“Announce & Recognize; Hear & See in Freedom”©
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Homily thoughts on the Third Sunday of Easter, April 30, 2017
Interesting, isn’t it, that the Easter appearances of the Risen Jesus seem to be a chronological jumble. Easter morning begins with angels announcing from the empty tomb, “He is not here. He is Risen!” One account says that the women went immediately to announce this news to the other disciples. Another account says that Mary of Magdala, stayed back and had her first experience of the risen Jesus. The day proceeds with Jesus showing his wounded body to Thomas and also includes the Emmaus-bound disciples recognizing Jesus in his breaking of bread with them. It doesn’t seem to matter so much when all this happened as that it happened. It’s taken us three weeks to cover that first Easter Day.
Jesus’ followers believe in his Resurrection on the basis of the announcement by angels and by the recognition of his disciples. The Easter appearances are presented to us as events of announcement and recognition. Throughout the history that follows Christ’s Resurrection I would say that personal conviction in faith( of the Christian variety) happens as a result of taking to heart the announcement of his rising or of recognizing the Risen Christ. This is how his story becomes my story.
The Gospel may be preached. The doctrines may be explained. The institutions may be followed. But unless and until Christ’s story becomes my story, until his love convinces me to love, you and I will only think about freedom and not experience it. To be free is to hear the announcement and to accept it, to embrace it. To be free is to recognize Christ present as the one who nourishes and sustains us.
Announcement and recognition, not doctrine and dogma – these are the creators of freedom. All the teaching, all the preaching, all the directing do not make us believe. But when a person cannot escape the announcement such as the one that knocked Saul off his horse, or cannot walk away from the certainty that Jesus is present — that is when the person is free.
This experience of freedom is important because we need to have the sense of the source and insight which guides our lives. What makes you and me free to believe and to love as a follower of the Risen Christ? Are we dependent on others’ words? No, we are free in Christ because we, personally and deeply, have heard the voice of Christ and no other. Sure, others have had their influence. But it is by announcement and recognition that we experience by and for ourselves Christ is real. It is the voice that is heard, not the language that is spoken, the sheer connection between Christ and myself that assures this freedom.
The exploration for sources of insight, new thoughts, fresh ideas, personal commitment is an ancient and ongoing one. Am I bound to my convictions by intellectually satisfying reasons or am I bound by a free choice that responds to the voice of the Risen One (to put it in Christian terms)? Resurrection is announced and the Risen Christ is recognized. In certain quarters of the study of Philosophy this exploration of the source of one’s thoughts, ideas, knowledge, personal commitment, understanding of meaning walks this tightrope between voice and word. Is it experience of what “comes to me” or is it meaning that makes sense to me?
This question is also an important one in the discussion that takes place between science and religion. Francis Collins contributed much to the work on the Human Genome Project, offering his extraordinary expertise to the discovery and mapping of the genome with all its implications for medicine, heredity, and various age-old questions. Collins also happens to be a believer. He wrote a book about this and titled it, “The Language of God.”
For our purposes here I’ll only mention Collins’ deep faith, one would say, his expression of the freedom to hold in tension so many of the issues of the science-religion debates. He acknowledges that science is about gaining knowledge of truth until new truth comes along. He also acknowledges that the Eternal lives by a spirit that is always new. And those who fail to appreciate this have only their freedom to lose.
He gives the example of the movie, GATTICA, as a way to expose the dangers of science in its pursuit of truth. The movie tells the story of a society, ruled by science, that applies the genome to determinations of what people are assigned to do in life. Thanks to the genome map each person is easily diagnosed and put in their place, quite literally – since prediction is exactly the certainty made possible by this science. The one thing that this society removes from its members is freedom.
Freedom not only individualizes a person; it also exposes the limits of science as it celebrates the voice of the life-force in each person. Freedom is not without struggle. And religion too often is a full-force denier of freedom. Within the New Testament itself the struggle and the denial is all-too evident. The canon includes instruction that women should be silent in the assembly. In today’s Gospel the disciples who return from Emmaus are told (so we read) that Jesus appeared to Simon. Did somebody already forget that Jesus appeared to Mary first?
To live this freedom we celebrate at Easter we must embrace the voice and acknowledge the sight that Jesus, the Risen Christ, is for me – for you. Let the lessons be taught, the prayers be prayed, the leaders do their leading. Our first and primary responsibility is to not let these interpretations and mediations get in the way of that announcement directly to our hearts and our spirits – Jesus is Risen! Risen as He promised! Alleluia.
An Easter Prayer, on the way from Emmaus (JR)
Host of the gathering feast,
You walk with us along the shadowed road.
Burn our hearts with scripture’s flame.
Unveil our darkened eyes as you break bread.
And with broken fragments bless us on this
Journey you walk with us,
Jesus Christ, Risen & Glorified.