This is the first Sunday after the Easter season; instead of greeting one another with the extraordinary exclamation that “Christ is Risen!” we now remain gratefully in wonder: “Glory to Jesus Christ”.
What news we’ve had this Ascension week. Canada as a nation finally seems to be awake to the horrors of the Residential School System after the unearthing of 215 children’s graves. Still reeling from the acknowledgment of such recent history, we recoil from the current reality of the London family out for a Sunday stroll, murdered for being Muslim. The Delta strain of COVID, the most contagious and deadly variant so far, has arrived in KW. The gypsy moth infestation threatens the health of our trees and forests.
These are simply a few headlines; no need to touch on other world news to see that there is trouble in the world. How can we feel Paschal joy? What difference does it make to be Christian? Every week our liturgical readings speak to us of these same issues of trouble in the world—and the response needed from us. In short, our Gospel readings grapple with the ever-present dilemma of good and evil in the world.
In the life of Christ, as written by the evangelists and seen through the letters of Paul, we are given a clear foundational message. We have Christ’s example for living and Paul’s application of Christ’s standard to communities of followers. You know it; I know it. The difficulty lies in applying it to our daily lives in our specific contexts. What is “it”?
God is Love. We are to love one another, treat others as we would want to be treated. God is compared to a loving Father, as in the example of the Prodigal Son. We are all children, no favourites. We are all interconnected. In today’s reading, John describes the relationship of Jesus and the Father as one. Christ prays that we—his followers—”may be one” as God and Christ are one. The prayer concludes saying “1that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Ultimately there is joy in Christ, in God, in Love. Yet, we know that Christ’s demonstration of life lived in God’s love led to his torture and death. Somehow, despite our churches, our histories, and our identification as Christians, we blame God for the world’s trouble, like those who encountered the man born blind (see last week’s bulletin.) It is easier to blame God than to recognize human failings. We prefer an image of God as a vengeful, strict, dictator, demanding sacrifice and doling out punishment, rather than seeing not only that we have free will, but also that choosing to turn away from Divine Love has consequences for individuals and communities and environments.
Paul begs the Ephesians to be “on guard”, because inevitably some will “arise and distort the truth.” Some will speak as Christians for their personal ends. Christ exemplified a radical inclusion, mercy, and empathy, that shattered taboos and undermined popular authority. We are indeed Church only when we strive to be moved by the Spirit in respectful dynamic relationship with others. As we celebrate Pentecost 2021, let’s consider how we can proceed to create a post covid reality where we might demonstrate, as did Paul that “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” Through the incarnation, we know God as a human being, and through the Holy Spirit we strive to meet God in our world.