things that hide him. It is not he who needs to break out, but our vision that needs to be opened. He is always intensely, immediately present to us, if we can but see.
And it is he himself who opens our minds and hearts, as he walks with us on our way. The last chapter of Luke’s Gospel is the story of the church. Those two disciples, Cleopas and the other, stand for all of us. The day in which they meet the risen Lord and recognise him, if you read Luke 24, never comes to an end. It is the same day of resurrection all along. And the whole Church from that day to this walks with the risen Lord in the day of resurrection, which never ends.
This new day is something completely different: God’s eternity rising on the world of history, changing everything. The pace accelerates. The disciples who begin by standing still looking sad at the end rush back to Jerusalem, seemingly in an instant, bearing the good news.  And there they meet other disciples with their own story to tell of how the risen Jesus has broken through their unseeing and changed their lives.
Jesus is hidden, not because he wants to avoid us, but because our understanding needs to change and our vision needs to be enlarged.
He breaks open the scriptures for us so that we can see him there. How otherwise, apart from actually meeting the risen Lord, could we possibly imagine that God could be working and saving the world in a rejected figure cast out and put to death? And seeing Jesus there changes how we see all victims, all violence, all exclusion.
We had imagined that bad things were to do with God, God punishing the world for its wickedness. We had projected ourselves, and the way we cast people out and reject them, onto God. But the risen Lord shows us how wrong we were, because it turns out that he has been on the side of the victims all along. And because it is Jesus the Saviour who shows us this, that discovery also brings our forgiveness and reconciliation.
And Jesus breaks open the present moment for us, so we can see him there too. We realise that he is burning in our hearts: as we walk along, as we go about our daily lives, as we encounter friend and stranger. We suddenly realise how we need to be in the present moment too, from which we are so often absent. Jesus breaks open our illusions and idols and fantasies, calls us to attend persistently to the real and concrete life we actually live, for that is where he is waiting for us.
Jesus breaks open the scriptures, so we can see what they mean. Apart from him, we are going to get the Bible wrong. There are sects such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who start with what they think the Bible means and then invent a Jesus of their own imagination out of that. But they have got it exactly the wrong way round.
Jesus the risen victim is the key to understanding the law and the prophets and the history of God’s chosen people. And our brothers and sisters in Christ, also, are key to our understanding, because it is all the disciples together who walk with the risen Lord. We read the Bible with the Church, allowing the risen Lord who is in our midst to teach us what it means.
And Jesus breaks open the bread of the Eucharist for us, revealing himself there above all. That is the moment of recognition. Jesus, who is truly present in the bread that we break and in the people who gather. Through these intimate, simple and everyday things, bread and wine, our defences are broken down and our illusions taken away. We know him here, risen from the dead, though we do not see him with our eyes. Here he makes us what we receive, the Body of Christ, the community of disciples who walk with him.
Here time and eternity intersect, and the one is taken into the other. Every Eucharistic gathering, spread throughout the world in so many different times and places, is drawn by Jesus into the one day of the resurrection, the day of eternity. Disciples from every race and culture and language under heaven are gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, through the one bread that we share, the bread that is Jesus himself.
And from this comes great joy, as our eyes are opened. Walking with Jesus, we hasten to gather with our fellow disciples and to share the good news with others. The everyday will never be the same again. Because now every moment, every task, every ordinariness, is shot through with the eternal day of the resurrection in which Jesus stands in his risen glory, revealing himself to us.

In our parish annual meeting after this Mass. In whatever we are going to be doing this time tomorrow. In the friends and strangers we meet along the way. In the suffering and victims that seem sometimes to fill our lives or the world. Jesus is there. The risen Lord is there. Know him, in the present moment, in the scriptures, in the breaking of the bread. Know that time is no longer hemmed in by death but opened to eternity. Know Jesus, and nothing will ever be the same again.

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