Engaging the Word: 05/24/2015
My parents live on a lake in northern Minnesota. Burntside Lake is about 10,000 acres and dotted with rocky islands covered in pines.
One of those islands has a small cliff that drops straight into the water. Well, I suppose it’s not really much of a cliff. It’s probably only about 20 feet. But when you’re standing atop that ledge, it looks pretty far down to the water.
Standing there, thinking about jumping into the water, one wonders what finally makes one take the plunge.
Slightly less dramatic — perhaps you know the feeling of waking up on a Saturday morning when you don’t have to go in to work or to school, and you’re lying there in bed thinking about things. Thinking about yesterday, thinking about tomorrow, thinking about the list of things you need to do today. What finally prompts you to make that move to get up and get started?
Now, it’s Pentecost, and no I’m not sure that I’m suggesting that it’s the Holy Spirit that gets you up out of bed in the morning or prompts you to jump from a cliff into a cold lake, but I do think it tells us something about the way are fashioned, fashioned in the image of God, our own little Trinity of imaginations, the actions that fully receive and speak those imaginations, and the mystical animating spark that connects them.
Now the funny thing about it is, that little animating spark in others can animate us as well. Maybe it’s the memory of a parent’s work ethic that moves us to get the day started, or perhaps it’s a younger sibling’s courage that prompts us to leap from the cliff.
Now, Jesus had that spark too, and the rightness of the good news he was prompted to share convinced his closest followers and others that he was united to God in a special way — was the Christ.
Jesus’ message in a way was quite simple – repent and believe the good news: the kingdom of God is at hand. The way things ought to be is as close as your next move, and you’ve got the power to make the right next move. Accepting that truth makes the blind see, the lame walk, and sets captives free. Accepting that good news, that Gospel, radically changes lives for the better. It doesn’t eliminate suffering, but it can transform it and make the good times even richer. As the followers of Jesus lived the good news he preached, they found themselves stepping into eternal life with God in time.
But then Jesus went away, and his disciples froze.
One of my favorite lines in Scripture is in the reading from Acts used on the feast of the Ascension: “Men of Galilee, why are you looking up at the sky?” If you read on, they go from looking at the sky to sitting in a room in Jerusalem looking at one another. In John’s account that he just heard, we find them in that room right away. Frozen in that room, Jesus delivered a spark that hit them. Overcome by the Holy Spirit they realized that the good news of freedom and love was still the good news and that it needed to be proclaimed. They realized too that that spark to proclaim it proceeded from the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of their friend and teacher Jesus and that this Paschal mystery verified the Gospel.
And so they went out, and they preached the good news, a universal gospel of freedom and love that speaks the language of the heart, human and divine.
Now, we humans in time don’t experience disembodied spirits on their own. We know our spark is there when we actually get out of bed or leap from the cliff. It’s in action that we come to know the spark in others.
And so Jesus, in his wisdom, left us with an embodiment of his spark. On the night before he suffered, on the night of the Last Supper, he took bread, blessed it and broke it and said “This is my body.” And he took wine and sharing it with them said, “This is my blood.”
How fitting a way to remain, by means of a community gathered around bread and wine, fruit of the field and work of human hands. Wheat and grapes require sunlight and soil and cultivation. Bread and wine must be made. The human and divine cooperation required to make what nourishes and delights is at the heart of the good news.
When the community of believers in that good news gathers with bread and wine and looks into it and carries on that tradition that was begun the night of the Last Supper, we see no longer bread and wine but Jesus, and in community, together, remember what he taught his friends and are nourished to live it.
Let’s pray that in our Thanksgiving today, in our Eucharist, that we are sparked to believe that the Holy Spirit is alive in us, individually and collectively. That faith in God’s love for us, that our hope for the kingdom, and our courage to act in love is renewed.
The human and divine spirit of Jesus is alive and among us — if we are stuck looking up into the sky or have locked ourselves in a room hidden away, let’s move, let’s start living the good news of freedom and love and proclaim the Gospel by our lives.
1st Reading: Acts 2: 1-11 ~ Responsorial: Psalms 104: 1, 24, 29-31, 34
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7 ~ Gospel: John 20: 19-23
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