Third Sunday of Easter 'C'

Saturday April 17, 2010

*_The Greatest Story Ever Told_*…

must be told over and over again through the lens of our own human experiences both joyful and tragic.

It was a cold, snowy weekend in February of 1974 — Presidents’ Weekend, I think. I had been invited numerous times to make a Cursillo (pronounced ‘cur-see-yo’—an extended ‘Cornerstone weekend) but for several years, I ducked it. I had heard a great deal about it from others; I knew it was special kind of retreat but I couldn’t get anyone to fill me in on the details. I wasn’t a high risk-taker in those days. All they would tell me is “you have to experience it to understand it.” I had heard rumors about long talks called ‘rollos’ (pronounced ‘royos’) and late night discussions, lively music, good food and lots of laughs. Sounded more like a cult than a retreat. After running out of excuses, I finally mustered up enough courage to risk it and despite some residual reluctance arrived at the doors of St. Bonaventure Friary on Ramsey Street in Paterson. A team of hospitable men of different shapes, sizes and personalities greeted me and other ‘candidates’ warmly. I was not much into this ‘touchy-feely’ stuff and certainly not ready for men hugging one another!

It turned out to be one of the most significant weekends of my life. More than a retreat, it was a journey for the soul and left me with the feeling that I had experienced Christ in a new way in this very diverse group. Appropriately enough, the theme song for the weekend was “The Lord is Risen to Life!” I can still hear the sound of our voices around the Eucharist table. It was a new version of an ancient church emerging after Vatican II.

The weekend was very structured with no detail left unattended. At the closing, in the presence of family and friends who came to welcome us back to the real world, new ‘cursillistos’ (pronounced ‘cur-see-is-tos’) were invited to offer a public witness or testimony to our experience, if we felt moved by the Spirit to do so, of course. Several testified, I among them, and made a commitment to continue giving witness to our experience by living the Gospel more faithfully and more fully whatever our call and career.

Although the theology of those days was rather simplistic in hindsight and although my spirituality has changed dramatically since that time, the experience still energizes me today.

The twenty-first chapter of John’s Gospel is a culmination of the journey of Peter and the other disciples with Jesus. I suppose one might call it an extended three year “Cursillo” or ‘Cornerstone Retreat’ with Jesus in the lead. In the mind of many biblical scholars, this chapter was not part of the original composition but was added later as an epilogue to the other twenty chapters. It is what is called a ‘post resurrection story’ inserted to reinforce belief in the reality of the ‘real presence’ of Jesus after his death and to emphasize the essential connection between the historical Jesus and resurrected life among his followers and among us as the Body of Christ.

This is what John the Evangelist wanted us to know: As a rabbi and itinerant preacher, Jesus drew the disciples into the circle of God’s love and sent them out to draw others into the circle of that love by breaking the bread together and telling the Jesus story over and over again, living the Jesus story and then lowering their nets, as it were, for a catch.

The annual liturgical cycle which begins each year at Advent, culminates with the Easter feast but continues to germinate until Pentecost at which time we are invited to commit ourselves once more to witness to our faith in the same risen Christ living in our community and within the Church. As with Peter, there is much to forgive within each of us as individuals and within our Church as a worldwide community. It was a wounded ‘church’ then and is a wounded church today from top to bottom. Peter’s triple denial was dissolved by his triple confession of love and loyalty. Peter’s love was made stronger by his own weakness — so much so that he would be crucified upside down for his crucified Master.

In March of 2009, the Center for Action and Contemplation in New Mexico to which Father Richard Rohr, OFM is attached, sponsored an interdenominational symposium entitled the “Emerging Church.” Led by five major presenters from different traditions, it engaged participants in a wide ranged exploration of the history of the Christian Church within the context of religious belief within our Jewish roots and in our relationship with other non-Christian traditions. As familiar as we are with our Christian Catholic Christian heritage, we are still an emerging church in a very mixed up world. The titles of the presentations were rather instructive in themselves:

The Great Emergence. The Church is more a movement than an institution and is energized as it moves forward century after century. Any attempt to freeze it’s structures within a walled-in institution will ultimately fail.

The Historical Jesus: What you focus on determines what you miss.

Standing Contemplatively in an Active World
A Plea in Love: When you are silent, you are not neutral.

Harmonizing without Homogenizing.

In a world which increasingly says greed is good, more is better and do what you want no matter who gets hurt in the process, just don’t get caught, we need some folks who will stand up and shout, we are not alone in this universe and certainly not on this planet. But we’d better do our homework before we get up and shout whatever the occasion.

How appropriate that John’s gospel should conclude with the words, “There are still many other things that Jesus did, yet if they were written about in detail, I doubt there would be room enough in the entire world to hold the books to record them.”

How about we give life a new try this week with a turn of faith instead of a twist of fate.

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