March 31, 2017

March 31

March 31, 2017:  Friday, 4th week, Lent

  • 'Pierced hearts' suspenders:  God is close to the brokenhearted (psalm)
  • 'Bony person' tie pin:  God watches over all the just person's bones (psalm)
  • 'Hands' tie:  Evildoers:  "If the just one is the son of God, God will deliver him from the hand of his foes" (1st reading); No one laid a hand on Jesus... (gospel)
  • 'Clock' tie bar:  ...because his hour had not yet come. (gospel)
  • 'Eyeball' pin:  "Their wickedness blinded them" (1st reading)
  • Purple shirt:  Lenten season

For Psalm 34
The Holy Spirit introduces us to the mystery of Christ's Resurrection
Papal Preacher Fr. Cantalamessa's 4th Lenten sermon
Today we meditate on the mystery of Christ's resurrection, and ours.  Paul attributes Jesus' resurrection to the Holy Spirit:  Christ was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection....”  Jesus fulfills Ezekiel's "dry bones" prophecy:   the Spirit enters into the bones, raises them from their graves, and makes of them a host of people raised to life.  But I won't force the Spirit into every assertion; it wouldn't be like the Paraclete, who illuminates everything from behind the scenes.
The Resurrection:  historical approach:  Did the resurrection really happen (in history, vs. myth/legend)?  Is Jesus risen only in the Church's proclamation, or also in reality and history?  Is the person of Jesus risen, or his cause, in the sense that “rising again” means the survival or reemergence of an idea after the death of the one who proposed it?
Most of the disciples' faith didn't hold up after Jesus died.  “We'd hoped he was the one....  It's now the third day...” The case of Jesus was considered closed.  But soon we find the men who were with Jesus saying he's the Messiah, Lord, Son of God, and is alive and will judge the world.  The case of Jesus shifted to an absolute and universal dimension. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” the beginning of a new humanity.  From now on, only the name of Jesus can save people.  What caused the change in these men who had denied or run away from Jesus who are now establishing churches and being imprisoned, whipped, and killed for him?  They say, “He is risen!  We've seen him!”
The resurrection is at the border of history, like a line dividing sea from land; it's both inside and outside history.  With it, history opens up to what's beyond it, eschatology.  So the resurrection represents a break with and a move beyond history, just like creation.  It can't be attested to by our experience of time and space:  no one was present when Jesus was raised, but people saw his empty tomb and saw him once he was risen.  So the resurrection was known after the fact:  as the physical presence of the Word in Mary afterward demonstrated his Incarnation, so does the the spiritual presence of Christ in the community afterward, attested by his appearances, that demonstrates he rose.  This explains why no secular historian mentions his resurrection.
Then how do we speak of a historical approach to the resurrection?  Two facts allow historians to speak about the resurrection:  the disciples' sudden, inexplicable, strong faith, and the explanation of that faith that those involved left us.  “In the hour [after Jesus was crucified] the disciples held no... assurance [of a resurrection].  They fled and gave up Jesus’ cause for lost.  Something must have happened in between, which not only reversed their attitude but also enabled them to renew their activity and found the Christian community.  This is the historical kernel of Easter faith.”
Without the resurrection, the birth of the Church's faith would be even harder to explain than the resurrection.  Recall the disciples en route to Emmaus who went to Jesus’ tomb and found things as the women had reported, “but him they didn't see.”  History ascertains that things at the tomb were as the witnesses said, but it doesn't see the Risen One.  History ascertains the facts, but you need faith to see the Risen One; a runner on the mainland who reaches the shore can't continue with his feet but can with his gaze.
The Resurrection:  apologetic significance:  As we move from history to faith, we speak differently about the resurrection.  New Testament and liturgical language is assertive and authoritative: “Christ has been raised from the dead.”  We're on the level of faith and kerygma, not historical argument.  “We know Christ is truly risen from the dead” (Easter sequence).  Not only do we believe it, but we know it as true and are certain.  The surest proof comes after we believe, when we experience Jesus as alive.  From faith's point of view, the resurrection is God's testimony about Christ.  The Father, who attested to Jesus during his life through signs and wonders, definitively endorses him by raising him:  “By raising him from the dead, God gave everyone assurance about him.”  The resurrection is God’s powerful “yes,” “Amen,” to his Son's life.  Christ's death alone wasn't enough to testify to the truth of his cause.  Many die for mistaken causes, even evil ones; their deaths just prove they believed in the causes, not that the causes are true.  Christ's death proves his love, but only the resurrection is the seal of his divinity.  This is why Jesus responded to those asking for a sign, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up,” and, “No sign shall be given... except the sign of Jonah,” who, after three days in the whale saw light again.  Paul is right to build the faith on the resurrection:  “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching and your faith are in vain.  We are found to be misrepresenting God.... We are most pitiable.”  Augustine said “the faith of Christians is in Christ's resurrection”; everyone believes he died, but only Christians believe he rose.  (summary concluded tomorrow)
  • Wis 2:1a, 12-22  The wicked: “Let's beset the just one; he's against our doings, and seeing his ways is a hardship.  He professes to be a child of the Lord.  If he really is, God will deliver him, so let's torture and kill him to see.”  Their wickedness blinded them to God's counsels and the reward of the innocent.
  • Ps 34:17-21, 23  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted."  The Lord confronts evildoers but hears, protects, and rescues the just.
  • Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30  The Jews were trying to kill Jesus.  Some said, “Isn't he the one they're trying to kill?  He's speaking openly, but they say nothing.  When the Christ comes, no one will know where he's from. but we do know where Jesus is from.”  Jesus:  “You know me and where I'm from, but I didn't come on my own.  You don't know the one who sent me, but I do and he's true.”  They tried to arrest him, but his hour hadn't yet come.
    • Creighton:  Note in John all the catching, getting hold of, clutching, grasping, understanding, etc.; it's physical, mental, or spiritual motion.  The 'seizing' in today's gospel is physical and negative.  We want to 'grasp' Jesus, 'cling' to him, and hope, though we can't really grasp God and and all he means and offers to us.  Jesus, who has a strong and loving grasp on us, keeps moving on, calling us further and deeper in knowledge, trust, attachment, and other ways.  May we give him thanks for that trust him better....
    • One Bread, One Body:  "A tried stone":  Our trials purify us and make us more fruitful disciples. "You may have to suffer trials; but it's is so your precious faith may lead to praise, glory, and honor when Christ appears."  Those who try us help us grow in trust in Jesus.  "Count it joy when you're tried.  Testing of your faith makes for endurance."  "When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.  For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation."  "God won't let you be tested beyond your strength; he'll give you a way out so you can endure it."  "The Lord delivers the just out of their many troubles."
    • Passionist:  When we get too comfortable with our ways, we tend to reject anything different, new, or challenging, as though living in a tomb we've built for ourselves.  We close the possibility of whatever good would come out of the new; fear of the bad blinds us to the good.  The people in our first reading must have felt that way, and their words could have come from those who plotted Jesus' death.  It may be easier to ignore what we're being challenged to.  But from whom/what am I hiding?  How often have I killed the unfamiliar or challenging, and what have we lost because of it?  Let's break open the tomb we made and live Jesus’ example of love and be God’s light in our corner of the world....
    •  "His hour had not yet come":  Fear, especially of death and of losing others' approval, can rob us of courage and the will to do what's right.  Jesus met opposition with determination to accomplish his Father's will; he knew his mission would entail sacrifice unto crucifixion but would ultimately crush sin, condemnation, and death with pardon, freedom, glory, and eternal life. 
    "Our Lord had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again.  We can't choose how long we'll live, and we die no matter what.  Christ overcame death.  Our freedom from death comes through his death.  He didn't need us to save us, but without without him we can do nothing.  He gave himself to us as vine to branches" (Augustine)....

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