These first weeks of Easter, we have been asking ourselves a simple, yet profound question, depending, that is, on how we answer it. The question is, “Just what does it mean to me that Jesus rose from the dead?” Now the answer is simple if we are just responding to a belief system we have long held onto without really asking what difference this occurrence makes in my day to day life. If you do ask this final question, then, as it is said, “The rubber meets the road,” and the answer becomes more profound.
This past week as I was trying my best along with medication to feel better after a case of strep throat; I can assure you that I wasn’t being too profound! My prayer was quite simple and selfish, “Please God, be with me and help me!” I wasn’t even asking to be well as much as I was asking not to be sick anymore! Now, on the other side of a slug of amoxicillin; I am beginning to zero in again on more of the profound.
A couple of things always happen to me when illness strikes, over and above the PLOM syndrome (poor, little, old, me) for which I am grateful; not so much that I wish to be sick, but grateful, just the same, in retrospect.
First, there is humility in realizing that I am not so self-sufficient and strong as I may think—I don’t suffer well—ask Robert. Second, there is a great sense of compassion that comes over me for the suffering that my sisters and brothers in this world are called to bear with every day, and much of it so much more than my small pains. Now while I don’t at all think that God causes any of us to suffer; I do think that God uses suffering, which is part of this world, to call each of us to that which is best in us, in humanity!
Simple suffering like I experienced this last week called me to humility and compassion within myself. Those in this world who are called to more suffering than it seems is humanly possible to bear; the hungry, the homeless, the immigrants, the jobless, the abused and so on, should call the rest of us to seek justice and have righteous anger, working to bring to all, equality of services and basic needs; peace, instead of war, honesty, instead of lies, integrity of mind and heart, mercy and understanding, instead of selfishness and greed.
If we look at today’s readings for this 3rd Sunday of Easter, all these simple, yet profound messages are here as well. Acts tells us in Peter’s voice, “Better for us to obey God than people.” Doing the “right thing” often comes down to this—choosing who to obey—to follow, even if at times, we stand alone!
Jesus was nothing, if not understanding of what it was to be a human being—our strengths along with our weaknesses. He looked lovingly upon his apostles, spending a good deal of time, even after his resurrection, helping them to see, helping them to make all the connections between the prophesies and their fulfillment in him.
In the gospel from John today; we see that for a time, the apostles returned to what they knew by rote—many of them had been fishermen. Perhaps, in the ordinary—every day, they could once again, find their strength, their direction, to reclaim what they felt on a certain day, when Jesus called them and they walked away from their nets and followed him . Talk about asking what the resurrection really meant to them!
These apostles, as their turned-upside-down and inside-out world settled for them, in the days after the resurrection, would find, with Jesus’ help, the renewed call of their brother to live lives of love, integrity, mercy, understanding, justice and equality for all.
What they were ultimately to make of the resurrection; we don’t entirely know. But on some level, they saw that the process of resurrection had changed Jesus—he could no longer be hurt or scorned. In addition, he would live on through them, if they allowed it. If they baptized in his name, taught in his name—lived lives of love as he did, in his wonderful name, than life in its worst sufferings could not stop them as it had not stopped Jesus, as it will not stop us, my friends.
Resurrection, as we have said, is not the same as resuscitation—but a new way of being, of moving beyond this life. Can we understand it? No, we can’t; but we can trust that a God, who has loved us so well in Jesus, has prepared something wonderful for us, one day, when this life of living simply and profoundly is completed. Resurrection is about choosing life at every turn—it is the call of our baptisms—it is the call of being Jesus’ follower. And in the meantime, I don’t think God wants us to worry or fret about it, but to live our lives as best as we can, simply and profoundly, trusting and believing. Amen? Amen!