Sunday, April 10, 2016

3rd Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Ps 30
Rev 5:11-14
Jn 21:1-19

“But Peter and the apostles said in reply . . . .
‘We must obey God rather than men . . . .
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.’”

Is this the same Peter who denied Jesus three times?  Is this the same man whose incomprehension provoked Jesus to say, “Get behind me satan?”  Peter, who swore he did not know Jesus is now proclaiming that Jesus is risen from the dead, that He is the one of whom David spoke.  Fearful of being known as one of Jesus’ disciples while huddled around a fire Peter is now preaching what was blasphemy:  That Jesus had risen from the dead. That He is the Messiah. That He is the One of whom David spoke.  These are the same apostles commentators love to slag because they were not clustered around the foot of the cross.  Now they are willing to face death for the sake of His name.

Lent is always open season on the apostles. The critiques, are generally amusing, particularly if one pays attention to the underlying current of heroic narcissistic self-aggrandizement that implies:
I never would have denied Jesus. 
I never would have fled from Calvary. 
I never would have behaved as Peter, Thomas or . . . .(fill in blank) did. 
Yeah right.  And Elvis is still in the building.  To paraphrase the late Walt Kelly's comic strip Pogo:  “We have met the Apostles and they is us.”  Flawed.  Clueless.  Imperfect.  In a word,  human.  “We have met the Apostles and they is us.” Capable of great kindness.  Compassion.  Heroism.  And love.  In a word,  human. 

We have, and will, turn and run in the past.  We will do it again.  We all  misunderstand until we receive the Holy Spirit.  And even then we manage to misunderstand on occasion.  Remember, Peter and the apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  No longer fearful, no longer uncomprehending, they are fundamentally changed.  We would do well to recall that before curling the lip and dropping a bit of sarcasm in their direction.  

The behavior of the apostles in front of the Sanhedrin as described in the first reading contrasts with the Gospel. John reminds us that during the immediate post-resurrection period the apostles remained more or less uncomprehending.  They had returned to their boats and had gone back to that which was familiar.  When Jesus appeared to them after His resurrection they did not recognize him.  This particular Gospel reading can be broken down into several different homily topics. 

The catch of fish that ended with Jesus sharing a meal with the disciples.  This was a way to prove he was bodily present.  A spirit or a ghost does not need food and cannot take it in. 

The mission to Peter and, by extension, the other apostles and to us,  feed my lambs; tend my sheep, feed my sheep.  It requires no great mental gymnastics to see how this triple question undoes Peter’s denial of Jesus.  The mandate to tend to others and feed them with the Word of God persists two millennia later.   We can never forget that. 

And finally the prophecy of the future:
“When you were younger,
you used to dress yourself . . . .
But when you grow old . . .
someone else will dress you . . .”

What did Peter feel when he heard these words?  What did he feel when he heard “by what kind of death he would glorify God?"  What do we feel when we hear these same words?  Words that, for the majority of us, portend the kind of deaths by which we too will glorify God.  Those death won’t be through crucifixion in the concrete sense of the term.  Rather, for most of us, our deaths will be through the slow suffering and prolonged crucifixion of aging. That death will come from a collection of illnesses, acute, sub-acute, and chronic that will slow us down and rob us of our freedom and self-determination.

Will we be able to endure the dependence of aging?
Will we gracefully allow others to help us? 
Will we permit them to dress us? 
Will we cooperate when they guide us? 
Will we be grateful when they drive us because we are no longer safe behind the wheel? 

This evening return to the psalm:

“Hear, O Lord, and have pity on me;
O Lord, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O Lord, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”

These words summarize the readings.  They point us to the future. 

One of the men commented at dinner that is almost unreal that we are already at the third Sunday of Easter.  I noted that it was only yesterday when I got the last of the ashes from under my thumbnail and he were are, in the Easter Season.  Time does fly. 

The attached photos were taken in Ljubljana the last Saturday I was there.  About three inches of wet snow had fallen overnight and the day began gloriously sunny.  I left the community at about 9 AM with camera.  By 10:30 the fog and mist began to descend.  

Fog is the perfect filter when taking photos.  It softens the light, obscures detail in a dreamy way.  Taking photos in fog is a gift to the photographer.  

Tivoli Park and Castle is not too far from the community.  It is near the American Embassy.  It is a very large green space.  The castle looks more like a mansion, particularly in comparison to Ljubljana Castle that looks, well, like a castle. There is a long cindered pathway leading to the castle.  The day I was there the access points were blocked.  Along the path was a very large exhibit of photos of various architectural landmarks and features of buildings in Ljubljana.  I spent a long time looking at those and getting ideas. 

The photos were mounted on wedge-shaped easels.  There was a different photo on the obverse side.  The quality was superb. 

By the time I took this the fog has descended.  This photo was taken as I was leaving the park.  It was not yet noon. 

Finally, Ljubljana Castle on the way back to the community for lunch, the main meal of the day and not to be missed.  Now this is how a castle should look.  And it should be spooky. 

+ Fr Jack, SJ, MD

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