Well, I’m back! I was struggling with a depression this past week and couldn’t write anything joyful for Easter, so I didn’t. I was fighting to find a way for Augie to get the medication he needed in a crisis with his own bipolar illness and found myself on Easter Sunday alone while he was in the hospital wondering where the Easter joy was at.
I’m working on my Easter Arise entitled “Waking up to New Life” which is the dramatic conclusion of series on the Paschal Mystery. I got as far as the first sentence: Easter doesn’t always happen on Easter, but Easter always comes.
And it did on the second Sunday of Easter. Augie is home and five very dear friends of many years from St. Bart’s parish, 30 miles to the south, embraced us both with there love and I had the happiest birthday since my 21st birthday!
(Adolph and I share the same b’day; my mother often said she was determined to make sure that I didn’t end up like another Hitler, which tells you a lot about her already.
Yes, Easter doesn’t always come on Easter, but, hang in there! If you believe, in life, in your Higher Power, and if happen to profess to be a Christian, in Jesus, then let him really and truly be your Way, your Truth and your Life!
(But let us never ever judge those who do not; I have met many folks outside of the church who are better people than people I know inside. And I have met people inside the church who are a helluva lot worse than many I have met outside the church.)
So to begin our Easter series I’d like to reflect on yesterday’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles 4:32-34:
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need. (NAB)
Something remarkable happened to the community of the Apostles. Their lives were so changed by this mysterium tremendum of the Risen Christ that they left everything behind, selling their possessions and their property. They loved each other so much that no one was in need. What an amazing transformation!
Think about it! If we really believed that Christ lives now and sustains us now / makes himself known now / XXX and invites into intimate relationship to him and to one another now, we should be completely changed in as dramatic a way as a caterpillar is transformed into a butterfly (See blog post for Easter.
I speak now to my Christian sisters and brothers:
If we really took the gospel of Jesus seriously, then they will know we are Christians by our love; if they see only hate and self-righteousness and condemnation, then they will not see or be interested in Christ.
The new members of the church family were addressed by Paul (I Corinthians 5: 7-8):
Purge out the old leaven of corruption, then you will be bread of a new baking.
Think about it: The reason so many do not connect with the Christian faith is because so many of us fail to live it and fail to be totally and radically transformed by it.
So we’re in the Easter season now. It is a powerful and dramatic journey of transformatio. As we read their story in Acts, at the beginning we find Jesus’ buddies afraid, locking themselves in an Upper Room. But as the seasons moves forward, we see them waking up to the realization that they, too, have been transformed by this Mysterium tremendum which is the goal of the Paschal Mystery for Jesus and for us. This mysterious something will transform us as well — if only we ALLOW ourselves to be transformed. If we don’t cut it off by our cynicism. The Easter season moves on to the fortieth day celebration — the Ascension of our Lord into heaven — Jesus leaving his disciples behind and giving them the commission to carry out what he had taught them.
When they experience his departure, gain, they are afraid. They go back to the upper room. Locked themselves in. Confused. Leaderless. Fearful. Mourning again the loss of the One who had taught and led them. Thinking about going back to their fishing boats.
And then ten days after that a mighty wind blasts them out of their closet and they spill out into the pubic square and witness to their own transformation and proclaim to all who will listen: You too can be transformed!
By God’s Holy Spirit who blows where it wills and delights and surprises and wakes us up to what is already taking place within us. I am praying for a NEW PENTECOST in our Church as there was when good Pope John opened the windows and let the bad air out and the good air in.
(By the way, the number of days are important; it’s simply the liturgical celebration of events that happened over time. They are telling us that something very powerful happened to that little band that radically changed them. Remember, in the gospel of John all three parts of this mystery — resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit occur simultaneously.
Christianity CAN make a difference — if we live it. If we are willing to be totally and radically committed to the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies.” “Do good to those who persecute you.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit.” “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
And if we are willing to die for our faith.
Now I want to apply this to our country. For three years now I have been cajoling / pleading / warning us to seek personal transformation by renewing our relationship with Christ (or your Higher Power according to your understanding, if you prefer) for the sake of the transformation of our country. Bail outs-won’t do it. Politics won’t do it. Tea parties won’t do it. Yelling and screaming at each other won’t do it. Spending won’t do it.
Here again is the message that my long standing readership are tired of hearing. Unless America turns and realizes that only a Power Greater than Ourselves can save us, I declare we will not make it. We might postpone the inevitable for a while. But eventually the collapse of our country will come. We need to “acquire a fresh way of thinking – St. Paul — somewhere. I’m a good Catholic, I can’t quote Bible verses like good Protestants.)
But Easter is about hope. There are indeed signs of transformation occurring. All I have to look at is the astonishing transformation that is occurring in my body / emotions / mind / spirit. And already in Augie.
Young twenty-something Dude’s black T- shirts with skulls and crossbones are being replaced in a three page GAP ad in the March 19th issue of Rolling Stone with bright colors and smiles instead of the often sullen faces of the young. Our young black brothers are pulling up their pants. Maureen Dowd, a liberal Op-ed columnist of the NY Times with a clever use of pen and humor that I envy is talking about affluenza — the sickness of affluence.
Now let’s go deeper for a moment into the Acts passage about communal living. I invite you Capitalists out there who call yourselves Christians seriously ponder that. It is still a model of Christian living. Sharing our resources. Binding together. Lifting up the weak and vulnerable, rather than trying to climb our way up the economic ladder. Generosity of spirit and resosurces, rather than self-centered individualism which doesn’t exist anyway. We need a transformation of our economy to sustain the common good, not the wealth of individuals. I am not advocating communism or capitalism or socialism as we know them. Both modern economic systems have failed. Capitalism in its unbridled consumerism and focus on the making money for the most wealthy (plutocracy) is just as atheistic as communism. Capitalism is about making money for the individual and, therefore, by definition is opposed to the teaching of Jesus who said “You cannot serve God and money.”
Focusing on money has made all of us spiritually and morally bankrupt. The dollar bill is only paper. It is what you do with it that is important. We need to think outside the box. We need to let capitalism, as we know it, die so a new economy, focusing on lifting up and serving people rather than an economy that insanely, only works by cajoling us to buy the latest upgrade, a new wardrobe when we have a closet jammed full of perfectly good clothes when so many have none. There are over five million of us writing about “The Death of Capitalism!” Google it and see for yourself. Some deplore it; some, like me, sense it is the only way forward. Dying is only the means to greater life, on the way to transformation.I stumbled across one that is saying what I’ve been only intuiting from my prayer, only he is credentialed economist, not this poor little blogger on the edge of life who knows little about making money (unfortunately) but I have always had enough and have always shared even from what I did have. It is an economist by the name of Jack Lessinger.
In 2008, We the People are in the midst of a slow-moving but astonishing transformation. Our whole society and economy is transforming from the pursuit of what’s in it for me, to what’s in it for us—from the Consumer Economy to the Responsible Capitalist (in his book Transformation: Fall of the consumer economy — Rise of the Responsible Capitalist.)
The lesson of the caterpillar is that we don’t have to force a transformation; all we have to do is let it happen.
To let go and let God. But will American today let him do it?
So, ponder the very important message of yesterday’s reading from Acts, and then look at this video with the sound track of a song by Peter Scholtes that I taught our kids at Good Counsel Camp in Inverness in the Florida heart land in 1962. I haven’t heard it since and here it is on U-Tube in several versions fifty years later. Enjoy.
And if you have another moment, read Bono’s Easter reflection on the Op-Ed section of the NY Times yesterday “It’s 2009: Do you know where your soul is?
For those of you over 60, Bono was one of the hottest rock stars ever, who has dedicated his life and his fortune for the good of humanity.
What are you doing with your life?
Join the transformation of America and our world and your life and mine!
Fasten your seat belts, this is day nine of our Western Easter and day two of the Orthodox Easter of what could be a powerful Easter season for us all.
CHRIST IS RISEN!
INDEED HE IS RISEN
priest / writer