We pray for the grace of youthful joy. This grace for which we long does not return us to the innocence of our youth, but the sense of our being re-embraced. It is the season of Baptism and we pray with the infants and the adults who are “claimed by Christ” as His own.
I was privileged to concelebrate Easter morning liturgy three weeks ago now, at the Sacred Heart Church in the town of Pine Ridge South Dakota. It was a cloudless dawning and as I was standing in the back of the little Jesuit parish church, Delbert Yellow Horse greeted me and said, “Today I am going to drown myself in the sunshine.” His words rearranged the homily I had prepared and prayed over earlier. We had experienced a total emersion in an adult baptism the night before in a beautifully decorated “horse stock tank”. The lovely young woman candidate had had some kind of almost drowning in the blest Holy Water. Delbert was planning on celebrating Easter joy by his drowning in the love of God into which he had been baptized years before. He was imagining the warm sun as how God has loved him and his Lakota People for centuries.
The readings today are full of Easter excitement. Peter is speaking to a crowd of Jewish spectators who have come to witness the man whom Peter and John had cured from paralysis. He had been begging for money, but the two apostles could not give him silver or gold, but rather a recovery of his mobility through the Holy Spirit.
Peter begins his speech with a kind of Scripture lesson. He reminds them that the God of their religious fathers, the Patriarchs, has revealed Jesus to be the servant of the Scriptures. Peter reviews how the listeners had been complicit in the handing over of this Servant to His death. Peter ends with a comforting call to repentance and life offered through Jesus Whose death and resurrection was written in their very own Holy Scriptures. He invites his listeners to drown themselves in the forgiveness of Christ, Who before He was born, was buried in their own prophetic writings. This Christ, the Servant of Suffering, once buried in a tomb, now is alive and giving life to all who believe.
The Gospel of Luke has its own Easter event. Two disciples had been taking their exit-walk from Jerusalem back to Emmaus. Jesus had met them, responded to their invitation to stay with them and while eating with them was known to them in the “breaking of the bread”. Then Jesus vanishes, but their hearts were so flooded with joy that they decided to return and reveal to the others what they had experienced.
What we hear in today’s Gospel is the rest of the story. While the disciples are relating their being accompanied, (literally) by Jesus, the very same Jesus appears in the midst of the group and extends “peace” to all. Terrified and thinking they were seeing a ghost, the assembly has a real Easter dinner. Jesus, knowing their doubtfulness, invites them to touch His body and then asks for something to eat. Luke is greatly aware that his Greek readers were skeptical about such a thing as rising from the dead. He inserts this part of the story to comfort such skeptics. Jesus is offered some fish and eats it as a sign that He is truly Himself. Ghosts don’t have bodies nor do they eat.
Jesus concludes this appearance with conclusive evidence from the writings of Scripture. The law, the Prophets and the Psalms all speak of the Servant having to suffer, die and rise. This Good News is meant to affirm Jesus as the Messiah and that forgiveness of sins is to be preached from the top of the Jerusalem Hill to the ends of the earth. Those who have seen Jesus’ risen Body are now to become that Body by living His life and giving His life to the world.
So there I met Delbert in the tiny town of Pine Ridge in the poorest county in the United States, economically speaking, and the Good News had reached his ears and heart. The Eternal Son had risen and the Dakota sky and the Eternal Son was rising again for all the Delberts in the world, beginning from Jerusalem. Drowning in Jesus is not as easy as drowning in the Dakota sunshine on an Easter morning. In a Reflection Group here on campus today, it was generally agreed that all relationships need mystery to survive. Jesus extended a deep relationship to His disciples by surprising them with the mystery of His bodily resurrection, but did not explain how it happened. They had, and we have, our doubts and questions about such goings-on. He continues calling us to take the leap into faith and drown in the total mystery of His sun-like eternal embrace of our humanity and ourselves, beginning from Jerusalem and ending where ever we stand. We, like the disciples, have our doubts and we want to sit on the side of the pool or “stock tank” and question and ponder. Jesus has risen to invite us all and individually to take the plunge and experience what drowning is all about.
“Let all the earth cry out to God with Joy.” Ps. 33, 5
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook