Sunday, May 17, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter

In these Sundays after Easter we have been exploring the deep meanings within the Paschal Mystery. Last Sunday we reflected on how we are called to a fundamental suspicion of our ordinary ways of thinking and judging. That left us a little up in the air; being suspicious is fine, but we need some guidelines to move forward, beyond suspicion. The accounts of the Resurrection appearances, the visual narrations of the Paschal Mystery, do provide for us three tentative steps forward: becoming community, proclaiming the good news, and recognizing the Spirit. We will take the first of these today; the second on Ascension, and the third on the feast of Pentecost. All three of these steps or ways appear over and over in the appearance accounts.

How does "becoming community" lead us forward out of suspicion? Simply this way. The disciples of Jesus would not have come to their expression of faith in Jesus’ Resurrection had they not shared their own personal experiences of halting faith with each other. This is shown in the sharing activities that are recounted over and over in the appearance stories. Mary Magdalene rushes to share her experience of Jesus with the disciples; the disciples on the way to Emmaus rush back to Jerusalem to tell the others what happened to them; even Thomas’ unbelief is a sharing of doubts of faith. The appearance accounts are shot through with stories of sharing. It is through this sharing that they come to believe that "Jesus lives." They came to know that the Lord stood in their midst. But that’s not a position they can think to, but only one that can be given in the dynamic of faith.

What this means for us is this: it’s only when we can take the chance to share our lives honestly, to share our strengths and weaknesses, our hopes and discouragements, that we have the possibility of becoming a genuine community. And when we become a genuine community, we will discover the living Lord in our presence. Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, when they offered hospitality to the stranger and shared what they had and were, even their discouragement, their eyes were opened and they realized the Lord in their midst.

This "sharing our lives honestly" does not come easy. This past Friday we celebrated the feast of St. Pachomius, the founder of cenobitic (community) monasticism. One of his key insights was that the best type of asceticism is not fasting or prayer or bodily punishment, but rather "living together in community." And St. Benedict pretty much agreed with that in his Rule. There is nothing that "rubs off the sharp edges" like "the school of the Lord’s service." If you want to read just one thing about the difficulties of living in community, read Sheila Cassidy’s chapter on "Living in Unity" in her book, Sharing the Darkness. It’s just the rub of living with different personalities who have different ways of doing things that cause frustrations to build. What is classically called "personality conflicts." And when that happens, we don’t honestly share our lives. That can find that in religious communities, in marriages, in families, in parishes, wherever people live together. It’s one of our greatest human obstacles to overcome.

When and where people come together in true and sharing community is where the power of the Paschal Mystery reaches into our world. If genuine community happens, there is a way forward out of suspicion. The whole purpose of the Church is to become that kind of sharing community. The whole purpose of a religious house is to become that kind of sharing community. Let’s take a moment to pray that each of us do our part to make this happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Nicolette,
Thank you for posting Father Matthias and Sister Susan's writings.