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The Amazon, a new Christian and a teacup

April 19, 2015

Upper Room
A reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Easter, Cycle B. The readings are Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4
1 John 2:1-5a and Luke 24:35-48.

When reading and praying about these readings, I came across a homily by Fr. Richard J. Fairchild of Spirit Networks. He used three stories that really illustrate what I’d like to share with you today, and so I am sharing them as part of this reflection. I hope that, as his sharing them allowed them to touch me, my sharing them now with you, will help the Word of God touch your heart.

There was once an explorer who, after many years in the Amazon, returned home to England, where he proceeded to share with everyone he met about his wonderful adventures. But he really struggled with really sharing the reality of the Amazon. He could draw pictures and maps, he could write stories and descriptions but, how could he describe the taste of a tropical fruit or the smells of the tropical flowers that he had discovered. How could he describe the sounds of the exotic birds at sun down? So he shared as much and encouraged people to go to the Amazon themselves. He gave them clear descriptions as to how to get there and how to prepare for such a trip. He told them how to avoid dangers and gave them all the information they needed. His adventures were well received. In fact, an organization was founded and a museum was opened so people could read his writings and look at his pictures and maps. Everyone was very excited to learn about the Amazon, but no one went. Years later, the museum still stands and many have studied the writings and descriptions of his journey. There are many experts on his journey and many people who now know about the Amazon because of him – but no one really knows the Amazon, because no one ever went after he did.
That’s a little bit about what’s happening in today’s readings. In the first reading from the Book of Acts Peter and John are on the way to the Temple and they pass a paralysed man who is begging at one of the Temple’s gates. Peter says to him, “look at me” so as to say, “obviously I have nothing to give you” – “look at us. I have no money, but what I do have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk,” and then he grabs him by the arm and picks him up. Immediately the man begins to jump around and praise God. Of course, this draws a crowd, so Peter addresses the crowd and part of what he says is today’s first reading: “Why are you surprised? We didn’t do this, but Jesus Christ, whom you rejected and handed over.” See, a lot of people around that time, probably had heard about Jesus Christ – they may have seen him, read about him in the papers; they maybe even saw him crucified, or where there to yell “crucify him!” They knew about him, but didn’t really know him. That’s why Peter says to them that what they did was not their fault, because they didn’t know better; they did it because they “acted in ignorance.” They may have known a lot about Jesus, but they didn’t really know Jesus. This would have been the case with all the Christians who were reading the Gospel of Luke or the Acts of the Apostles (also written by Luke) when it was written, some 40 years after the resurrection. Probably most of them were not even alive when Jesus was around. None of the first-hand witnesses were around. People had heard about Jesus – they maybe knew about Jesus, but they didn’t know Jesus. Luke wants us to know that Jesus is not just someone we can know about; he can be known. He’s alive. He’s not a ghost. That’s why John in his first letter that was today’s second reading says that if you say you know Jesus but don’t follow his commandments, you are a liar. Because if you really knew him, you would follow his commandments. But you wuoldn’t follow his commands because you studied them from a book, but because yu knew him and you love him. And when we love someone, we do what they ask us to do. That’s why John says that if we do this, the “love of the Father will be perfected in us” and we will know that He is in us. Because we will know him.

It’s like this second story about a new Christian. His atheist friend confronts him: “So you are now a Christian. You must know a lot about this Christ person.”
– I know a bit
– So, do you know what year his was born in?
– No
– Do you know where in Nazareth he lived? Do you know his address?
– No
– Do you know how many miracles he performed?
– No. He did a lot of miracles.
– And, do you know the names of his grandparents or how old he was when his father died?
– No.
– So, you don’t know this Christ very well. How can you say that you are a Christian?
– Look, all I know is that 2 years ago I was an alcoholic. I was over $100,000 in debt; we were about to lose the house and my wife was going to leave me. Today, I have been sober for 6 months, we have no debt, we didn’t lose the house and my wife and I are more in love than ever. That’s because of Jesus Christ. That’s why I am a Christian.

That’s what happens when we know Jesus – Jesus who wants to know us. When we are locked up in the upper room, for fear of the Jews, scared, confused, disillusioned; when we doubt, when we are not in peace, Jesus pushes open the door to give us peace. I know the Gospel says that he suddenly stood in their midst, but I imagine him pushing open the door, peaking his head in and saying, “hey guys, got anything to eat?” Jesus wants to meet us in the mundane, simple, daily things of life; in the touching and the eating. It’s like when you have an unexpected guest and your wife says to offer him something to drink. And you say, “uh, we have some… water and some…. milk or cream… and… oh there’s some apple juice…” and your wife interrupts, “the apple juice is for the baby.” The disciples offer him a two-day-old piece of fish; like last night’s left-over pizza. But Jesus says, “I love two-day-old fish. It’s my favourite. Thanks.” Jesus just wants to be present to us no matter where we are or what we have. He wants to give us his peace. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not a ghost. I’m alive. You don’t have to just know about me. You can get to know me.” And when we let Jesus know us, to shine his face on us (Psalm 4), he will transform us.

That is the good news of Easter. Jesus wants to know us, to be present to us, to give us his peace, so he can transform us – to bring us from ignorance, to knowledge and then to understanding. He opens our minds so we can understand. The disciples could not have understood the Scriptures about Jesus before the crucifixion. They had to know Jesus first. They had to know the crucifixion (yeah, can’t get to Heaven without the Cross). They had to experience the resurrection first, in order to be able to understand.

It’s like this third story of two grandparents who are looking for a First Communion gift for their granddaughter. She loves having tea parties so they go to a china shop. Grandma picks up a little teacup and exclaims, “What a beautiful teacup!” and shows it to grampa. Grampa says, “what a beautiful teacup.” The teacup says, “Why thank you. I am. But I wasn’t always this beautiful.” And because it’s a children’s story, no one wonders how come the teacup can speak, instead grandma asks, “what do you mean?”

The teacup says, “I used to be a cold, soggy lump of clay. One day a man grabbed me and threw me on a wheel and began spinning me. It was so fast and I was getting so dizzy. I kept saying, ‘please stop’ but he kept saying, ‘not yet’ and spun me some more. He then began to poke at me and pull at me and it hurt and I yelled, ‘please stop’ and he said not yet and then he poked me some more. Then he threw me in a really hot oven. It was so hot, I thought I was going to die and I said, ‘please stop’ and he said, ‘not yet’ and kept me in there longer. Then he gave me to a short lady who covered me in paint and the paint fumes were so strong and I thought I was going to be sick and I asked her to please stop and she said ‘not yet’ and kept painting me some more. She then gave me back to the man who put me back in the oven – this time it was hotter than before! I pleaded, ‘please stop!’ But he said, ‘not quite yet, a bit longer’ and so I cooked some more. Then he took me out and brought me here, put me on the shelf in front of this mirror. When I looked at myself I saw that I wasn’t a cold, soggy lump of clay anymore. I was this beautiful teacup. The pain and dizziness, the heat and sickness were gone and all that remained was the beauty”

That’s what Jesus wants to do. But we have to let him know us. We have to accept his peace and dwell in his presence. We have to let him transform us. That’s what happens at Mass: Christ is present to us, he gives us his peace (that’s the last thing we do right before Communion), and then, he gives us a purpose – his purpose: He sends us out to be witnesses. Once we get to know Jesus Christ we can’t just stay locked up in the upper room, “what happens in Church stays in Church.” We have to go out and tell everyone. We have to go and do good. We have to tell the world the Good News. Jesus tells the disciples that “you are witnesses of this.” Peter tells the people at the temple the same thing, “of this we are witnesses!” We have to go out there and be witnesses. Don’t be content with just knowing about Jesus Christ and sort of do what we have to do on Sundays, whenever we can. Say yes to Jesus. Let him push open the door of your heart and be present to you, give you his peace, transform you into a beautiful teacup. Let him touch you. And don’t be aftaid to touch him. Give him something to eat, even if it’s two-day-old baked fish, because he also has something for you to eat.

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From → English, Reflections

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