2 Easter C ’13 • Acts 5:12-16 • Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19 • John 20:19-31 •
Scripture Readings: Second Sunday of Easter
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 04.07.2013
Audacity is a word seldom heard in ordinary conversation. Perhaps that is because the word is most commonly understood as meaning “rude or disrespectful behavior.” However the word also means “the willingness to take bold risks.” I bring the word before us today with that meaning.
Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) Jesus of Nazareth lived in 1st century Palestine. He was passionate in teaching about “the reign of God”. His passion and audacity led him to Jerusalem where the Romans executed him as a criminal. The Gracious Mystery we name God raised Jesus from the tomb, not as a reward for a meritorious life, but affirmation of his life and message.
The experience on Calvary terrified his companions. They feared they would meet the same fate, so they abandoned him. They lost all hope and were literally and figuratively in darkness behind locked doors. They were focused on their grief and held captive by their fear.
Then “Jesus came and stood in their midst”. He spoke to them, breathed on them and assured them they would be okay. Courage replaced fear. “Audacity is the willingness to take bold risks.” They opened the doors, and walked into the streets with the inexplicable message that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) The church was born.
The companions of Jesus were and remained devout Jews. They gathered openly in public places. Their audacity had a significant impact on society. The “church” emerged and spread rapidly, until hampered by intense persecutions instigated by Rome’s Emperors.
Within two centuries, through compromise and political accommodation, persecuted Christianity was transformed, endowed with power and privilege. As the favored religion of the empire, we were protected and showered with buildings, status, titles and wealth. There was a cost. Gradually the church, once dominated and persecuted, became the power, the dominator.
Ever since, our history as church has wandered a curving and inconsistent path. In every age Christians have proclaimed that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) by standing with the poor and powerless and calling for justice and peace — “God’s new reality”. Simultaneously in every age, the church as institution viewed itself as a secluded island or a fortress, forced to defend its power and privilege rather than proclaiming the gospel.
We have seen all of this replicated in our own time. The Second Vatican Council tried to put aside the fortress mentality. The “aggiornamento” or spiritual renewal called for by that Council has not been achieved. Instead, over the past half-century that fortress mentality has returned. There has been an unprecedented concentration of authority in the papacy and the Roman curia. The institution has become more centralized than ever.
Our images and expectations of the papacy need to change. “The church is not the pope! The pope is not the church”! “The church does not live by popes alone”! Don’t make a big deal about the Pope.
When Benedict XVI retired he reminded us that the pope is a fragile and mortal human like all of us. Why visit Rome or travel anywhere with the hope of seeing the Bishop of Rome as if he were more important than the Bishop of Helena? The liturgy celebrated by the Pope may be more glamorous than the liturgy celebrated by a simple parish in some rural area, but Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!) and as fully present in that little rural community as in St. Peter’s.
Francis is the newly elected Bishop of Rome. Our future as church does not depend on him. It is up to us – laity, religious and ordained to assume our responsibilities and make a difference in the world. Be audacious! Our primary responsibility is to proclaim “God’s new reality”, using words if we must. We do so when we are seen and heard as the Living Body of Christ! It is only through our words and actions that others are able to know that Christ is Risen! (Truly, he is risen!)