After the Resurrection: What kind of community will you build?
For those of us who have lost a very good friend, or a much loved husband, wife, child or parent, today’s readings should evoke the feelings of loss that we have experienced.
Jesus has “gone”.
The Apostles were left feeling empty; uncertain what to do; sad and perhaps a little afraid. It’s good we also become sentimental so that we draw the right message from readings.
When our loved one has died, we have to pick ourselves up and move on.
Somehow we adjust – after a period of time – and get new strength as “life goes on”.
Jesus, aware of the feelings of his Apostles, knows they need to “work” to feel fulfilled. Jesus consoles them by promising to send the Holy Spirit, because he doesn’t want “life to go on” as usual. As the Angel informed them: “Why look among the dead for one who lives?”
Their “work” is to build a new TYPE of community, by building on the challenge of the Resurrection. What do I mean?
Let me share from a 2016 article by Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI: “Loyalty and Patriotism Revisited”
He quotes Grant Kaplan in America magazine: “Unlike previous communities in which the bond among members forges itself through those it excludes and scapegoats, the gratuity of the Resurrection allows for a community shaped by forgiven-forgivers.”
If “life goes on” as usual, then as Fr Ron summarises it “we form community through demonizing and exclusion, that is, we bond with each other more on the basis of what we are against and what we hate than on the basis of what we are for and hold precious.”
Now that we’ve celebrated the Resurrection for about 40 days, we need to stop and ask: Why are we celebrating? What is the Resurrection? You might think I’m a slow learner and tell me that the Resurrection means we have a good chance to go to Heaven!
It’s OK, I agree. The deeper question is, however: When does Heaven start? The reality is, that our true happiness (=Heaven), comes now, from how we build our communities. Fr Ron articulates the new basis for community building:
“The cross and the resurrection, and the message of Jesus in general, invite us to a deeper maturity within which we are invited to form community with each other on the basis of love and inclusion rather than upon hatred and demonization.”
An example is when we go out for dinner as a family where some members have issues with other members. We then talk about other people instead of ourselves. By demonising other people, we don’t have to deal with our own divisions in the family. But that family community remains weak and not a true experience of Heaven.
As the words of Grant Kaplan, above, say: “the Resurrection allows for a community shaped by forgiven-forgivers”. To ascend into Heaven, Jesus had to let go of any natural human feelings of resentment and anger against the people who tortured and humiliated him.
There is no room in Heaven for bitterness and revenge. While it’s true we need the grace of God to be truly forgivers; we first we need to acknowledge that we have needed forgiveness in the past. That takes humility and honesty.
There’s a great story of a Dad and his son with a physical disability walking past a game in the local park. When they stopped to watch, one of the players invited the son to join in. He wasn’t able to play properly, but the teams were patient and gave him time and space. At the end of the game they hoisted the boy on their shoulders and made him feel great. At the end of the day: the Dad was in tears, the son overjoyed and the team players felt proud of their actions.
I pray that each us is able to baptise others with the Holy Spirit through our actions of care and encouraging words, which transforms our world by making Jesus present again.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI