May 3, 2020 During the Pandemic Isolation St. Peter the Apostle Naples,FL
Acts of the Apostles 2, 36-42 + Psalm 23 + 1 Peter 2, 20-25 + John 10, 1-10
We are teased by the Word of God to wonder what is it that attracted people to these Apostles and to Peter in the first place. We might even take a step further back to wonder or ask what attracted those apostles to Jesus causing them to leave the security of their homes and jobs and follow this man about whom they seem to have known nothing. These apostles we read about today were not teaching dogma or giving catechism lessons. They were, to use the language of this season, contagious with joy and grace. They found themselves in a relationship with a real person whose life drew them into the very life of God. The consequence of that relationship was “metanoia”. That is the word Peter used, and it is a powerful Greek word that means revolutionizing your way of thinking, acting, and being.
There is something absolutely revolutionary about our faith when it is rooted in a relationship with the risen Christ, and I want to make clear that I’m speaking about “The Risen Christ”, the “Corner Stone rejected by the Builders.” A sentimental attraction to the historical Jesus of Nazareth might be nice and sometimes comforting, but that is not where our faith rests. Our sense of and our relationship is not with some nice looking white-man with flowing auburn hair with a lamb resting on his shoulders. That image has to take you to an agonizing moment in an olive garden, a betrayal, a flogging, abandonment, and a crucifixion before he has anything to offer. What that Christ offers is Hope. Our faith must spring from Christ risen in glory. This is a Christ who still bore the wounds of his death. It is the Christ who is there one minute and gone the next. It is the Christ who can be mistaken for a gardener or a companion on a journey. When Christian faith is a relationship with Christ, it is no philosophy of life or some moral code that encourages people to be nice. When Jesus speaks of himself as a gate, he is giving us, his disciples a most important insight into his relationship with the one he calls his “father.” In some ways, I think it is a privileged insight that we Christians receive. It is a gift that leaves me wondering how others who do not know Christ find their way home. I’m sure they do, but I suspect it might be a lot more difficult.
What the living Word of God says to us today is that the only way to the Father is through Jesus Christ, the gate, which means that our salvation comes from and in our relationship to the Son of God which begins at our Baptism and is sustained within Christ whose life is accessible to us at this altar in this assembly. He proclaims in the clearest terms possible that abundant life is gained through Christ alone. That “abundant” life does not mean lots of it, or a long life. It means very life of God is ours to live when we have put on Christ in whom we have been Baptized. What we find and have offered to us is not available any place else.
On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we are invited to allow the resurrection of Jesus Christ to make a real difference in who we are, not just what we think or do. We who grew up surrounded by Catholicism’s saints and angels probably think of the Resurrection as the promise of eternal life: “If I should die before I wake” many of us were taught to say every night. Peter would call that hopeful insurance, but that falls short of Christian life. He would say, “When you catch on, you get caught up. Nothing is the same, and there’s nothing to fear.”