This week we encounter what would at first sight appear to be a repeat of Jesus’ words from the Gospel extract of the Sunday before last. However, TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [MATTHEW 18:...
Remember last week’s references to the limitations imposed on many through age and / or infirmity – as well as the assertion that the Lord stands with us even in troubled, challenging and difficulty times? Do you recall the statement made which insisted that life always contains the possibilities of growth?
We may have doubted all this but take a good, hard and honest look at words from
TODAY’S PSALM : “I keep the Lord before me always; with him at my right hand, I shall not be moved. And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad; even my flesh shall rest in hope.”
THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST READING [ACTS 2: 14. 22 – 33]
tells us that Peter made reference to this Psalm. He also continues to emphasise clearly the FACT OF THE LORD’S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD! “But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death … this Jesus God raised up.” Do we, as Christian disciples and believers really, on a day to day basis, make the resurrection the central foundation and certain fact of our faith? Perhaps an ongoing reminder in the words of that powerful proclamation that CHRIST HAS DIED – CHRIST HAS RISEN – CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN, should be a part of the prayerful beginning of each and every day? It is a real loss that this acclamation is no longer in use at every Eucharist celebrated. The erasion of this is a good example of faith being subjected to doctrinal / liturgical niceties. Too often it is forgotten that the liturgy is made for the people who are not made for the liturgy! “But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death … this Jesus God raised up.”
Let us spend a little time reflecting on a phrase from the verse of scripture just quoted (“loosed the pangs of death,”) and connect it with some closing words from
TODAY’S SECOND READING [1PETER 1: 17 – 21]…. “for your sake … you have confidence in God … so that your faith and hope are in God.” We must notice that, yet again, faith is linked to hope. However, it is the loosed from the pangs of death that we focus on. Now we know that faith and hope disappear after death because we will see face to face (1CORTINTHAINS 13: 12) and only love remains. It follows then that we are loosed from the pangs of death here on earth, while we are alive and, as Paul told the Corinthians, see only puzzling reflections.
The fruits and benefits of Jesus’ resurrection come to us
IN THE PRESENT. We are confident now. We have faith now. We have hope now. This confidence arises out of the mystery of Easter – while our faith and hope assure us that the bonds of our certain deaths are even now loosed. We are not being held in the prison, vice or grip of death. Rather, we are bound by life and living. This is an essential element of our Easter joy. This is the time (the day) the Lord has made – let us be glad and rejoice in it.
Could there be anything worse than Christian disciples who are dead while still, in fact, alive? The mortal coil of Shakespeare’s
HAMLET has to be shuffled off. The shuffling has to be commenced in the present, while we are alive. All of this is realistically possible, as Peter tells us in the second scripture, “for your sake.” Easter is not a gift to be wasted or left unwrapped and forgotten in some closet. START SHUFFLING! It has to be used in the present during the living of our lives.
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [LUKE 24:13 – 35]
records the incident which occurred on the road to Emmaus. This encounter of two disciples with the Lord has always fascinated and taught me much.
What is of special importance in the context of our recent reflections centres around the short sentence which tells of the despair of the two disciples involved. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.” Was this hope, in reality, only a wish? The Lotto had been drawn and their numbers had not come up! We also need to understand their use of the word redeem. Other translations render the word as liberate or restore the fortunes. Their hope had been far removed from faith. They had seen the mission of Jesus in narrow, political and nationalistic terms. They had focussed on periphery issues, and in so doing had missed the real ‘plot’ – “But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death … this Jesus God raised up.” AND, “for your sake … you have confidence in God … so that your faith and hope are in God.” They no longer had hope because their faith in the Lord was, in its origins, uncertain, and somewhat misguided.
WE MUST NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE.
If we do so then Jesus’ challenge to them is made to us: “Foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that ..” Their eyes needed to be opened …. and only then “they recognised him.” When they recognised and believed real hope returned. Our recognition must be
IN LIFE. Do not wait for death!