We are to be a "People of Joy", especially in this Easter Sunday. So a few cute jokes.
1. After the Baptism of his baby brother in church, Jason sobbed all the way home in the back seat of the car. His father asked him what was wrong. Finally, Jason replied: "That preacher said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home, and I want to stay with you guys."
2. The Sunday School Teacher asked: "Now, Johnny, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating." "No sir," Johnny replied, "I don't have to. My mom is a good cook."
3. One four-year old prayed: "And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets."
4. A little boy was overheard praying: "Lord, if you can't make me a better boy, don't worry about it. I'm having a real good time like I am."
The Scriptures today can lead us into three topics, namely CHURCH, Love and Faith. Some persons say that Jesus never intended to found a "church". This is probably not true. Otherwise, why would He have said: "Where two or three of you are gathered together, there am I in your midst." Or again: "Go forth and preach the Gospel to the all people, baptizing then in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Or again, why would Paul and John in the Book of Revelations refer to churches in various cities or even in person's homes.
At the beginning, these "churches" held as core beliefs that Jesus was the Son of God; that He came down to earth to suffer and die on the Cross for us; that He rose from the dead and appeared to the Apostles and many other people, and finally : just as the disciples on the way to Emmaus the same day He rose from the dead : He is regognized in the "Breaking of the Bread" or the Eucharist.
But what happened to many of the "churches?" Various factions developed just as in the history of the Jewish people. Most of these factions were about "my view" of the message of Jesus. And as John tells us, most of these factions were straying from Jesus' One Commandment, given at the Last Supper: "That you love one another just as I have loved you."
This same thing is what is happening today. Perhaps I tend to hold on to a little more of the Roman Catholic Church that many here do. But I cannot say that I have much use for the last two Bishops of Rome who glorified the Curia and created themselves as "listen to me or else" popes. They use the shepherd's staff to beat people into submission and not to serve as "Guides" to the People of God. These last two Bishops of Rome have set themselves up as "CEOs" rather than as being in a Ministry of Service to the People of God. This "Let's center around a human being" is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church, but to much of organized religion today.
So what is happening now. Smaller groups choose to ignore the leaders as well they should. They focus on the Gospel message that Jesus is the Son of God, that he suffered, died and was buried, that on the third day He rose from the dead, that He commanded us to "love one another" and that - as in the story of the two disciples setting out to Emmaus - He was recognized in the "Breaking of the Bread" or the Eucharist.
This is where the "Churches" of Jesus are today. Whether we will ever see larger communities which appoint and remove their "Overseers" or Bishops and which remain possibly united to the Church of Rome remains to be seen. We, the People of God, are a powerful force when the Holy Spirit unites us.
LOVE. Luke's recounting of the Apostles and disciples confused about whether Jesus had actually risen from the dead; Jesus appearing suddenly in their midst and scaring them; His asking them to touch His Hands and His feet; and His eating of a cooked fish in front of them "sort of" convinced them that He had truly risen from the dead.
But then came the hard part - to follow His One Commandment that "You love one another as I have loved you", as they struggled with the first question - whether to preach to the Gentiles. Yet in his First Letter, John makes it clear that "If someone says he loves God but hates his neighbor, he is a liar." Notice here that the word "neighbor" has no limitations. John is telling us "to just do it"
Since we are not yet perfect, we will have differences among ourselves, even in this Community. But we need to keep trying to love. We do this in accord with an ancient saying: "In important things, unity; in smaller things diversity". We are in unity "in important things", such as there is One God in Three Persons: Jesus was the Son of God Who came as a human being to suffer and die for us: Jesus rose from the dead on the third day; and He is recognized in the "Breaking of the Bread" or the celebration of the Eucharist. WE work on increasing our love with each other here; but also with any "neighbor" God puts in our way.
FAITH. Instead of believing that we have Faith once and for all, we struggle with this as the Apostles, disciples and the two men on the way to Emmaus did on that first Resurrection Sunday. Jesus had to suddenly appear before them and "scare them to death". He had to tell them to touch His hands and His feet to see that He was not a Ghost. He had to eat baked fish in front of them. Then they began their own long struggle to increase that Faith and to preach it.
As with the Apostles, Faith is both a struggle and a journey. It is a process never completed. A process from "Who was Jesus?", to "What did He do", to "He has truly risen" and finally to recognizing Him in the "Breaking of the Bread" - the Eucharist we are about to now celebrate. And that's only the beginning of an exciting journey as "pilgrims".