Sunday, April 30, 2017

Claiming the Promise

3rd Sunday of Easter (A)

Readings: Acts 2:14, 22-33; Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35
When you're down and troubled,
And you need some lovin’ care.
And nothing, nothing is going right.
Just close your eyes and think of me,
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night.
You just call out my name,
And you know wherever I am,
I'll come running, to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall,
All you've got to do is call.
And I'll be there. You’ve got a friend.
My dear friends, I think some of you may recognise these words. They are taken from a song from the 1970s. Do you remember what the song is about? It’s meaning can perhaps be summed up in four words. All beginning with the letter “P”. The first word is promise. The song is a promise made by someone to someone else.

And this promise has to do with a kind of power. The power to transform sadness to joy. Darkness to light. Loneliness to companionship. The one who is down and troubled, the one who needs some lovin’ care, is promised the power to brighten up even the darkest night. How does this happen? It happens through the third “P” word: presence. Not just any presence. But the presence of someone who cares. Someone who will come running in times of trouble.

But in order for this presence and power to be felt, the promise needs to be claimed. The person going through a hard time has to do something. To engage in certain practices. The fourth “P” word. Close your eyes and think of me… just call out my name… Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you've got to do is call. And I'll be there. You’ve got a friend…

A moving promise of power flowing from presence and practice. Promise and power. Presence and practice. This is what the song is about. And this is also what we find in our readings on this third Sunday of Easter. As we ponder more deeply what the Resurrection of Christ means for us. 

In the responsorial psalm, we find someone in trouble. What does the person do? He engages in certain practices. He cries out to God. Preserve me God, I take refuge in you. He takes shelter in God. And he experiences the fulfilment of God’s promise. He feels the powerful presence of God. Changing sadness to joy. Darkness to light. You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence, at your right hand happiness for ever.

In the first reading, Peter interprets the words of this psalm as applying to Christ the Lord. Jesus is the one who faced the darkness of the Cross. And, in his suffering, the Lord engaged in the practice of crying out to his Father. Who came running to his side. Allowing him to experience God’s powerful presence, transforming death into life. You killed him, but God raised him up.

But Jesus is not the only one in our readings who experiences the fulfilment of this wonderful promise. His disciples do too. At the beginning of the gospel reading, Cleopas and his unnamed companion are in a very dark place. Their Master and Lord has been crucified. Their hopes have been dashed. And they are walking away from Jerusalem. The place of their dreams. Yet, in their darkness, something happens to them. They somehow receive power.

At the end of the reading, we find them changing directions. Even though night has already fallen, they run excitedly back to the place from which they had been trying to escape. How does this come about? This power comes to them when they are brought into the presence of the Crucified and Risen Lord. A presence that they experience by engaging in certain practices. As they walk together on the road, they share their disappointments with one another. And this openness somehow attracts the Lord to them. He helps them to let the scriptures shed light on their pain. Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory? And gradually, they are transformed. Their broken hearts burn once again with faith and hope.

But that’s not all, after they’ve reached Emmaus, the two disciples engage in further practices. They invite Jesus to break bread with them. And as they are gathered around the table with the Lord, their once unseeing eyes finally recognise the gentle yet powerful presence of a friend.

Power and presence. Coming to those who engage in certain practices. This is how God’s promise is fulfilled. The same promise that is fulfilled in the Death and Resurrection of Christ. The promise that darkness will be changed to Light. Death transformed into Life. This same promise is addressed to us as well. To you and to me. And to all who may find ourselves facing difficult times.

But in order for this promise to be fulfilled, we need to claim it for ourselves. By engaging in the right practices. As the second reading tells us, we must be scrupulously careful to remember that the ransom paid to free us was not paid in silver nor gold, but in the precious blood of a lamb without spot or stain…

We need to call out to Christ, by remembering the price he paid to set us free. Isn’t this what we do here at Mass? As we allow ourselves to be gathered by the Lord, around this ambo and that altar, we bring with us our broken hearts. Hearts broken not just by events in our personal lives. But also by what we see happening in the world around us. We bring the places in our hearts that have been touched by darkness and death. And we cry out to the Lord. We allow him to explain the scriptures to us. To show us how it relates to our lives and our world. We watch as he breaks the bread of his Body. The Real Presence of Christ that becomes food for our souls. Mending our broken hearts. Setting them on fire with the power to go out and to do the same for others.

Winter, spring, summer or fall, all you've got to do is call. And He'll be there. You’ve got a friend…

My dear sisters and brothers, how shall we continue calling upon Jesus, our Crucified and Risen Friend, today?

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