In this weekend’s Gospel reading we are witnessing a full scale rescue mission. Jesus is here to save humanity.
Moments after two disciples return with hearts burning from their Road to Emmaus experience, Jesus appears before the Apostles.
At first, they think he’s a ghost, but Jesus shows them his flesh and bones.
Then, in an almost comical way, he asks, “Hey, you got something to eat?”
All hope was gone with the disciples after Jesus’ crucifixion. There were reports from the women disciples about meeting angels at the tomb who said “Jesus is alive!” The men were amazed by this news, but still had doubts.
Then the men on the Road to Emmaus say they encountered Christ in the breaking of the bread. Still more doubts.
Now Jesus appears -- alive and in the flesh! And he’s even asking for something to eat.
Then, taking a piece of baked fish, he sits down and interprets for them the Law of Moses and all the words of the prophets and Psalms to show that He is the fulfillment of Jewish scripture. And then tells them to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His name.
They’re about to write a new story – the very story we hear about today in Acts of the Apostles. And in this story everyone can be saved by Jesus. Today, Jesus tells the Apostles about their role in this divine rescue mission.
Their encounter with the Risen Christ changes everything. No more doubts. No more fears. No more hiding out.
We are now His witnesses, bearing our own wounds from sin, wounds healed by Jesus.
Each of us has been scarred by sin. Our wounds may not be visible, but we all bear wounds healed by Christ – wounds not unlike those of Jesus, the nail marks in His hands and feet shown to the disciples today.
Jesus was dead from the wounds of our human sinfulness, but now he lives again. And his power is strong enough to not only heal our wounds, but save us.
This past week, Pope Francis put out an apostolic exhortation called “Gaudete et Exsultate” or “Rejoice and Be Glad.” (Link to Gaudete Et Exultate)
In many ways, this, too, is a divine rescue mission.
In his third exhortation, the Holy Father puts “exhort” back in exhortation by creating a lovingly urgent call to live lives of holiness. And the ways he suggests may surprise you.
Francis has created a beautiful reflection on becoming a holy, living saint. It all starts with being kind and continues with bearing witness to God in the things we say and do every day -- all of it in love.
“Gaudete et Exsultate” is considered the most important magisterial text of the Roman Catholic Church on the “universal call to holiness” since Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium.
It’s a must-read for every Catholic and all Christians.
If we don’t see ourselves in its reflection then we’re not looking hard enough.
The truth is we all sin, and we all are saved by Christ alone.
And when Jesus saves us, we can help Him to save others by our witness of holy lives -- what Pope Francis calls “the most attractive face of the Church.”
Pope Francis is reminding us that “God saves humanity via the incarnation – in fleshy, concrete human reality – not via precepts and laws and complex ideas.”
The Holy Father packs this important document with easy to understand ways of turning away from sin and embracing our holiness. It’s “a meditation on ordinary, next-door holiness.”
No, we’re not expected to lead perfect lives.
Here’s a brief snippet of “Gaudete et Exsultate" that proves my point:
“Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel; not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect. What we need to contemplate is the totality of their life, their entire journey of growth in holiness, the reflection of Jesus Christ that emerges when we grasp their overall meaning as a person.” (P. 22)
Francis is building on Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”) released in 2005. Here’s what Benedict said then, “being a Christian is not the result of choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” That person is Jesus Christ. That event is the resurrection.
Pope Francis also warns us to avoid certain kinds of Catholic mindsets that are obstacles to salvation. In fact, they are called enemies of holiness.
One is a modern form of a very old heresy: Gnosticism. Gnostics believe what matters most is what you know. No need to be charitable or do good works. All you need is the correct intellectual approach. These are the modern day know-it-alls of faith.
The second is another old heresy: Pelagianism. Pelagians believe they control their own salvation through their own efforts. They don’t believe they need God’s grace and can act superior to others because they observe certain rules.
Our Holy Father is putting up a mirror to us all and asking us to take a good hard look.
Pope Francis also is calling on all Catholics to have an equal passion in our defense of every stage of human life, and in every condition, from conception to natural death. Some have called this a consistent life ethic or “seamless garment.” Single issue Catholics are called to reexamine their approach to faith.
Got you intrigued enough to read it? Good!
The entire exhortation is an easy read. We’ve posted links to it on our parish Facebook page and my homily blog at deacondennis.com, and linked through the parish website. (Link to Gaudete Et Exsultate)
I’ll preach more on it in the coming weeks.
Jesus tells the disciples today to preach repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, in His name to all nations -- repentance, and not condemnation. Repentance always requires humility, mercy and love.
Jesus wants to rescue us all from sin and death. Pope Francis is calling the faithful to lives of everyday holiness, to become real saints in the world today.
This is how we change the world. This is how we bring others closer to Christ. This is how we invite others onto the divine life boat piloted by our Lord and savior Jesus Christ who has power alone to rescue and save us.