I’m not the best housekeeper at times. I have a tendency to use the floor as a vertical file. Once I left some magazines on the floor and, not paying attention, walked on one. The slippery paper did not make for the best traction and I found my feet almost over my head as I landed on the floor. The good news was that I was alone and no one saw what probably outdid Charlie Chaplain for a comic/dramatic fall. The bad news also was that I was alone. Fortunately I was not hurt and was able to get up.
Did you ever fall when you were alone? Despite the good news of saved dignity the bad news is always whether or not you are too hurt to right yourself and can get up. Did you ever fall when people were around? It can be embarrassing, especially for us in very self-actuating cultures. However, there also is something in us when we see other people fall that urges us to immediately feel sympathy for and to help that person.
That inner feeling is an impulse to holiness and can be exercised in many ways. In the first reading from Acts we are reminded on the idealism of the first community of believers. Those who had fallen into poverty were lifted up by the generosity of the community so that all might be equal.
In Holy Week we saw Jesus literally fall on his way to the cross. We also saw the disciples fall away from Jesus in fear. We saw one disciple fall away through betrayal. Finally we saw Jesus fall to death.
But the scriptures do not end in fall – they take us to redemption, to the lifting up. God raises Jesus from the dead.
In the Gospel today Jesus tells Nicodemus that Jesus must be lifted up too – both on the cross and through death to life that we all might have life.
Jesus lifted up many during his life and ministry; the poor, the sick, the sinner. He has left that ministry to us – to be born again means a change in action as well as in being – we must try to be like those in the early Church in our charity and our willingness to lift up each other.
Acts talks about a very ideal community. I don’t know about you but I’m not perfect in my charity and my care of others. I still fall and need help getting up. I do try to lift up others as I am able. I’m also willing to allow myself to be lifted up, by God and by my brothers and sisters. Sometimes that’s harder than lifting up someone else!
Four weeks ago I came down with diplopia, double vision. I could no longer drive safely and had to depend on others when I needed a ride. I also had to depend on a lot of doctors to help figure out what had caused this. It was again my turn to be lifted up. This was hard for me but it was also essential to allow myself to be lifted—and to take a lift (usually elevators or chauffeured cars).
Easter calls us to the joy of the resurrection but this joy is not simply a concept, an assurance or a feeling – it is an action – it is a joy that lifts us up and in so doing empowers us to lift up others.
One last story – I told a colleague at Creighton about my dilemma with my eyes and he told me how he had a different affliction that also caused double vision. He said that wearing a patch helped and that the BEST patches were not from the pharmacy but the soft ones used for pirate costumes. He told me too that since so many people had helped him when he was sick he wanted to help me with rides and whatever else I needed. He gave me his cell phone number and told me to call him whenever I needed a ride. The next day he came from his own office (pretty far away) to my office to present me with my own pirate eye patch!
The joy of the resurrection can lift us up in so many ways and empowers us to lift others too!
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