4th Sunday B – Easter Fire
I love these Spring days of Eastertide. The stories of Jesus appearing after his resurrection are filled with enthusiasm and warmth. Enthusiasm, ‘en-theos,’ means to be ‘in the Divine.’ Take a look at some of the Easter gospels: ‘Incredulous for joy.’ ‘Peter jumped into the sea.’ ‘I have seen the Lord.’ ‘My Lord and my God.’ ‘Amazed.’ ‘Go back to Galilee.’ ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ ‘Stay with us.’ And then there was the early morning race to the Easter tomb. ‘They have taken my Lord away.’ ‘The one whom Jesus loved saw and believed.’ And there was ‘doubting Thomas’ who wanted evidence, not mystery, but gladly settled for mystery in the end. ‘Silver and gold I have not, but…in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean arise and walk.’ ‘Were not our hearts burning within us as he talked to us on the road?’
The early disciples preached a new kind of faith that led to a new type of community, centered on compassion, peace, forgiveness, hope and a zest for life. The old familiar religion of the temple was one of habits and formalism. Jesus’ death and resurrection created a new challenge and a new hunger for the Divine. The story in Luke 24 of the two disciples on their way to Emmaus may have been the summary of a wider experience among the early believers. Luke writes that they met a fellow traveller who talked with them about the recent events in Jerusalem. As they neared the village, they urged the stranger to join them for something to eat. When he was at table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
The experience enthused and transformed them, and they legged it all the way back to Jerusalem that evening to spread the news. The new Easter community was known for its warmth and enthusiasm in reaching out to help each other – Acts 6: 1-7. Food, clothing and shelter were shared. The old mindset of fearfully protecting their individual assets gave way to a sense of generous co-responsibility for each other. Just like ours, their world ‘was charged with the grandeur of God’ despite being ‘seared with trade, smeared with toil’ (1). Their faith in Jesus risen from the dead led them to become a new creation, a new human – seeing the world with new eyes and acting from a new heart. Real Christianity doesn’t hold on to biases, grudges, judgments, attitudes or ideologies. The late Teilhard de Chardin sj taught that the work we do throughout our lives to improve our world for everyone is the meaning of faith in Jesus risen from the dead.
The enthusiasm of the early Christians has evaporated. Our leaders don’t seem to have hearts burning within them. Church attendance has dropped to an all time low. People are not being nourished. A healthy church should give people warm living bread instead of cold stones. There is an institutional disconnect from people’s hunger and thirst for spirituality. Shouldn’t spirituality be our way of life as followers of Jesus Christ instead of being an extra, something added on (if time permits) to our ‘real’ lives? I’m talking about a real life awareness of the Divine Presence, basic Christian spirituality. A healthy church should offer people living bread, feeding not only their minds but warming their hearts as well: providing spiritual experiences in which they feel connected intimately to Someone larger than themselves. Dag Hammarskjold, a deeply spiritual, almost mystical man, once observed: ‘We die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason” (2).
Fr. QQ – 04/21/2021
1 – cf. Gerard Manley Hopkins, God’s Grandeur. 2 – Dag Hammarskjold, Markings.