Saturday, April 25, 2015

Easter Power in Daily Life (Easter 3.B)

A young mother was driving along Marine Drive with her two children in the car. Although she was doing the speed limit, a woman stressed-out man was tailgating her, right on her bumper for many blocks.

All of a sudden the light turned yellow. She did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk rather than zipping through the intersection.

The tailgater was furious. He honked his horn, screaming in frustration. He even made a rude gesture I can’t describe here—but it wasn’t exactly the universal sign of peace.

In the middle of his rant, the road-rager heard a tap on the car window and looked up into the face of a very serious West Van police officer. The officer ordered him to get out of the car and arrested him.

He took the man to the police station where he was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours the man was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with his personal effects.

The policeman said, “Sorry, my mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the woman in front of you, and swearing a blue streak at her.

“So when I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, and the chrome-plated Christian fish symbol on the trunk… naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”

Well, it’s not a true story! But we laugh because there’s truth in it that most of us recognize.

And the truth is that we can pretty easily put our faith in one compartment and our daily life in another.

When we’re caught doing that—by ourselves or others—we feel guilty. But that’s not what I want to talk about this morning. I’d like to talk about how we miss out when we keep faith and life separate: specifically, the great things we miss when we keep Easter in a box, unconnected with the joys and sorrows and challenges of everyday life.

Both this Sunday and last week, the Gospel describes appearances of the risen Lord that underline how real the Resurrection is. Jesus breaks bread. He lets Thomas touch him. And he cooks breakfast.

By such simple actions, the risen Jesus taught his disciples that he is real, and that he wants to be part of their daily life. And what he taught them, he teaches us.

So let’s ask ourselves, right now:  is the risen Lord part of my life? What difference does Easter make to me? Would my daily struggles be any different if Jesus had not risen from the dead on that first Easter day?

Consider these questions:

·       Does Easter strengthen my belief that Jesus is able to heal and help me?

·       Does the Resurrection make me feel more peaceful about growing old? Does it help me face the approach of death with serenity?

·       Does Christ’s victory over death give me hope that sooner or later I will win my fight to overcome some particular sin?

·       Did celebrating Easter give me a fresh sense of how real Christ is in the Eucharist I receive?

·       And—most important of all—is my faith in the Resurrection, renewed at Easter, bringing me closer to Jesus?

These aren’t pious or rhetorical questions. They deserve answers—because Easter makes a difference; it must make a difference.

Think about it: if Easter isn’t the most important thing that ever happened, then Jesus suffered in vain, and—perhaps more astonishing—rose in vain. It’s preposterous that someone could be mercilessly tortured and killed, and then return to life wrapped in glory—and it made no difference!

But of course it made all the difference. This morning’s Gospel tells us that the Resurrection brings peace and joy—because his presence brings peace and joy.

It brings the comfort of his presence—not just Sunday morning in church, but all the time, even at the breakfast table.

If Easter hasn’t any power in your life or in mine, it may be because we’re not meeting the risen Lord in our daily life.

If Easter isn’t helping us deal with our challenges, from everyday fears to the ultimate fear, that of death, then maybe we aren’t connecting the dots. We need to recognize that Easter didn’t just have power: it had purpose.

Jesus doesn’t say “peace be with you” only to a select group who are doing everything right. His resurrection offers peace also to sinners: it both strengthens us against sin, and provides a remedy for sin.

Sometimes we feel defeated by sin. But in our second reading St. John reminds us that we have an advocate who defends us, an advocate who is also an atoning sacrifice. Jesus is like a lawyer who pays the penalty his client owes. He paid that penalty on Good Friday, but on Easter we see proof that God accepted and was pleased with this atonement.

All who struggle with sin, who can hardly imagine how God can keep on loving them, need to know that Christ’s perfect sacrifice is the best source of peace and hope they can ever have.

Easter offers spiritual power to the weak. Hope of life for the dying, hope of mercy for the sinful, hope of peace for the unsettled. But tapping into this source of power and peace requires more than belief in the fact of the Resurrection, crucial though it is.

It calls for relationship. “Come closer,” Jesus seems to say to the disciples. “Look at me; touch me; I’m as real as you are.”

Sure, we can’t look at the Lord and feel his wounds the way the disciples did. But we can get close to him through prayer. Easter is a time for prayer that is up close and personal: we can ask God in conversation, “What does all this mean for me?”

This prayer should be fueled by reading what the Scriptures say about the first Easter. Why not sit quietly at the kitchen table one or two mornings this week, and read the Resurrection stories in all four Gospels?

And ask the Lord to sit with you at the table, and to open your mind through his Holy Spirit so you can better understand the meaning of what you read. He won’t be offended if you eat breakfast while you’re with him.

Because Easter faith and daily duties were never meant to stay in separate compartments of our busy and challenging lives.

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