Thursday, April 4, 2013

Taking a Chance on Love

But let us return to the Gospel, to the women, and take one step further. They find the tomb empty, the body of Jesus is not there, something new has happened, but all this still doesn’t tell them anything certain: it raises questions; it leaves them confused, without offering an answer. And suddenly there are two men in dazzling clothes who say: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; but has risen” (Lk 24:5-6).

What was a simple act, done surely out of love – going to the tomb – has now turned into an event, a truly life-changing event. Nothing remains as it was before, not only in the lives of those women, but also in our own lives and in the history of mankind. Jesus is not dead, he has risen, he is alive! He does not simply return to life; rather, he is life itself, because he is the Son of God, the living God (cf. Num 14:21-28; Deut 5:26; Josh 3:10). Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; Jesus is the everlasting “today” of God.

This is how the newness of God appears to the women, the disciples and all of us: as victory over sin, evil and death, over everything that crushes life and makes it seem less human. And this is a message meant for me and for you dear sister, for you dear brother. How often does Love have to tell us: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Our daily problems and worries can wrap us up in ourselves, in sadness and bitterness... and that is where death is. That is not the place to look for the One who is alive! Let the risen Jesus enter your life, welcome him as a friend, with trust: he is life! If up till now you have kept him at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. If following him seems difficult, don’t be afraid, trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.

Pope Francis, Easter Vigil Homily, March 31, 2013

Reflection – I have little taste for punditry. I don’t really like it when people rush to judgment and issue learned pronouncements about the meaning and import of this or that event or this or that statement, speech, homily. Reading tea leaves to boldly predict the future leaves me somewhat cold – I have noticed over the years that the pundits are, to put it simply, wrong most of the time.

That being said, I think this Easter homily of Pope Francis gives us a very good idea of what kind of Pope we have on our hands here, and just what his general direction and focus will be. And if I may wax just a bit punditical, I think we could call the Holy Father ‘The Pope of the New Evangelization.’

I am simply, deeply impressed at what he does in this homily. It is a profoundly evangelical homily, utterly focussed on the person of Jesus and the person of his listener, and asking us, as his predecessor St. Peter asked the crowd on Pentecost Sunday, to believe the Good News and entrust ourselves to this Jesus. Life is hard; life is full of problems and burdens and troubles. This is the place of death for us – the place where the heavy burden of life can weigh us down and crush our spirits.

Jesus is the living one, the permanent and eternal breaking in of life, of God, of hope and joy into our death-laden and deathward-driven world. His call to the world is so simple and alluring: just take one step towards Jesus and he will embrace you. Just take a chance on him and his love, just trust him a little, and you won’t be disappointed. It is an intensely apostolic, evangelical, missionary homily.

And I think this is the way forward Pope Francis is indicating for the Church. So often we can get a bit enmeshed in catechetical confusion, political and social turmoil and controversy, and yes, details of liturgical fidelity and ceremonial beauty. All of this has a valid good place in our lives… but we must not forget that our brothers and sisters are dying because they do not know Jesus. All the other stuff, valid and true as it is, can be very off-putting, very alienating to those outside the circle of the Church.
Personal encounter, personal friendship, personal coming into this meeting with the risen Lord: all of this is needed before we can explain too much of the niceties of church structures, the intricacies of the sacramental system, the rigor of the hard moral teachings, or the beauty of ritual and rubric. And it is this evangelical energy and vigor, this going out to invite people into an encounter with Jesus, that the Pope is calling us to, I think, at this time. Not a bad program for the Church in the 3rd millennium, eh?

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