My friends, each Church Year, we are taken scripturally through the life, death and resurrection of our brother, Jesus. During Lent especially, we are called to ponder just who this God-human-person was. During Holy Week we are encouraged to spend time with our human brother, trying to understand as fully as we can, why he came among us, for what purpose, what his death and resurrection meant for him and for us—but even more so, what his life meant.
Now for me, growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, before the 2nd Vatican Council, the message was always clear— “Jesus came, died for our sins, so that we could go to heaven one day and be happy with him, there forever.” That sounds good on the surface, but I feel that Jesus’ coming was much simpler, much more loving than that.
I believe for many people, it is easier to get our “heads” around the fact that “God needed to come and clean up the mess we humans made, taking our failings, placing that guilt upon Jesus’ shoulders and “wha-la,” all is good!”
But you see my friends, the above is much more of a human outlook than that of the Loving God, that Jesus, in his life presented to us. Jesus was always more about applying the “heart” than the “head” in any situation.
In our Catholic church today, just as in the Jewish faith of Jesus’ time, men ran the show and we would all probably agree that setting up a list of dos and don’ts (the Jews had over 600 and Christians, a good many too) and a storyline that neatly answers all the questions is much easier than suggesting, as Jesus often did, that we simply do, the most loving thing! Granted, doing the most “loving thing” is a lot messier!
Throughout history, the virtues of goodness, kindness, mercy, long-suffering, and so on have been looked at as the “gentler” virtues and relegated to the “gentler, weaker sex”—that of women. But make no mistake, my friends, doing the “most loving thing” in any situation is far harder than following a set of narrow rules and regulations as Jesus proved throughout his life. We must always remember that Jesus’ one, beautiful human life was taken because he relentlessly chose to do, not what the law said, but what “love” said—the two, as we know, are often not the same. And for any of us who have ever followed his lead, we know that it is not easy, nor a weak action.
The Scriptures chosen for us to hear in the days and weeks after the Resurrection show the apostles sometimes in the same situation as Jesus in his life—people were attracted to him many times because of the physical cures that he was able to do. The same was true for the apostles, after his death. But for Jesus and the apostles, as we read today in Acts— “through [their] hands, many signs and wonders occurred among the people—women and men, in great numbers were continually added to their number.”
Given the above words, we can only imagine that there were many others, for Jesus and the apostles, who experienced what Jesus was really after in them, “a change of heart.” Those who were just after a messiah who would vanquish their physical enemies or cure their physical bodies, didn’t discover the “messiah” who Jesus ultimately was.
In the simplest of terms, Jesus came out of the loving heart of God who wants only good for us, not bad. Such a God would never ask for reparation for the failings that were part of the humanity given us. But such a God would give us chance, after chance, after chance, to get it right.
Look at our Scriptures today: The Revelations’ reading is about things not understood, except for our God’s words, “Don’t be afraid”—the piece understood, but not said is— “I will be with you.” In the gospel reading from John we read times two— “Peace be with you—just as the Creator sent me, I [am] sending you”—to do, like me, the most loving thing! This gospel selection also lets us know that we will have great powers—the power to forgive and many other loving things, if we so choose.
Eastertime my friends, is all about gratitude for a God who has loved us so much in Jesus as well as a great time of grace to choose a “change of heart” –big enough to follow him, doing always what is most loving, in our world, that today, as we all know is in need of, just that! Amen? Amen!