May 29, 2016:
Encounter – Disciple – Apostle
Last Sunday we focused on the Holy Trinity. Our God is a Communion of Love, and we are involved – we are loved and we are called to love, within this Communion, and in all our human relations. We encounter God face-to-face. God for us, we call you Father.
Today we celebrate the Body and Blood of Christ. The Risen Christ is really present in our Sacraments and our daily living. God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
Next week we will see Elijah restore a child to life, Paul bringing the life-giving message to the Gentiles, and Jesus giving a young man back to his widowed mother. God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
Meeting God face-to-face is most common in the Bible: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter and Andrew, James and John, Saul on the road to Damascus, the Beloved Disciple in John.
But it is not only a few lofty special persons who actually experience meeting God. Most people can recall having an intense spiritual experience by the time they are 10 or 12 years old, and often again in their teens. A spiritual experience, however, is not childish. It can happen any time, any place. Sometimes it is at a life-change event like marriage, the birth of a child, the death of a parent or a sibling – or a child. Sometimes we encounter God, but did not know it at the time; it is only by looking back that we now see that we had experienced a touch of grace.
When a child asked Pope Francis what was God doing before he created the world, Francis answered: He was loving – he was loving you and me! We can spend a few minutes every day just quietly sitting still, and feeling God hugging us close to God’s Heart. Then we may begin to realize that we can reach beyond what we thought were our limits. We can transcend our “mere humanity” and allow God to be the wind beneath our wings. It is the difference between taking an airplane to our destination rather than walking from here to there.
Once we get used to feeling God hugging us, walking with us, gazing at us with love, we may decide to start following Jesus, walking in his footsteps. The four Gospels are all invitations to become disciples – to set aside what we were doing, and become a student again, concentrating on the master, learning a new way to live. Even though it seems to be “against our nature,” we are learning to fly.
Piloting a plane is a fascinating combination of our skillful and attentive movements and calculations, blended with the mysterious forces of a different environment – the thin air rather than the solid ground. A pilot becomes a disciple of a new way to move. And even when you put the plane on “autopilot,” you are still attentive to all the gauges, the greetings and instructions of the air traffic controllers, the direction of the wind, the temperature of the air. As pilots say, “If you are not doing something in the cockpit, you are doing something wrong.”
Note how often Jesus instructs the disciples, confronts the disciples, challenges the disciples, comforts the disciples. He is teaching them – and us – to live in a new environment – the reign of God.
It is not enough to “be holy” or “go to mass” or “volunteer” at the parish festival. It is not enough to be a disciple. The Spirit of Jesus is moving us to assume responsibility for the work of God in this world. Jesus lived on this earth for only a few short years, in one place, many years ago.
After Jesus left us, Pentecost happened. The Holy Spirit comes flooding into our hearts and minds. The Holy Spirit fills us with knowledge, wisdom, faithfulness, healing, great deeds of love, challenging prophecy, discernment, unique expressions and languages, interpreting tongues. We are all given to drink of the One Spirit, all members of Christ’s body. We are all responsible. Here I am, Send me!
Our diocese is planning a synod, a gathering of the whole church, in November of this year. In a couple weeks, on a Saturday morning, we will gather as a parish to give our input for the synod discussions. (At St. Suzanne / Our Lady Gate of Heaven, this meeting will be on June 11; at Christ the King it will be on June 18. If you cannot make your respective parish’s meeting, come to the other.)
We will share our experiences of Encountering God, being a Disciple, and daring to become an Apostle. Please plan to come. Here I am, Send me!