theunfamiliarname

Homily for Easter 6C

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Coming to live in a provincial centre,
a town rather than a city,
I’ve wondered what God actually thinks about the way we organise ourselves.

The Bible is actually not too complementary about cities.
They are from beginning to end, a source of bad behaviour.

So much so, that the vision of the Book of Revelation
has to have God bring about the new perfect city, the new Jerusalem,
holus bolus, direct from heaven.

Revelation presents us with a world remade;
where human relationships are redeemed;
where the Temple is no longer needed,
because humanity has real relationship with God, unimpeded;
where suffering and tears are no more,
but light and life are enjoyed by all in God’s presence.
A city in a dry land that has only dry riverbeds now,
knows in its remaking, bright, lively, wondrous water.

And a city that has not known much peace in its history
will find the meaning of its name:
“Foundation of Salem”, “Foundation of peace.”  Jerusalem.

Salem – peace.
“As-Salamu Alaykum”    “Peace be upon you”
as our Muslim sisters and brothers phrase it.
“Shalom” as our Jewish friends would greet us.

“Peace” seems a scarce commodity in the land that we call “Holy”.

But that name – Jerusalem, “foundation of peace” –
holds before us a vision of the world not as it is, but as it will be.
This is a vision of the Kingdom of God,
the vision central to the prayer Jesus taught, that God’s reign, God’s Kingdom
might come on earth as in heaven.
And quite frankly, Jerusalem – the here and now Jerusalem, the city in Israel –
stands as stark a reminder as any we might find,
that the vision of God’s peace and plenty and the healing of the nations…
this has not yet come.

The Book of Revelation is a vision-story
written during a time of great persecution and anguish in the Church.

Let us be reminded that this great vision of a world
at peace with itself and with God, grew up in a climate of hatred and fear.

The story of the Resurrection takes root
in the dismay and incomprehension of the Crucifixion.

We are invited to hope and to trust
and to work for a world that is more like the God we worship.

Jesus says this day,  “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let your hearts be afraid.”

We are called to make that peace our own,
and to make that peace an ever-emerging reality
in our hearts, in our homes, in our world.
The Jerusalem of the Revelation vision is patently not
the way the world is, then or now,  but we are an Easter people.
We are a people of hope,
and, inexplicably, a people of power, even in our smallness.

We are called to be prophets of a future,
of a peace God alone can see and can bring to birth,
with us, in us, and in spite of us.
Through and beyond us, peace will come.
This is God’s work, and we can’t ourselves transform the world overnight.
There was a movement in South America in the 1970s and 80s
called “liberation theology”.
It spoke of hope to an impoverished and often brutalised population.
It dared to utter “God” and “politics”, “Jesus” and “economics” in the same breath.

One unlikely & late-comer to this was Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador.
Martyred as he said Mass in 1980, just over thirty years ago,
on the orders of the Right Wing Government.

He wrote these words that might speak to us today,
as we wonder about the place of the Church in our society,
about a kind of side-lining, perhaps even persecution that’s different now, but real,
about the present and the future of our parish.
He said:  It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,     it is beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.  No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.  No program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:  We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything  and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,  and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,     ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

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