Summary: We are a people called to incarnate the mercy of God.
Thursday of Easter Octave 2015
Joy of the Gospel
Today, as we still enjoy the glow of the Easter celebration–every day this week is a reprise of Easter day–the Church gives us two stories that are “aftermaths.” The first is Peter’s sermon to the Jews of Jerusalem after the power of the Resurrected Jesus healed a man who had never walked. The second is Jesus’s own appearance to the disciples after the pair from Emmaus had told the story of Jesus walking with them and explaining how the Scriptures foretold the passion and death He had suffered. Christian worship is, as we have seen, our memory of a promise. Jesus explained that the prophets had promised a suffering Messiah who would take away sin, not lead a bloody revolution or coup. There had been too many Messiahs like that, leaders who had failed because they were doomed to fail. They wanted to change the exterior, the political system, the laws, or something else that was supposed to lead to eternal peace and prosperity. Jesus came to change the only thing that needs to be changed–human minds and hearts. His revolution, we saw last, is to be a “revolution of tenderness.”
The critical issue is that Jesus has risen, body, blood, soul and divinity, to a new life. It is a new kind of life in a new kind of body, one that could eat and drink, but is not bound by space and time and death. It is the body we shall have in the kingdom of God. The body we shall have will be free of sin and illness and mortality. We will be fully human, as the risen Christ is fully human. But Jesus is fully divine by nature. We will be divinized, adopted as children of the Father. We enjoy a foretaste of this today when we gather for Eucharist. And our communion today is an incomplete, but real, communion in and with Christ. We will be the body of Christ in its fullest sense.
The Pope is clear about the danger of not accepting that complete truth: ‘Isolation, which is a version of immanentism, can find expression in a false autonomy which has no place for God. But in the realm of religion it can also take the form of a spiritual consumerism tailored to one’s own unhealthy individualism. The return to the sacred and the quest for spirituality which mark our own time are ambiguous phenomena. Today, our challenge is not so much atheism as the need to respond adequately to many people’s thirst for God, lest they try to satisfy it with alienating solutions or with a disembodied Jesus who demands nothing of us with regard to others. Unless these people find in the Church a spirituality which can offer healing and liberation, and fill them with life and peace, while at the same time summoning them to fraternal communion and missionary fruitfulness, they will end up by being taken in by solutions which neither make life truly human nor give glory to God.
‘Genuine forms of popular religiosity are incarnate, since they are born of the incarnation of Christian faith in popular culture. For this reason they entail a personal relationship, not with vague spiritual energies or powers, but with God, with Christ, with Mary, with the saints. These devotions are fleshy, they have a face. They are capable of fostering relationships and not just enabling escapism. In other parts of our society, we see the growing attraction to various forms of a “spirituality of well-being” divorced from any community life, or to a “theology of prosperity” detached from responsibility for our brothers and sisters, or to depersonalized experiences which are nothing more than a form of self-centeredness. One important challenge is to show that the solution will never be found in fleeing from a personal and committed relationship with God which at the same time commits us to serving others. This happens frequently nowadays, as believers seek to hide or keep apart from others, or quietly flit from one place to another or from one task to another, without creating deep and stable bonds.’
We are “body people.” True spirituality is also a corporality. We accept and rejoice in our spirits, souls and bodies, looking forward to the day when death and resurrection are simply the divine path to becoming the divinized human beings we were made to be by our loving Father. Let’s work and pray toward that revolution of tenderness that is the redemptive touch of Christ in our world. Let’s do all we can to prepare for the holy year of mercy we will begin on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.