As we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection, we do not limit it to something that was once and will happen to us later after we die, but we recall it is ongoing now. Our Church is experiencing a resurrection. Pope Francis is recalling the Church to its roots in following Jesus and living as he lived. He is recalling Jesus’ command to be merciful to all whether or not they share our views. He is reminding us that the Christ’s Church cannot be focused only on itself, but has to come out of itself and reach out to folks who are on the peripheral of society, folks who feel left out, forgotten, ignored because of their lifestyle, their marriage status, their gender, or any other reason. The Church must confront the terrible abuse committed on the innocent and covered up by servants of the system. The Church cannot be apart from the people, but must live always among folks as they are and wherever they are, knowing and trying to understand their feelings and stories. It has to share their journeys.
The Church cannot be focused on itself, looking at people and judging how they are or are not following church laws and beliefs. The Church cannot say to these folks, “We have all the answers, so just do what we tell you and live your life by our laws; if you don’t we will judge you as wrong and will keep you from God”, which it attempts to do by denying some folks access to Eucharist and Sacraments. Instead it needs to say, “Let’s spend some time together and talk, we can learn from each other”. The Church, if it is to be true to Christ, has to live his Gospel among all people everywhere, without threats, and teaching by example. Its mission is to bring Jesus to the folks, not restrict their access to him.
As Pope Francis said to the young people in the detention center, we must learn to help each other as all of us together share in the Resurrection and help spread it and make it happen. As Jesus lived in his day, so we must live in our day, if we want to be true to him. As a church we have to come out of ourselves, out of the smugness of thinking we have all the answers for everybody, that our way is the only way, and any who do not agree with us are wrong. As a Church we have to come out of ourselves and meet people where they are, without judging them or requiring that they follow our ways. As a Church we have to step our of ourselves, step out of a tired and routine way of living what we call our faith, a way that has caused so many to walk away because this tired and routine way has ignored the beauty and strength of Jesus’ life, and replaced it with pre-established patterns that close us off to the marvelously creative ways of God.
To the young people in the prison he said: “Press on! Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope. Understood?”. To all who feel unaccepted, ignored, mistreated, judged, we need to say, do not lose hope. The stone is rolled away. Do not stop working at what you see is wrong, unjust, unfair. Do not let the image of God that you are be abused or defaced. Work hard for what you believe is right, and do not be intimidated. Keep your lives rooted in prayer and in your relationship with Jesus. Go wherever it takes you and do whatever you must. Learn from what you have experienced and do not treat others as you have been treated. Treat all with love and caring. You know your suffering better than anyone. Help each other.
The stone is rolled away, and Jesus is coming forth from the tomb so many have consigned him to. He is walking in the light of love, and calling us to walk with him and see things anew, know folks as they truly are, in all their goodness and beauty as images of God. He moves among us in ways we do not expect so, as with Mary in the garden, we do not recognize him. He is not what we expect.
When we let him, Jesus rolls the stone away from the tomb we have consigned ourselves to. As we contemplate the resurrection happening among us, we come to realize that God is still creating surprises, showing us more who He is, reminding us he does not make mistakes. So concerned with our own comfort and safety and threatened by what we cannot control, we lose our awareness of the God of surprises. So wrapped up in rules and ideas, we cannot see the wonders God is still doing, we do not recognize God coming in ways we do not approve. We protect ourselves and our need for security and control by causing others unnecessary pain and suffering. God still steps outside of Himself to come among us, and it is at our own great loss that we tell God what we will and will not accept. In effect, we are telling him to roll the stone back where it was and leave us in darkness where we feel safe.
When Jesus came among us he upset the religious leaders of his day because he ignored many of their judgmental standards. He reached out to the folks on the outer edges of society, much as we need to do today. The church and all of us have to live the Gospel in a way that, without judging anyone, helps them to face in their ordinary everyday lives Jesus’ overwhelming love for them. We cannot control or restrict his love, we can only pass it on by living it.
Jesus held nothing back and gave us everything, including his life. If we are serious about following him, we have to do the same.
Just sayin . . .