Becoming Jesus: working our way back to you, Lord

Tom Bartolomeo
3rd Sunday Easter A 2014
Acts 2: 14,22-33, Psalm 16
1 Peter 1: 17-21, Luke 24: 13-35
Reproduced with Permission

"Hey, I'm working my way back to you . . . and the happiness that died I let it get away do-do, do-da, do (Been paying every day) ." I could go on with the rest of the lyrics, "with a burning love inside . . . and the happiness that died. I let it get away . . . See I'm down and out, But I ain't about to go living my life without you."[1] That could have been the theme for the gospel story of the "two disciples going to a village outside of Jerusalem" after Jesus rose from the dead. When stuck in place not knowing what to do any change seems desirable even just going somewhere else. But a bigger change than travel was underway and the disciples needed more time to prepare. Then Jesus unrecognized appears on the road which the two disciples are traveling and reminds them that the Messiah had to suffer and die, what "the prophets spoke . . . from the beginning with Moses and all the prophets . . . that it was necessary the Christ should suffer and enter into his glory." (Luke 24: 25-27).

It would be nice if we could take some pleasant road trip to the "glory" of heaven without suffering, but that would contradict everything Jesus taught. "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" unless we believe that this world--where death reigns--is heaven. (Luke 14: 27). That was exactly the point Jesus made when he confronted the Apostle Thomas visibly bearing his glorified wounds." 'Put you finder here and see my hands', Jesus told Thomas. 'Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe'." (John 20: 26-28). Thomas was not the only doubting disciple. Jesus still bears his wounds in heaven, evidence of glory that he conquered death. God often turns our world upside down lest we forget we are just passing through. Jesus us "the sign of contradiction" Simeon recognized at his presentation in the temple as an infant "who would be destined for the rise and fall of many in Israel and be a sign that would be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed." (Luke 2: 34).

Our "inner thoughts" what do they reveal? When everything else is stripped away perhaps in our incapacitated bodies when all that remains are our thoughts and beliefs then we face our inner thoughts. It is not so far fetched an idea. Even in this passing world the wounds and sacrifices of others we honor them as heros. In the Church we call them saints. Besides prayer our welcomed pains and wounds are our best defense against temptation and sin.

Jesus' disciples may not have realized this at the time that much of Jesus' discipline and discipleship focused on pain, suffering and disappointment. Jesus specifically wanted his friends to understand his path to glory and imitate him while he prepared them for his crucifixion. At their last memorable meal together when Jesus told the Apostles, "do this in memory of me" he told them that he would soon be leaving them "in a little while". He could have kept the matter to himself, and let them draw their own conclusions. His choice of words were baffling unless they measured them against eternity. Jesus drew upon a mother's experience in giving birth to a child which many of them knew personally. What can a man do while his wife bears the pain of her delivery except fret and worry? The Apostles would soon be in that plight more than the knew at the time. "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while you will see me . . . you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will be turned into joy.

When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when the child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." (John 16: 16-22). Jesus was ready to give birth to his Church.

We essentially live in our minds. It would take many weeks for "the twelve" turned Apostles to put on the mind of Christ. Without the mind of Christ we can not hope, really, to be Christian. Many identify themselves as Christian who do not have the mind of a suffering and a joyful Christ. The painful delivery of a mother's child is eclipsed by the joy and wonder of her accomplishment and the father through her who together with their child become a family. It is the only proper understanding of marriage. In a very real way marriage defines creation, the regeneration of living things especially human beings. As in all living things a woman achieves motherhood bearing children as does a man reach fatherhood. Jesus takes us 'back to the future' of God's intentions which he announced to the first woman that her children would be saved by a future daughter's child who would crush the head of evil in bearing a Savior. (cf. Genesis 3: 13ff).

Of all the human names Jesus ascribes to himself "bridegroom" explains best his work as his Father's Son in the world looking always to the future of other sons and daughters in a paradise regained and opened for the faithful. We should not lose sight of the joy Jesus' disciples experienced and their friendship with Jesus when the Pharisees and John the Baptists' disciples, for instance, criticized Jesus' disciples for not fasting. Jesus replied, "Can the wedding guests mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Matthew 9: 15). A wedding favor for a couple in Cana marked Jesus' first miracle. The couple's wedding celebration would have been spoiled lacking Jesus' quiet intervention providing not just adequate wine but a superior bounty of wine as the wine steward testified. (John 2: 8-10). Jesus chose a parable of a bridegroom and his bride arriving late to a wedding feast to emphasize the need to be ready at all times for the celebration which the wise bridesmaids had been while the foolish bridesmaids were not. Had the foolish maids turned 'back to the future' as brides themselves they, too, would have been better prepared. (cf. Matthew 25:1-13). Finally, the man "among those born of women", whom Jesus praised, "none was greater than John" the Baptist. John considered it his honor being called the "friend of the bridegroom", Jesus Christ. John the Baptist made "straight the paths" of Christ on which the Apostles would travel after Jesus Ascension. (Luke 7: 28; John 3: 25-30).

Every son and daughter has "a little while" only in this world. Those who engage this world, one foot in the grave and another in eternity, need to know the difference: "No one can serve two masters . . . . You cannot serve God and the world". (Matthew 6:24). Quo vadis?