It is interesting, therefore, to realize that in celebrating the season of Easter what we are rejoicing over is the transition of Jesus from life through death and resurrection to new life as Risen Lord. Easter is a time of transition for everyone as we went from Lenten renewal to new life in the joy of Easter. It was also a time of transition for many people into full communion with the church through baptism and confirmation. Throughout the season we are reminded in the Scriptures of the transition of the apostles from a rag-tag group into the leadership of the Christian church. We hear the details of how the men and women who followed Jesus were transformed through His death and resurrection into their true selves, empowered by baptism with water and the Spirit. Most notable are the stories of Peter, who became the leader in Jesus’ place, and Paul, who went from being literally dead-set against the new church to becoming one of its greatest champions. Each one of them was changed through their encounter with Jesus (and by the Holy Spirit) into the person they were always meant to be, loved by God and lovers of God. And each one became a light to those around them, sharing the faith and helping the Church to grow.
It was no different for the apostles. When Jesus died their world was shattered. They bore the guilt and shame of their behavior during that time as well as their disappointment that He was gone. But when stories of Jesus’ resurrection came to their attention, when Peter and John saw the empty tomb, hope began to take hold. When Jesus walked into the locked Upper Room and said “Peace be with you,” it was not their understanding that kicked in, but rather it was belief. They still were mystified about what had happened, but everything began to come into perspective. Life would never be the same, but there was joy, hope, peace, faith, and new life in every way imaginable. However, this did not mean 'they had arrived' and that all challenges were over. On the contrary, it meant that there would be new responsibilities and new challenges, some of which would lead to suffering and death. But now they had a new focus which led to the unfolding of a new understanding. And this focus empowered them to go forth into the unknown because they knew that Jesus was with them no matter what took place. They had nothing to fear in His presence. They knew the fullness of His mercy and compassion concerning their failures; they knew forgiveness and therefore they could offer it to those who challenged them, along with the mercy and compassion which they had received. They were different because they, too, had passed through suffering, and they embraced the love of Jesus offered to them throughout the entire process.
This week we also celebrate St. Joseph the Worker. This feast not only honors St. Joseph, but it teaches us to do the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to those ‘other sheep’ through our actions and our relationships. Being a friend takes a lot of work. Our friends (and we) are no different than the friends of Jesus: we will share good times and we will try to help each other when in need. Overall we will mean well, but we will ‘mess up’ from time to time; therefore it will require forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. In our work we may be challenged by difficult managers, the jealousy of co-workers, and the toil of the job. But in all we are disciples of Jesus: we bring Him into every encounter, which may include those ‘not belonging to the fold’ quite yet. If we want them to belong to the fold, we need to gently love them into it through our behaviors.
©Michele L. Catanese
The photos are all my own: the first was taken in Long Island, New York in late Spring. The butterfly was taken at my home. Butterflies can be seen as symbols of change since they have a very colorful and distinctive life cycle complete with dramatic change from caterpillar to chrysalis and cocoon, to butterfly. The photo at the end is of a wildflower coming up from a rocky surface in Big Bend National Park, TX. Life comes forth from the (seemingly) lifeless.
The icons are the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first is El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd) which can be found at http://www.fatherbill.org/all-categories/product/37-el-buen-pastor
The second is St. Joseph Shadow of the Father which can be found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/st-joseph-shadow-of-the-father-william-hart-mcnichols.html