Monday, April 17, 2017

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

“Noli Me Tangere” by Hans the Younger Holbein, 1524


Reading 1: Acts 2:36-41
Commentary on Acts 2:36-41
The selection from Acts continues the First Discourse by Peter concerning the Messiah. In this section he introduces Baptism in the name of Jesus. This is in accord with the instructions of all four Gospels found here for the first time. Peter’s arguments are compelling and we are told that three thousand people accepted the call.
We note here also that Peter called for “repentance” in addition to the call to Baptism. While Baptism washes away past sins, repentance is a call to on-going conversion of heart. The indelible change in character is a consequence of the gift of the Holy Spirit also given in Baptism.
CCC: Acts 2:34-36 447, 449; Acts 2:36-38 1433; Acts 2:36 440, 597, 695,731, 746; Acts 2:38 1226, 1262, 1287,1427; Acts 2:41 363, 1226
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20 and 22
R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
R. Alleluia.
Psalm 33 is a song of praise and thanksgiving.  In this selection the emphasis is on faithfulness to God who has saving power combined with hope, a central component of faith in God. The sense of God’s adoption of his chosen ones is expressed as the singer rejoices in the interdependence of the people and God’s love.
Gospel: John 20:11-18
Commentary on Jn 20:11-18
Today we are given St. John’s account of the first meeting between Mary Magdalene and Jesus following the Lord’s crucifixion. It is likely, given her past relationship with Jesus, that Mary throws herself at the Lord, embracing either his knees or feet.  The Lord’s response, “stop holding,” or in other translations “stop touching me,” (Noli Me Tangere) may indicate that relationships have changed, that Christ must now let go of earthly ties to assume his Godhead.   In this account, we get a distinct picture that the ascension had not been completed, but the Lord is waiting to deliver his final instructions.
There is debate about when the Lord ascended to the Father. Clearly, his last earthly appearance was fifty days following the resurrection. Most scholars believe Jesus ascended immediately following his meeting with Mary depicted here. His return, and his actions from this point to the Ascension (Acts 1:1-11), were to reassure the disciples and to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit he had promised.
CCC: Jn 20:11-18 641; Jn 20:13 640; Jn 20:14-15 645, 659; Jn 20:14 645; Jn 20:16 645; Jn 20:17 443, 645, 654, 660, 2795
It is surprising, while we are still in the Octave of Easter, that the message conveyed by scripture is not simply one of rejoicing.  It has a very practical message.  Mary Magdalene is weeping at the tomb, capturing the sense of loss initially felt before realization dawned on the disciples about Jesus’ resurrection.  Yet in a temporal shift, we would hear St. Peter exhorting the Jews to repentance.  Yes, he is making his point, primarily about faith in Jesus and the need to accept the cleansing bath of Baptism, but beyond that he is exhorting the need for repentance – a change in how they act going forward.
Repentance is more than simply saying we are sorry.  True repentance is a fundamental change in how we act, and even think about the world and those around us.  It is conforming ourselves to Christ’s mind in such a way that we react to people with what we will call the “Christ Reflex.” 
Anyone who has trained for a sport knows that there is something called muscle memory.  That means, when an athlete trains long enough under strict supervision, their muscles automatically perform without conscious thought.  They reflexively act as they were trained.  Repentance means we train ourselves to have the “spiritual memory” of how Christ would react.  Through repetition and coaching we train ourselves to think and act as if Christ were whispering in our ear in real-time.
We are an Easter people.  We believe that our Savior came to the world so that we might take his message of love to heart, and to understand that it is God’s will that we apply his example in our lives.  The only way we can do that is to develop the “Christ Reflex.”  When we see the poor, the infirm, or the marginalized, our reflex should be love, not fear or revulsion.  When we are wronged, mentally or physically, our reaction must be compassion and forgiveness, not hatred or the desire for vengeance.  It is difficult, this Christ Reflex.  And it will not come overnight.  Further we cannot do it in a vacuum.  We need a coach.  Getting a spiritual director is advisable, and having a training partner is also recommended to keep each other honest and on track.  And, of course we need the whole team to cheer us on (that would be our faith community).
Our Easter joy is somewhat tempered by the knowledge of how far we must grow to become the disciples the Lord expects.  Now while the echo of the Gloria bells still reverberates, let us make a pledge to work toward that Christ Reflex and to accept his challenge and example.

[1] The picture use is “Noli Me Tangere” by Hans the Younger Holbein, 1524

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