Do certain persons come to mind whenever you see a particular object or do a specific thing? When memories are of deceased persons, I appreciate the reminder of their unseen presence and recall the days I lived with them. Whenever I throw towels in the dryer, I hear the voice of deceased Sister Marilyn Kay Borer say, “Make sure you shake out the towels before putting them in the dryer.” I hear the voice of Sister Thomasita exclaiming “You unkempt rodent!” (her polite version of “you dirty rat”) when foiled in a card game. I can hardly pick up a magazine of current events without thinking of Sister Mary Bernarda Sullivan who kept up with the news despite advancing age. When I improvise to cover the action in church, I think of Sister Mary Delphine who said that she accidentally played “Beer Barrel Polka” when improvising in church. When tuning up to sing, I think of Sister Mary Michel Schmidt who would sing “Asperges Me” in staccato. When I remember my dad, I hear him say, “Be nice, girls.” And my mom would get us up in the morning by calling out, “Everybody happy?” These memories are a little chance to say hello to these wonderful people once again.
Jesus professed to be a servant as he washed feet and commanded his followers to continue his example of servanthood. The apostles should not have been surprised by Jesus’ unusual gesture. They had been with him three years, enough time to see Jesus putting others before himself. Once again, Jesus puts others before himself when he cooks breakfast for his apostles. Maybe Jesus was whistling, a chuckle playing on his lips, as he thought of their surprise to see him now risen from the dead—and in such a place. No temple or synagogue or verdant garden, but a campfire in their former stamping grounds. Perhaps Jesus is recalling the many times he said, “I came not to be served but to serve.” The system of have and have not, lord and servant, more worthy and less worthy needed to be washed away in the Sea of Galilee. Maybe this time his apostles would get it. “There’s always hope,” he thought.
The word: “Fiat”
The Word: God become flesh.
The word: “Flee.”
The word: “You yourself shall be pierced with a sword.”
The Word: “Why did you search for me?”
The word: Silent compassion
The Word: “There is your mother.”
The word: Silent grief
The word: Silent faith.
On Good Friday I reflect on the suffering of Jesus as an individual, as one person stumbling to Calvary and hanging on a cross. However, I need to reflect more on Jesus’ solidarity with all the suffering and powerless people of the world before and after the first Good Friday. Jesus is with his people, for his people, a solidarity always in readiness for a Simon of Cyrene, a Veronica, a centurion, a Peter, a John, a Mary of Magdala, and a Sorrowing Mother. In his helplessness Jesus offers an example of attention to others. Each receives a gift: Simon of Cyrene a deep understanding of suffering on behalf of others, Veronica an image of God, the centurion belief, Peter forgiveness, John a mother, Mary of Magdala discipleship, and the Sorrowful Mother a son to cradle a last time and every son and daughter in whom her Child lives.
When eaten, food becomes us. Once external and on a table or in a garden or on a grocery shelf, food is internalized as nutrients. At the Last Supper Jesus gave to his apostles his very self, and this continues in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharistic Sacrifice. How profoundly self-giving is the life-sharing that Jesus intends. And because this happens for every person receiving the Eucharist, the Body of Christ is intimately joined to the body of each person. Beatrice Bruteau writes in The Easter Mysteries: “And since his Body is the most vital and the most vitalizing—the most life-giving—element in any of us, all of us together constitute a kind of extension of his Body. And that enlarged Body acts as any living body does: it grows and unifies and develops; it supports diversity within itself by being secure in its unity. . . .” As His Body, we too must become food for others to eat. We need to feed one another through self-giving.
Jesus said that by their fruits we can know them. We know God by what God does. And what does God do? In Jesus we see God giving food and life and healing and forgiveness. We see the God-Man taking on the sins of the world, actually becoming sin. Could there have been any greater vulnerability? Jesus suffered and died for us. He subjected himself to the whims of evil men and the rejection of religious leaders—but in his powerlessness was power. Walter Brueggemann writes, “The totally vulnerable one is the present ruling Lord.”
Jesus brings life in a world of death. That’s resurrection foreshadowed in the stories of the raising of Lazarus, the young man, and the little girl. In equally dramatic ways Jesus was the life-bringer as he told the story of the Prodigal Son, fed the 5000, and talked to the woman at the well. All his actions were life-giving. Such was his mission as he came to let the blind see and the lame walk.
How am I a bearer of life? By my fruits I shall be known.
In Lent we read John 5 when Jesus speaks about testifying to the truth. Jesus praises John the Baptist for his testimony, but says that his own testimony is “greater than John’s.” Jesus claims that his works testify on his behalf. And, above all, God the Father testifies on his Son’s behalf. The context is the disbelief of the Jewish people who believed Moses, but did not believe what Moses wrote about Jesus. Jesus asks, perhaps with some exasperation, “But if you do not believe his (Moses’) writings, how will you believe my words?”
Some read the Bible as absolute historical or scientific fact and misuse Biblical quotations to prove points, but the Bible is not an answer book. The pages do not collect right doctrine which needs to be believed verbatim regardless of historical context or unfamiliar language. The Bible is proclamation, kerygma. It stands alone without need of any other frame of reference. It’s the book of God’s love for God’s People. It’s the message that from death comes life, because of Jesus who came to bring life in abundance. Jesus said: “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life.”
What doe God do for a living? Well, God is always on mission. How do I know? When we see the Son, we know the Father. After spending about 30 years in obscurity, Jesus is in the synagogue when his friends and neighbors ask him to read. This was his moment. He found the place in Isaiah that describes his identity and tests his mission. His mission was to “bring glad tidings to the poor,” “to proclaim liberty,” “give sight,” and “let the oppressed go free.” Imagine the moment. All eyes are on Jesus. Perhaps he takes a deep breath, quickly checks in with his Father, and declares, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Wow! What a mission! It turns society upside down, for the poor become rich, the confined go free, and sightless see. Did the assembly in the synagogue catch the reality? Did they begin to think “This is salvation. This is God’s Word coming to fulfillment”? At the center of Jesus’ preaching and ministry is the coming of the reign of God—today. What an impact! We live in God today. We live in the Kingdom today. We don’t have to wait for death and heaven. God’s timing is like a basketball game. If your team is 20 points ahead, and there are 10 seconds to play, you just wait for the clock to run out. You know the victory, and it’s ours! We’ve got salvation now. We live in God’s forgiveness and love now. We’ve got it all, because we have God today.
So get out there on mission! Do the work of God today!