Friends, if we are taking a careful look at the events of this Easter Season, which, by the way, are the same during each season of Easter; we have to notice that the Resurrection of our brother Jesus, leads us right back into action. So, what do I mean by that?
The Scriptures for today give us a clear explanation of what I am saying. The reading from Acts finds the apostles proclaiming “the truth” as they know it to be—Jesus of Nazareth, came, taught about the best ways to live, and paid the civil price in his time for speaking against the State.
For those without faith, his death was the “end of the story.” For those with faith, he rose to a new life that continued his life and goodness in the same ways that he first demonstrated in his own humanity, but now that “goodness” would continue through the lives of his followers should they, should we, choose to continue his work.
In the reading from Acts, Peter clearly states the choice that he and the other apostles have made: “Better to obey God than people.” I often talk about laws and rules that we humans come up with as “head stuff” that causes us then to propose “black and white” answers to complex world problems that show themselves in more “gray” ways. In other words, the solutions aren’t always clear.
John’s gospel selection today gets at the problem we all must face as we live out our Christian lives. Recalling the apostle Peter’s life with regard to his following in Jesus’ footsteps, we remember that when “push came to shove” during Jesus’ passion, Peter was identified by others three times as Jesus’ follower, to which we know that Peter denied three times to even knowing him.
Today’s gospel gets at this seeming discrepancy. Jesus isn’t reprimanding Peter for his denial, but is clearly showing him a better, truer way to go. By asking Peter three times of his love for his master, Jesus lovingly and without anger or malice shows Peter just what “love” means—the words aren’t enough, Jesus says, there must be action too.
And as Peter and the others will find out, “feeding and tending the sheep” won’t always be easy—and will probably even be “messy” at times, as Robert and I have been discovering of late in trying “to launch” our Honduran family on a path that will lead to success for them in their new country.
I think the “messiness” in any endeavor where we start from a seemingly apparent place of love, comes especially when a group of people such as that working with our Honduran family, bring with them all the baggage of their own personal lives and somehow try to work out all that “baggage” by doing “good” for others. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes our basic humanity gets in the way of the good we would do. Peter learned that, but moved past it in order to do the good that his brother was calling him to.
My friends, most of us have experienced some measure of suffering in our own lives and hopefully our personal suffering has made us more attentive to the suffering that others in our world experience, which many times, if we are truthful, is far worse than our own.
The Easter story, which our Church in wisdom dedicates six weeks to, does each of us a good turn. Why so? As we initially rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, as is displayed in the readings from Revelations, our brother and savior, Jesus, calls us through the other readings to our new, and continual work in the world. Jesus’ physical presence won’t be there, except in us, in the ways we now choose to “touch” our world, but his spiritual presence will be, supporting and inspiring us “to feed” and otherwise care for our sisters and brothers as he did.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t say—to remember ourselves in the equation—we can’t share out of “an empty cup,” anymore than should we keep all the contents for ourselves—it’s a balancing act.
I just finished a very good book by Fiona Hill, who came to our country’s attention during the first impeachment of Donald Trump. Her book, entitled, There is Nothing for You Here, is her personal story of growing up in poverty in Northeastern England and of how she was eventually able to make a success of her life through many others giving her a needed, helping hand.
Over her lifetime that began in 1965, she tells of how she made connections with others who believed that people basically wanted to succeed in life, but that many times, the “doors” just weren’t open to do so. She makes many like comparisons to her second country and its people, the United States of America, with regard to what people need to make their way in life. She quotes a philanthropic friend who wisely said, “We don’t try to make things easy for people, but to make things possible for them.”
In reflecting on my work as a Christian in general and specifically in my present, daily life, the above quote seems to give that balance that not only looks out for others but for ourselves. Amen? Amen! Alleluia!