5 Easter A’14 [Acts 6: 1-7 • 1 Peter 2: 4-9 • John 14: 1-14]
Weekly Scripture Readings: Fifth Sunday of Easter
“Christ is Risen!” (Truly he is Risen!) For most of my life I have been uncomfortable with the theology of the Fourth Gospel. The language, characters and signs of this gospel are unique to John. Recently I read a new book titled “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of A Jewish Mystic.” In it I found some very helpful insights into John’s theology.
That word “mystic” is the key I needed. Most religious traditions recognize the possibility of experiencing “God” as real. Such experience commonly is known as “mysticism.”
The author of the Fourth Gospel writes as a theologian, not as an historian. He writes to
introduce Jesus as a Jewish mystic, a “spirit person” in whom a new consciousness of God has emerged. The Risen One knew the Gracious Mystery we name God as an experiential reality. He experienced “self as part of who God is and God as part of who he is.” That is why the characters, signs and sayings in the Fourth Gospel are unique.
We don’t know what the apostles believed prior to the crucifixion. After the crucifixion they were convinced Jesus lives. Like us, they didn’t know what God had done, or how. There was nothing normal or natural about someone being alive beyond death. The presence of the Risen One disoriented and terrified them. It overturned and expanded their sense of reality.
“Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!) The questions asked by Peter and Thomas tell us those in the early Christians communities were just like us. They were trying to grasp what is beyond their understanding. In these narratives, John is trying to strengthen the Easter faith of those in his community.
Peter asks, “Lord, where are you going?” To him the Risen One says, “do not let your hearts be troubled.” That admonition is followed by talk about “going” and “coming.” Thomas asks, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way.” To him the Risen One says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Then there are more complex statements. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” “Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.”
With such complex and confusing statements, John is trying to get his community to understand why Jesus trusted so totally in God even as he endured such a violent death, trusting in God. He lived out of the conviction there is something worth staking your life on. God vindicated that trust and raised him to life. John is inviting his community and us to allow that same consciousness to be awakened in us.
“Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!) John’s Jesus was not an invader from another realm, but one of us. He was so attuned to the permeating presence of God that in him a new dimension of consciousness was awakened. The Risen Christ defined what it is to be human!
The Easter event is affirmation that we become most fully human when we experience “self as part of who God is and God as a part of who I am.” That is what it is to be a “mystic.” Karl Rahner was a Jesuit theologian. In speaking about our future as Catholic Christians, he said, “you will either be a mystic or you will be nothing at all.” In so brief a time it has become apparent the Bishop of Rome is a mystic, a “spirit person.” He radiates love and joy!
That same consciousness of “self as part of who God is and God as a part of who I am” has
been, or can be awakened in us. “God is love!” Whenever we experience genuine love, we
experience God! When we experience God we become more fully human, and more fully alive.
In the most real sense we are celebrating the mystery deep within us as we affirm “Christ is risen!” (Truly he is risen!)