Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spiritual Makeover

3rd Sunday of Easter (B)

Picture: cc David Pacey

Sisters and brothers, do you sometimes feel bored with your life? Have you ever felt like you’re stuck in a rut? Needing to experience something new? To break out of your dull routine? What do you do? How do you go about renewing yourself? Some people get a makeover. They change their appearance. They dye their hair. Do their nails. Draw their eyebrows. Change their wardrobe. Diet and exercise… And then there are others who, instead of changing the way they look, change the things they own. They get a flashier car. A bigger house. A newer phone. Maybe even a younger wife... Or a richer husband…

But what if all these changes are just not enough? What if you still feel stuck? What if you need more than just a renovation of your looks? Or an updating of your belongings? What if what you need is a spiritual makeover? What do you do then?

I believe this is the question that our Mass readings help us to answer on this 3rd Sunday of Easter. In the gospel, it’s quite clear that the disciples are badly in need of a spiritual makeover. We know this from the way they react to the appearance of the Risen Christ. The reading tells us that they were in a state of alarm and fright, because they thought they were seeing a ghost.

A ghost, as you know, is a creature that is stuck. Something that’s supposed to be dead and gone. But that refuses to leave. Is unable to leave. Remaining, instead, to haunt places and people. To cause a disturbance. To act as a painful reminder of unfinished business. Of stubborn grudges and suppressed guilt. Of squandered opportunities and bitter regrets. Of unmourned losses and ignored pain. In the gospel, the disciples are haunted. Not just by the death of Jesus. But also by how they abandoned and denied him. Their Master and Friend. In the gospel, the disciples are stuck in the rut of their own guilt and shame. Unable to move on.

Which is why the Risen Christ appears to them in the first place. To get them unstuck. To give them a spiritual makeover. And it’s helpful for us to pay close attention to how Jesus does this. Notice that he takes great care to convince the disciples that he is not a ghost. Touch me and see for yourselves, he says. A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have. He even takes the trouble to eat a piece of fish in front of them. By doing this, Jesus shows the disciples that the damage caused by the Crucifixion has been repaired. The One who died has now been raised. More importantly, he doesn’t hold a grudge against them, for their weakness and cowardice.

A ghost appears to haunt and to frighten. To accuse and to blame. But the Risen Christ is not a ghost. He is not stuck. He is not a thing of the past. But a promise for the future. He comes to bless and to console. To reconcile and to renew. Peace be with you! All the disciples have to do, to get unstuck, is to humbly accept this gift. The precious gift of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. To receive it and to bear witness to it before the whole world.

And this is exactly what Peter does in the first reading. He bears witness to the Resurrection. And notice how he does it. Notice that he follows the same steps that Jesus takes. He first proclaims the marvellous news of how the terrible effects of sin have already been reversed. You killed the prince of life, he says. God, however, raised him from the dead. Peter does not act like a ghost. He doesn’t haunt the people. Doesn’t just recall their faults to make them feel bad about their past. Instead, he points them to the future. He shares with them the incredible news that their ruptured relationship with God has already been renewed. All they have to do now is to claim the gift for themselves. To repent and turn to God. So that their sins may be wiped out. So that, like Peter and his companions, they too can become unstuck. Pointed in a new direction. Given a spiritual makeover.

But what does it mean to repent and turn to God? What does repentance look like in practice? Is it just a matter of being baptised at the Easter Vigil? Or going to confession in Lent? Or coming to Mass once a week? Or saying our prayers every day? All these things are important, of course. But they are not enough. The second reading tells us what more is required. We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. By doing what God wants. By living, everyday, according to the wishes of God.

And this includes acting the way Peter acts in the first reading. Doing what the Risen Christ does in the gospel. Helping the people around us to get unstuck. Teaching them how to move on. Not by haunting and accusing them. Or judging and blaming them. But by encouraging and inspiring them. By reminding them that the Crucified Christ has already been raised. And because Christ has been raised, their sins have already been forgiven. Forgiven not because they deserve it. But because God insists on loving them. On renewing their lives. On being their friend.

This is what it means to repent and to turn to God. Not just to try our best not to do wrong. But also to help others to do what is right. To obey the command of the Risen Christ to go and bear witness to the Resurrection. To proclaim the good news of God’s love and mercy and compassion. For it is only when we do this that our own lives can truly be renewed. It is only when we help others to get unstuck that our lives are given a new direction. As the second reading tells us, when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. We enjoy more fully the benefits of God’s love by sharing it with others. We enter more deeply the Mystery of the Resurrection by bearing witness to its power in our world.

Isn’t this what the Easter season is about? It’s a time for us to deepen our appreciation of God’s love for us shown in the Dying and Rising of Christ. First, by remembering and celebrating how our own sins have already been forgiven. As we are doing now at this Eucharist. How Christ has already gotten us unstuck. Has already pointed us in a new direction. And then, by going out and sharing this good news with others. With our family and friends. With our colleagues and acquaintances. And even with our enemies and strangers. With anyone who needs to experience the power of the Resurrection.

Sisters and brothers, Easter is a time of renewal. God wishes to refresh us. To point our lives in a new direction. Do you need a spiritual makeover today?

1 comment:

  1. Change my heart O Lord,

    make me more like You.

    Seeing Is Believing
    24 April 2015


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