Transparency is a word you hear a lot today. Corporations talk about transparency in their policies of hiring, or in their dealings with consumers. Educators talk about transparency in policies for grading or assessment. Newspaper editors demand transparency of public servants, politicians accuse rivals of failure to practice transparency . . . The need for so much discussion about transparency hints that the opposite, opacity or ambiguity is actually the reality in place or in play. Transparency is the reality of living in the light. Living so that reality shines through your actions, speaking so that truth is heard and able to be believed in the words spoken – but transparency is relational – it lies in that which is seen or heard and the eyes and ears of the hearer/beholder.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect on the transparency of our lives of faith. The first reading from Acts is a wonderful “Keystone Cops” kind of tale with the apostles jailed for speaking the truth about Jesus, being released by God’s power during the night – apparently in full view of everyone, but no one sees them leave – and with the instructions that they are to “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this [Christian] life." Tell everything – sounds remarkably transparent doesn’t it?
So the apostles do as they are told. In the morning the authorities know nothing about the ‘great escape’ and order the jailers to bring the prisoners for a “show trial” to intimidate them – and probably anyone else that might be influenced by them. But surprise! The jail is empty – although neatly locked up, don’t you love the details? – and the jailers are both dumbfounded and worried about the probable consequences for them, when someone arrives and says that the apostles are teaching in the temple, without restraint, happily telling the people everything about this life as instructed. The cops hasten to the temple to round them up – but carefully, so that the people, who are LISTENING to the everything about this life, don’t start a riot. I have a priest friend who would sometimes start his homilies with the words “now picture this.” I know he would reflect on these readings by challenging us to imagine the scene that Luke is painting here with all the humor that Luke seems to intend. This is high biblical comedy!
Under the comedy is the very serious message that God wants the truth told and known. That those who hide behind rules and power or intimidation are not going to have God’s favor and are not on the winning side of the Resurrection.
The Gospel hammers this Easter theme home by giving us the heart of the Gospel message in one sentence – the famous John 3.16, beloved of athletes and athletic contests – “God so loved the world . . .” and then hitting us over the head with the message that we have to live in the light – not hide in the darkness. We are to be transparent, be seen for what we are, proclaim what we believe and live the Christ life as Jesus did: what you see is what you get.
Furthermore we are called to look at the world and hear the world with clear eyes and ears, the eyes and ears cleared up by the Grace of Baptism. We no longer live in the dark, underground, in secret – we are to tell the world everything about this Christian life in the public places and private corners of our lives – but telling is only half the reality. We have to practice, transparently, what we preach. We tell by doing.
I don’t know about you, but the joke feels like it is not only on “them” whoever they might be (politicians, church leaders, corporate execs, academicians . . . fill in the blank) but on me too. Isn’t the light a little bright out there?
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