Sermons

April 4: Risk-takers & Miracle Makers (Easter B)

“Then, they went out and ran away from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16: 8.

With outstretched arms (above), this bronze sculpture of Jesus is entitled “Resurrection.” The artist Dale Zarella intends that this work — remind us of the crucifixion. Rising to new life, the resurrection is an extension of the cross.

In a recent blog on “Journey with Jesus,” writer Debie Thomas focuses on the distinctive characteristics of Mark’s resurrection, the oldest of the Gospels. She reminds us that Mark’s Easter morning reflects the genuine fears and uncertainty facing the disciples and the first followers of Jesus.

All four of the Gospels tell the story of Jesus from the perspective of his resurrection. We are an Easter people, after all.

In contrast, John’s gospel features the spiritual meaning of Jesus’s resurrection encounters with Mary at the tomb, Peter and Thomas. Each of these had misgivings and apprehensions about Jesus.

Each of them knew the Lord on personal terms, and each became “risk-takers and miracle makers” for the sake of his gospel.

When we read the Gospels, we discover the gradual, slow unfolding of awareness about the person of Christ.

If the human experience tells us anything – discoveries, miracles or prophecies, and revelations take time.

Coming as they do in unexpected and mysterious ways, and almost from a distant planet?

In his letter to the Colossians, our second reading on Easter Sunday, Saint Paul tells us: “Set your minds on what is above, not what is on earth.”

His is not an example of escapism; instead, Paul voices an invitation to each of us that we may take on an entire way of thinking that colors everything that we do, as we put on Christ. (Mary M. McGlone, NCR, March 19-April 1, 2021)

For the past two years, I’ve been fascinated by the images from above, namely Messier 97, the black hole, so vast an abyss, 6.5 billion times as massive as the sun and 55 million light-years away.

Several days ago, new photography of the galaxy’s giant black hole showing for the first time how it looks in polarized light, the “most intimate portrait yet of the forces that give rise to quasars, the luminous fountains of energy that reach across interstellar and intergalactic space.” (New York Times, March 24, 2021)

Astronomers have given us an image, the photograph of a ring of light that looks like a dark circle framing a one-way portal into eternity. Harvard astronomer Shep Doeleman commented: “We have seen the unseeable.”

This is the story of the 200 scientists, including 40 women, who worked on this project. Katie Bouman, the young scientist, developed an algorithm that coordinated efforts at eight radio observatories on six mountain ranges on four continents in their observations of the galaxy in Virgo for ten days in April of 2017 and a dim source of Sagittarius A-star.

“To see the unseeable” is a remarkable scientific achievement!

For me, like Saint Paul, gazing at the heavens and saying: “At present, we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror, but one day we shall see face to face. My knowledge now is partial; then it will be whole, like God’s knowledge of me. Three things last forever: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.”

By setting our minds on what is above, Paul strikes a chord that we cannot do this alone; instead, it’s a network of witnesses in faith and action. Our spiritual knowledge needs teamwork, a form of communal seeing and witnessing to the truth.

For the past year, I’ve been working on a television documentary on Saint Monica’s Catholic Community in Santa Monica.

While it’s the story of a most remarkable pastor and great preacher, Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, the documentary film, is mostly about four parishioners whose gospel witness generously serves the LA community building the social and spiritual fabric and reaching out in service to a maternity hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Through their lives, we encounter well-formed Christians, who are “risk-takers and miracle makers.” We explore their lives of faith and how Christ has forwarded their actions for the sake of the gospel.

On this Easter Sunday, their faith-witness inspires me: “to see the unseeable.”

If the human experience tells us anything – discoveries, miracles or prophecies, and revelations take time.

Coming as they do in unexpected and mysterious ways, and almost from a distant planet!

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

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