St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Fifth Sunday after Easter, 2014

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 Two Sunday’s ago the Gospel lection changed the direction of our focus. We moved from reports of the appearances of the resurrected Jesus to Our Lord speaking about the fact that he would be going to the Father. Remember ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me; and again a little while, and you will see me’ of a fortnight ago.
 
Last week Jesus also pointed us towards the Ascension, as he does today. Today, however, he makes the further point that once he has ascended the way will be opened for us to communicate directly with God the Father.
 
The focus in all of this is Jesus himself. At Easter we focussed on his death and resurrection. After Easter day we focussed for a time on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. We then began to look forward to the Ascension.
 
Today, in the Epistle of James we are told to “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” 
 
If we are to be doers of the word, we need to know the one who gives us the word. We need to know Jesus, the Word made flesh. That implies that we have to study Jesus, but that is not enough. In his homily at Mass on Friday the 16th, Pope Francis was teaching about just this. Francis said that studying Jesus is not enough to get to know him, we must also pray to him, celebrate him and imitate him. He likened these three activities to three doors; three doors which we need to open in our lives in order to know Jesus. For a few moments let us consider what these three doors, and our going through them might mean for each of us.
 
The first door is praying to Jesus. We must realize that studying without prayer is no use. It is crucial that we pray to Jesus to get to know him better. If we were to look at the lives of the great theologians we would find that they did their theology while kneeling. Pray to Jesus! By studying and praying we get a bit closer… but we’ll never know Jesus without praying. Never!
 
The second door we should open is celebrating Jesus. Prayer on its own is not enough. We need to add to that the joy of celebration. The pope suggested that “we must celebrate Jesus through his Sacraments, because these give us life, they give us strength, they nourish us, they comfort us, they forge an alliance with us, they give us a mission. Without celebrating the Sacraments, we’ll never get to know Jesus. This is what the Church is all about: celebration.” It is as we celebrate Jesus that we are drawn into the mystery of the Godhead. Our celebration is expressed in worship so we need to find that place where we come close to God in worship. For different people that will mean different forms of expressing worship, but the important thing is that we find a place where we are drawn closer to God in the worship offered by God's people. As we grow as people who celebrate Jesus, people will see that we spend time with him in worship and want to experience the same thing.
 
Finally the third door is imitating Jesus. We should be reading the Gospels so that we know what Jesus did. If we are to imitate him, we should ask the questions: what did he do; how did he live his life; what did he tell us; what did he teach us? As we discern his example, we should try to imitate him. We should be like Jesus to those around us. We become a ‘demonstration model’ of Jesus as we grow in our imitation of him.
 
Pope Francis suggested that if we enter via these three doors, we would be entering into the mystery of Jesus. The pope concluded that we mustn’t be afraid to do this.
 
As we pray to Jesus, celebrate him and imitate him we will grow in our knowledge of him. We will find that we shift from merely knowing about him, to having an intimate relationship with him. This intimate relationship will enable us to move from being hearers of the word, to being doers of it. Our lives will become mirrors of Jesus to the world around us. Our prayer, our celebration and our imitation will lift Jesus up in the places where we live. Jesus himself said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” We will find that we will be participants in the evangelisation of the world.
 
All this does not mean we will become perfect. We will continue to sin; we will continue to wound the heart of Jesus. We will, however, know that in him we have the promise of forgiveness and wholeness. We will be rooted and grounded in him and will grow in grace and holiness.
 
May God bless you in your prayer, celebration and imitation.
 
 

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