3 Sunday of Easter April 19, 2015 10 AM Liturgy

3rd Sunday of Easter
April 19, 2015
10 AM Liturgy
J.A. Loftus, S.J.
Do we all remember Kermit the Frog? And his favorite song: “It’s not
easy being green.” Well, to borrow the phrase from Kermit the frog: “It’s not
easy being risen either.” Nobody seems to recognize you. And everybody is
scared of you. That’s what all the gospels portray. Today is no exception.
Do you ever wonder what it must have been like for Jesus? Do you think
he actually knew what to expect from being risen? He certainly knows
intellectually what the Promise was. That much we hear again in today’s
gospel passage. But knowing intellectually and experiencing are sometimes
two different things. After all, no one in human history had ever been
resurrected before. I even wonder sometimes whether God really knew what
the experience would be like.
This is just a thought to occupy you while I meander on for a few
minutes. Hold that question! What did Jesus experience?
Today’s gospel is the continuation of St. Luke’s story of the two travelers
returning to Jerusalem from Emmaus. They tell their tale to a largely
disbelieving group of disciples and then, poof, as if magic occurs, the Lord
appears again. Luke’s version tells us they were all terrified, stunned,
affrighted (as the King James Version has it), and thought they were seeing a
spirit or ghost.
Why is it that just about everyone has trouble recognizing the Risen
Lord? Magdalene thinks he is the gardener. The travelers on the road to
Emmaus think he is a stranger. These eleven in the Upper Room think he is a
ghost. Everyone has a hard time recognizing him. There might be a message
in here for us. Let’s see for ourselves.
Last Sunday we heard St. John’s version of this same story. But John’s
tale is really quite different in significant places. John’s story is clearly about
“seeing and believing.” And only John among all the evangelists speaks of
Thomas at all individually. So John singles-out Thomas to illustrate his
theological point. The disbelief, the doubt, gets shouldered by only one of
them. He becomes “the doubting Thomas” for the rest of human history. I’ve
always felt this depiction was terribly unfair. But John did have his reasons.
That’s just other whole homily and one that I’ve already preached before.
So let’s come back to Luke in today’s gospel. As I said, notice that here
everyone is in doubt, is frightened (terrified in most translations), and feels
stunned. And there is no “week later” individual conversation with Thomas
about Jesus’ hands and feet. No, here Jesus himself suggests they all touch
him. And then he eats some broiled fish with them–clearly implying “I am not
a spirit or ghost.” Watch me eat!
Then Jesus ever so gently breaks open the scriptures for them in that
Upper Room just as he had for the two on the road to Emmaus. No one is
castigated for not believing. No one is admonished about having doubts. Jesus
seems to know that experiencing himself in his risen life does not provide for an
easy adventure. It’s not easy being risen!
A marvelous Presbyterian minister and spiritual guide, Frederick
Buechner, writes this: “Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there
is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or
asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and
moving.” (Beyond Words)
For those of a more philosophical and poetic bent, the great Basque
novelist, philosopher, and poet Miguel Unamuno is even more succinct: “Faith
which does not doubt is dead faith.”
St. Luke in his characteristic way is the gentle healer here–and he is
speaking directly as much to us as to his first listeners. Jesus understands, in
Luke’s version, that his risen presence is sometimes incredulous. For every one
person who can genuinely bask in the glow of our new Paschal candle, there are
ten others who just try real hard to experience a smidge of what all the hoopla
is all about.
But each one of the post-Resurrection narratives offers us hints. When
does Mary recognize who the gardener really is? When she hears her name
called. All it takes is the one word, “Mary.” Her love is ignited again.
How does the Beloved Disciple recognize the stranger on the beach
before anyone else? Because he is “the Beloved;” he loves first and then he
When do the two travelers on the road see? When he breaks the bread
and shares the cup with them. That they treasure in their memory, and their
love is re-kindled. Love is the key always. It’s not a question of eyesight.
So where is the risen Jesus today? Where, for us? Wherever and
whenever we, too, love. But we have to really love: not just in words but also
in practical deeds. Why? Matthew 25 sums it up well. Because whenever we
see the hungry or thirsty; whenever we see those naked or in prison; whenever
we really encounter the poor in our midst and actually do something: we hear
Jersus say: you did it to me. It really is not easy being risen. I still hurt and
wait for completion in you, He says.
People’s real lives are often complex and frequently heavy and
burdened. It was true for those first disciples. And it is still true for many of
us. We all have our own losses and disappointments, and our own deaths.
Ands life can become quite depressing at times.
So if singing lots of extra Alleluias just gets you down rather than up....
If you find yourself still trying to actually experience the Paschal joy and peace
of the season.... If you can’t even bring yourself to say one more “Alleluia.”
Know you are in good company. “It’s not easy being Risen. It scares people.
And it should. There is a still lot of love to do!
But hear again: I am, and will be, with you until the end of time–really!
And for that gift, maybe we can mutter one more quiet Alleluia. Peace be with