Living from Sunday

Dear Friends,

I hope you had an opportunity to see the solar eclipse this past Monday.  That day I was driving to Louisville, KY for a conference, so I was able to witness the eclipse from Indianapolis.  What impressed me the most was how the sky suddenly darkened as the moon fully covered the light of the sun for a few minutes and how the sky brightened, just as suddenly, as the moon began to move past the sun.  It was a wonderful and memorable event.

If you watched the eclipse from Northwest Indiana, your experience of the event was slightly different from what I experienced.  Since I observed it from within the “zone of totality,” the effects I observed were a bit more noticeable than the effects in the Chicagoland area.  We witnessed the same event, but from slightly different vantage points.  As a result, if we were to describe the same event from our perspective, we would do so in similar, but not necessarily identical ways. 

This fact can help us deepen our appreciation for something we may not always recognize.  The New Testament contains four narrative accounts of the life, ministry, and paschal mystery of Jesus.  We call these accounts “gospels,” and we refer to the four gospel writers as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each of the gospel writers recounts a version of the life, teachings, and events of Jesus from his perspective, much like we would recount our experience of the eclipse from our perspective.  There is a lot of overlap among the gospels, especially between Matthew, Mark, and Luke, but there are also differences among them.    

This should not be surprising since each of the gospel writers had a particular experience, either direct or mediated, of Jesus’ life.  They must have had different sources from which they drew information and inspiration for their accounts.  Each emphasized certain parts of the actions and teachings of Jesus, probably focusing on those parts that would be most helpful for the Christian communities to whom and for whom each one wrote his account.       

Last Sunday, we heard John’s account of the Risen Jesus’ appearance to his disciples the evening of Easter, while this Sunday we hear Luke’s account of the same event.  It should not be surprising that there are noticeable differences between the two accounts.  John’s version mentions the locked doors, the joy the disciples experienced when they recognized Jesus, the gift of the Holy Spirit to the disciples.  Luke describes Jesus as simply appearing amid the disciples, the disciples fear at the sight of Jesus, and Jesus eating a baked fish in their presence.  Each evangelist provided the details that help to craft the narrative they are telling.

But what is, perhaps, more striking are the similarities that the two accounts have in common.  Above all, both accounts indicate that Jesus’ first words to his disciples were, “Peace be with you,” and that the Risen Jesus showed his disciples the wounds he still bore in his glorified body.  These two elements that the accounts share seem to me to be significant for our lives as disciples.

First, the fact that both John and Luke recount Jesus as greeting his disciples after his resurrection with the words, “Peace be with you,” reveals the importance of this gift for them and for us. Just like the first disciples, and all disciples through the centuries, we are in constant need of Jesus’ gift of peace.  We need that peace, our parish needs that peace, our Church needs that peace, our country needs that peace, and our world needs that peace.  Part of the preparation for sharing in the Eucharist every Sunday is the receiving and exchanging of the Lord’s peace, and sharing in Communion is the concrete (sacramental) experience of that peace.  

Which leads us to the second element that the two accounts have in common: Jesus showing his wounds.  We tend to think of wounds as things to be covered up.  But the Risen Jesus shows his wounds in order to heal and renew his relationship with his disciples.  In his glorified body, the risen Jesus is still marked by the wounds of his passion, but he is no longer burdened by those wounds.  He can continue to approach his disciples in vulnerability, because that vulnerability is the path to new life.  We experience the Lord’s ongoing vulnerability that leads to life when we receive the Eucharist and allow ourselves to become what we receive: the Body of Christ.

 

Peace,

Father Leo               

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