Fr. Cuthbert Brennan OSB
We are now five Sundays after Easter, that day when we gathered to proclaim the truth that the crucified Jesus broke the bonds of death and came forth from the tomb. The future was cracked open and we glimpsed a shadow of our future selves. But five Sundays from Easter is a long time. We get back from the tomb and we wonder what if anything has really changed. The Easter sun has gone down and when we awake we discover that it’s the same old world, the same old you, the same old me. We return to our old ways and identities and put back up the boundaries which secure those identities. These boundaries which provide us with such comfort that we don’t even see how confined we are behind them, how limiting they can be for our life and vision.
Contemporary leadership and management theories emphasize with unrelenting zeal how important it is to have a vision, a vision statement, an imagined direction for individual leaders and companies if they are going to be successful. Such a vision is not understood to be some kind of dreaming completely unmoored from reality; rather envisioning a successful path requires that a leader is deeply cognisant of their context.
Beyond its contributions to business ventures, there is a long tradition for employing our imagination, the power to envision, even holy daydreaming as a way to come closer to God. And in the vision from John in our reading from Revelation this morning the church offers us, the baptised, it’s best vision of our identity.
In this vision people do not go up to heaven, heaven comes down to them. The same God who created heaven and earth the first time is pleased to create them both anew. And God comes too – joining humans right where they are “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God, they will be his people and God himself will be with them. With a future like that we can’t dismiss the earth.
In this vision, the destination is not a garden but a city. We are not headed back to a perfect paradise for two but forward to a city for all nations. The vision of a new Jerusalem is bound to be a disappointment to people who thought they were going to have God all to themselves since this city is going to be full of people from every corner of the earth. Anyone who cannot get along with their neighbours now is going to be miserable then, unless they let the vison get to work on them ahead of time, softening their hearts and opening their minds to embrace all whom God embraces.
To choose this destination is not about securing an advance ticket to heaven but it is saying yes to being grounded in the very vision of Jesus Christ. And saying yes to it will not give you a risk free, cost free, pain free life. The challenge of embracing this vision leads us to appreciate the other and particularly the poor. People on the margins can best reveal how our societies are structured to grant privilege to some at the expense of others.
To say yes to Christ may in fact make things harder rather than easier for you, with one important exception – you will never suffer from a shortage of higher purpose in your life. You will never wonder why you are here or where you are headed. Your feet are pointed in a certain direction – toward full communion with God and neighbour.
And in choosing this destination you gain a whole new family, a family of the baptised created by Christ, where water is thicker than blood. And the greater part of the family has already gone before us – the Saints who are dedicated to helping us get to where we are meant to go, so our lives unfurl towards their purpose.
The gospel passage today succinctly summarises the whole
of the Jesus vision
of the very daydreaming of God
of the most sacred hope of the divine imagination;
That we might love one another and so reveal us as true disciples.
In a favorite rabbinic story, a rabbi asked his students how they could tell when the night had ended and the day was begun. “Could it be,” asked one “when you can see an animal in the distance and can tell whether it is a sheep or a dog?” “No,” said the rabbi. “Is it,” asked another, “When you can look at a distant tree and tell whether it is an olive or a fig?” “No,” said the rabbi. “Is it,” asked a third, “when you can gaze into a cup and tell whether the liquid is water or wine?” “No,” said the rabbi.” Then tell us, they demanded, “Tell us when you know that the night has ended and the day is on its way.” “It is,” said the rabbi, “when you can look into the face of any woman or man and see that they are your sister or brother, because if you cannot do this then it is still night no matter what the time.
Living a life of faith requires an imagination
a vision of what could be in God:
the possibility of treating all people with equal dignity
the possibility of acts of service and sacrifice
the possibility of peace rather than war
the possibility of John’s vision of a new heaven and a new earth.
May this Eucharist fortify us with these mystical gifts
that we might see and enact
this revolutionary vision of Christ,
whom we call Lord and God, forever