Welcome to sackcloth, ashes and hairshirts! However, if this is your chosen Lenten garb, remember that you need the permission of your regular confessor! Personally I would never allow it...
Last week’s reflection ended with the sentence containing the following challenge – ‘no good to simply stare in amazement at the empty tomb’. This week let us add something further – the Resurrection itself should neither amaze nor fill us with amazement. Our extract from TODAY’S PSALM [118 or 117] ends with the words “this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In addition, halfway through the stanzas we read that “there are shouts of joy … in the tents of the just.”
Let us, briefly, draw attention to the drought which has plagued (and continues to do so) various areas of South Africa over the past two years. When good downpours of rain come we are not filled with amazement at this reality. NO! It fills us with JOY, AWE and WONDER – this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Indeed, there are shouts of joy … in the tents of the just. A natural reaction for many people is to run outside and stand in the rain, allowing it to drench them, wash them clean.
However, the rain does something else. It galvanizes us into action. Somehow or other the normal routine of life and living beckons us into the future which, once again, presents us with opportunities. Not only are we able to enjoy the luxury of a proper shower but, more importantly, crops can be planted, the garden will spring to life and we can plant our own seedlings. HOPE HAS RETURNED. We can truly LIVE again.
In one of his splendid books (Sacred Fire – pages 155 / 156) RONALD ROLHEISER tells us that “amazement turns us into mindless cheerleaders, irrespective of what is right or wrong or what we actually value.” On the other hand, wonder makes us reflective, and joy spurs us to action. If we reflect deeply about Easter’s celebration of resurrection we wonder not only at the plan our God has for us but the action he took to manifest the faithfulness of his promises. Then the joy we feel leads us to spell out some of the challenges confronting us. It calls us to adopt a more mature (adult!), generous and life-giving way in our personal response to, and involvement in, the living of our Christian lives.
Is this all ‘pie-in-the-sky’? If you think so and are, perhaps a little cynical, then reflect honestly on THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 4: 32 -35]. What is the picture presented to us? Well, we should at once notice that the drought was over. The extracts clearly present us with a picture of a community with anew heart and soul – a renewed energy and purpose. This fact was especially brought together by the fact that the testimony of the apostles – the witness to “the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
Here the word community is of fundamental importance. The relief from the drought had given “those who believed” an understanding of the need to stand together with the sense of a common goal and function – together with the determined activity of making it happen. All one has to do in order to accept this is to actually READ this reading.
Our SECOND READING [1 JOHN 5: 1 – 7] provides us with the anchor for what has just been said. So, (i) is our obedience to the commandments a fair measure of our love of God? Then, (ii) how do we correlate our faith with our successes and failures? We go on and (iii) need to evaluate the real centre and focus of our faith which John tells us “overcomes the world.” Is it “that Jesus is the Son of God?” Is Jesus Christ risen from the dead the absolute centre and foundation of my faith? Finally (iv) there is a need for us to examine whether my personal ‘devotional’ activity does not, at times threaten the centrality of Christ?
Finally we come to OUR GOSPEL EXTRACT [JOHN 20: 19- 31]. Recall last week’s reference concerning the dithering of disciples about the fact of the resurrection? Well, today they are still dithering but in addition they were doing so “for fear of the Jews.” Fear paralyses us. We become inactive. However when they actually see the risen Lord things begin to change. “The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” Eventually even Thomas is able to make the essential confession of faith – “my Lord and my God.”
Now, hear clearly what Jesus says to the disciples gathered in the upper room. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” Both the first two readings make it clear that the original believers wondered at all, emerged from the drought, and got on with the job at hand. We must avoid being amazed by the mission given to each one of us. We must WONDER AT the living presence of Jesus among us – and WONDER at the mission given to us – GO AND DO IT!