FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – C – May 19, 2019

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27
A reading from the Book of Revelation 21:1-5a
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 13:31-33a, 34a, 

Dear Friends in Christ,

We have been celebration Easter now almost as long as we took to make our Lenten journey.  What is supposed to be happening to us in this time of rejoicing?  It is safe to say that in this time we are getting used to the idea that Jesus Christ is risen.  Death was not the victor.  Jesus triumphed over sin, suffering and death.  But we must be careful.  There is a temptation to see Easter as a conclusion.  Lent is over.  The Passion and Death narrative have been told.  We have heard the story that spells out defeat perfectly.  The world looked on and saw Jesus broken.  The disciples went away sad, caught up in Jesus’ defeat.  They had thought that Jesus was the one who would set Israel free.

In these days it is easy to get caught up in defeatism.  The signs are all around us.  You know what I mean.  There is no need for me to reiterate here.  Christianity is losing ground, caught in the backwash resulting from the sins of previous generations. We see political alliances between the Kingdom of Darkness and the Kingdom of Light.  The children of those who suffered at the hands of those who abused power, those who should have been servants of the poor and the vulnerable, now rise up and say, enough!  No more!  Never again!  Faith in Jesus Christ has been tested and found wanting because those who witnessed to it professionally were themselves found wanting.  There are scars, physical and emotional, that attest to the tyranny.

Churches all around the world fill up to over-flowing for Easter Sunday services.  But what does that mean?  It is a testimony to the fact that somehow faith survives?  Is it people gathering, hoping against hope?  Are they the disciples, seasoned, gasping as they arrive because they are not as sprightly as they used to be, when their faith was young?  Do they peer in to soak up the signs as did those first ones at the entry to the Tomb, hoping their faith will be reignited?  Do they ask themselves how all this is compatible with what is happening in Iraq, this generation’s holy war?  Are they struggling to reconcile the church bells and the alleluias with the plight of those seeking asylum at the United States-Mexico boarder?  Where is the evidence for the triumph being celebrated when those gathered realize that it is often profit that gets in the way of making those medications accessible that could alleviate and even eradicate plagues multitudes of the poor in Africa.  That same lust for money keeps essential medications out of the reach of the poorer members of our country and of the world.

I noticed something today.  You may wonder what took me so long to get this.  It isn’t that I hadn’t read the texts before.  The difference was, this time I heard them.  What I noticed in a new way was that in these last weeks of Easter in John’s Gospel, we are back in the Upper Room, on the night before Jesus died.  Betrayal, that most bitter blow in Jesus’ sufferings, is at hand.  What does the Lord teach?  He is being glorified with the glory he he shares with God, the glory that is his own.  Now.  How?  How should we recognize his glory in what was about to transpire?  We are to hear the Passion Story in light of the triumph.  We are to see the Resurrection of the Lord as part of the whole.  All these actions mingle and commingle to emerge as the source of a new creation in which we are all called to participate.

The One we follow on The Way challenges us to see glory in defeat.  We are called to understand that if we recognize and follow Jesus Christ in resurrection, suffering should not surprise us.  That is the mistake I have made in Easters past.  I thought it was over when the Candle entered the church and scattered the darkness.  Christ, our light.  Thanks be to God!  The strife is over.  The battle done!  Now is the Victor’s triumph won.  That sounds finished.  And if that is my expectation, no wonder I leave myself open to disappointment when I am confronted by signs that the Victory is still a work in progress.

Think of those people who entered the Font during the Easter Vigil.  They emerged, gleaming with oil and dressed in white, signs of their identification with Christ.  Their sins all washed away.  Their new life now is theirs.  Now is the Victor’s trump won!  But what happens when they are confronted with the reality of sin that has survived in their lives, when they have to deal with the fact that the struggle must still go on.  They must press on for their participation in the Victory that lies before them.

If we recognize Jesus in his rising, we must see let the Lord help us to see all reality in a new light.  Sometimes what seems like victory will be a defeat.  What seems like triumph will be a failure.  We must struggle continually to say no to sin, to the temptations subtle and otherwise to lord it over others, to see ourselves as superior to others, to see myself as superior to others, to see myself in any other role than that of a servant  to the rest.

Hear Jesus’ words.  Let them wash over you in the midst of the Assembly listening with you.  As I have loved you, so you should love one another.  It is all about Love.  But this is not a love that takes anything to ourselves.  IT is love that empowers us to empty of self, to pour out self in service.  Sunday after Sunday will be marked by our celebrating Eucharist.  We will break Bread and Share a cup.  And each Sunday we will hear Jesus say, Do this in my memory. 

In the midst of all that seems to spell the defeat of Christianity, those who have peered into the empty tomb and seen the garments of death and the cloth that covered Jesus’ face, lying apart by itself, those who have seen must dare to enter, and seeing, believe.  They and we  must dare to be signs of contradiction.  The triumph is in the Cross.  The Victory is in the dying.  The glory is now.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

Didymus  

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