Sixth Sunday Of Easter (May 21, 2017)
Easter is now five weeks behind us. Many of the flowers that celebrated Easter with us need a resurrection of their own.
We have reveled in the new life of the risen Jesus and followed his path of appearances from tomb side to Emmaus to upper room to Galilee to five hundred seeing him at one time. Today, Jesus speaks of orphans: “I will not leave you orphans.” Are we aware that “orphan,” a word used over forty times in the bible, is used only once in all four Gospels? I got to thinking about orphans and how Jesus assures us about its opposite. Would it be that he is going to leave his followers in one way [physical presence] and Jesus with us in a new way?
You have surely picked up on my worldview - seeing relationship as the basic category for talking about god and the people and things of God. The theologian and author, John Shea, is very helpful in developing the relational flow. I will use some of his thoughts in this homily. This gets a bit lofty, so fasten your seatbelts.
At the physical level we come into existence when sperm joins egg and we are nourished for nine months in a relationship with our mother’s blood. Then we pass into a new and larger womb where we are in relationship with air, and with food and drink for nourishment.
At the psychological/social level, we are cared for by others and internalize their influences to become who we are. Relationship is key in all theories of human development. We often name others in relational terms: mother, father, son, daughter, wife, husband, friend, enemy, boss, brothers and sisters, neighbors.
At the spiritual level, we may develop our belief system with a philosophy from Nazism to humanism or many another. We may choose to believe in god and follow a theology of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or other. Or, we may choose to put our faith in Jesus Christ. At times, we may think that “we pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps,” but this self-reliant posturing sooner or later gets dropped. “No man is an island.” Relationship is key.
Jesus’ greatest teaching and greatest example concerns itself with the greatest relationship: love of both of God and of others.
Now, late in Easter time we followers of Jesus hear him speaking of life after life. He tells us that the spirit is eternally present in created spirits, sustaining us in existence and filling us with life in a dance that survives death.
Perichoresis is the technical term Christian theologians have for the inner life of the trinity. It literally means a dance, a life-giving movement that goes round and round without beginning or end. It is the love and the life of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We hear in the gospels at this time that this Trinitarian dance is not for the divine persons only. God invites human persons to this dance. It is this invitation that Jesus reveals and imparts to his followers. Jesus speaks of his father and the spirit and himself dwelling within us. Our relationship is the beginning of life after life - we are already with our God in a real way.
When we accept him in faith and respond to him directly by bringing our presence into his presence and communing with him in Eucharist. When we accept him indirectly in our neighbor by bringing our presence to our neighbor’s presence in loving response, we are never alone, never orphans.
Remember the phrase, “the state of grace”? How static and lifeless that now sounds. The dynamic reality is the presence of the father - who made us, the son - who saved us, the spirit - who makes us holy - all dwelling within us. That is grace. That is the eternal dance. We become united to them more closely than we are united to ourselves.
I hope that today’s homily may bring some peek into what “heaven” – eternal life with God - will be like.
I hope that the understanding of our eastern brothers and sisters will make more sense in their saying: “God became man so that man might become God.” It seems that the church of the east is more conscious of this reality of presence. When they greet each other, they join their hands like this, bow, and say/pray. Namaste, that is, “The spirit within me greets the spirit within you.”
With the Lord, we will never be orphans. We begin the indwelling, now we will dance forever, later.