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.
Easter lingers in our church assemblies and the readings and prayers keep insisting that we allow the grace of joy to return and flow in and around us. Our memories can also insist that we have walked away and forgotten and forsaken our own baptismal joy. We can pray that we remember as well, at these times, the life, death and resurrection of the most Innocent all to re-immerse us by His ever-flowing love.
I was privileged to concelebrate Easter-morning liturgy recently 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 had 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 them 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. There is within Peter’s proclamation, not a condemnation, but a call to receive what God has done after considering what his listeners had done. Peter ends with a comforting call to repentance and life offered through Jesus Whose death and resurrection was written in their Holy Scriptures. He invites his listeners to drown themselves in the forgiveness of Christ, Who before He was born, was buried prophetically in their own sacred writings. This Christ, the Servant of Suffering, once buried in a tomb, now is alive and giving life to all who believe.
This Easter season, for the liturgies of Sunday, we do not hear of the two men walking rejectedly away from Jerusalem toward their home town of Emmaus. What we do hear in today’s Gospel is the story they are relating to their companions about how Jesus met them in their broken dreams and in the “breaking of bread”. Their excitement is that of two persons who have just come out of the best movie they had ever seen.
I personally have never failed to grow tired listening to friends as they relate some film they have just seen. It does lose something in the translation. If I enjoy anything it is the experience of two people who have seen the movie together and keep interrupting each other with details which really don’t assist my unenjoyment. Well, here are these two returning veterans from the battle of faith in Jerusalem these latter days and behold who does the interrupting. I doubt the listeners to the excited fellows were bored with their resurrectional stories. In a sense we are being introduced to a kind of Sunday liturgy.
The congregation has listened to the word which brings Jesus alive. Then Jesus appears in a Eucharistic display. Jesus does admit that He is a challenge to their believing. The Greeks for whom Luke is writing mainly, do not believe in the resurrection of the body, so Luke has to stress this central mystery. Jesus offers them His body with its wounds and then eats fish to show He is not a ghost. The liturgy ends with a little scriptural review of how the prophets and psalms had indicated His death and Resurrection. The liturgy ends with a Rite of Dismissal, that those who have been witnesses are to announce the call to repentance and the announcement of God’s mercy, beginning from right where they are.
If I ever get in charge of redesigning the Eucharistic liturgy I would begin with the Rite of Sending! Now I know that there are many who just cannot wait to begin sharing the Good News so they leave the congregation before the liturgical Rite of Dismissal. I admire their zeal. For the others who stick around, I would have a little silent reflection time about such topics as “to whom are you sent?” “To whom are you to extend forgiveness?” “What gifts have you been given to distribute?” I might have everybody write down their reflections and then the presider would bless them and announce loudly “The world is waiting, your families are waiting, and the needy are waiting! Go in peace to continue the mass as people who are sent beginning right where you are!”
“Let all the earth cry out to God with joy; praise the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise, Alleluia.”
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