Deacon Jerry Franzen April 19, 2015 Cathedral
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 1 John 2:1-5a Luke 24:35-48
Praised be Jesus Christ!
R: “Now and Forever
*Today’s readings are intriguing:
each contains a sentence or two on knowing.
From the Acts of the Apostles, Peter said,
“Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance,
just as your leaders did.”
The implication is that if the leaders of the Jewish people
and the ordinary people in the crowds
had known that Jesus was the Messiah,
they would not have put him to death.
In the first Letter of St. John, he wrote,”
The way that we may be sure that we know him (Jesus )
is to keep his commandments.”
The way to know Jesus is to follow him.
And in the Gospel reading according to Luke,
there are two sentences:
“The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of the bread.”
“Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”
We must know who Jesus is,
and we learn that from our presence here
at the Eucharist where we receive Him,
and from our proper understanding of Sacred Scripture.
But John’s letter says that we can be sure that we know him
by keeping his commandments.
We can know the theology of the Eucharist, the Mass,
and all of the other sacraments.
We can know what is written about Jesus in Scripture.
But we truly know Jesus when we act like Him.
Once upon a time there was a world of people
who had lost their God and had no way of finding HIM.
So God went looking for them by sending his Son
in flesh and blood to find them.
The Son lived with them, infant to mature adult
and died with them by being treated as a common criminal.
Through His dying and rising, the people came to life again,
and God was theirs once more.
By and large the people were grateful to God,
and they felt fairly safe from the fires of hell.
But they didn’t think about God much,
mostly just on Sundays, or as a last resort,
when they had problems
that could not be solved by their priests.
They had too much else to do
and too many things and other people
they had to get to know:
corporate bosses, college professors,
next door neighbors, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
God’s Son was not a friend on Facebook.
When we realize who Jesus really is,
it should strike us as how frightful a loss it is not to know Him,
I do not mean knowing his biography
like that of Shakespeare, or FDR or Pope Francis;
I mean knowing him like a brother, like a parent, like oneself.
What does it mean to know Jesus?
In our Western ways, knowing means to grasp reality
with the intellect and to affirm it with a judgment –
to take in information and store it in the intellect,
so that it is ready to be used.
“God is good!” I can depend on God! He won’t fail me.
“Light travels at 186,282 miles per second.” Pretty fast!
I can confidently use that number.
"Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health!”
I will risk an earlier death by smoking cigarettes.
Much of our knowledge is based on
proof, reasoning and scientific data.
Not so for the Hebrew of the time of Jesus.
In his first Letter, St. John wrote,
”The way that we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.”
The Israelite knew with the heart.
The Prophet Jeremiah (Jer 24:7), speaking for God,
said, “I will give them a heart to know me,
that I am the Lord.”
For the Hebrew, to know God was to experience God,
to recognize Him in his words AND his deeds –
from the parting of the Red Sea
to simply “Samuel, Samuel,”
from the covenant on Sinai
to the “still quiet voice” to Elijah (1 Kgs 19:12).
To really know God is to experience God and to respond:
“Your servant is listening,”
AND, it’s not just listening but also responding
in justice and charity.
It’s following God in faith,
opening our hearts to further submissiveness,
yearning for what is beyond.
To know God, then, is not a question
of clearer and clearer vision;
it means sinking deeper into God’s unknown.
So how do we go about really knowing God,
this sinking deeper into God’s unknown?
Jesus, in today’s Gospel reading, gives us two paths:
“He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”
and “was made known to them
in the breaking of the bread.”
We get to really know God better at the table of His Word
and at the table of His Body and Blood.
The “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,”
a document of the Second Vatican Council,
has a startling sentence, it reads:
Christ “is present in His word, since it is He Himself
who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in church.”
We are so accustomed to the real presence of Jesus
under the forms of bread and wine at Mass,
that we hesitate to speak of the real presence
in the proclaimed Word.
When the lector proclaims God’s Word or
Father or I proclaim the Gospel, Christ is speaking.
The words are of John or Isaiah or Luke but they are inspired.
They transmit God’s message.
We heard today a selection
from the third Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles,
not to learn that some ignorant people
had crucified Jesus, but maybe, just maybe,
to be challenged to consider our own ignorance.
We listened to a part of John’s letter maybe, just maybe,
as a challenge to our love for God
and our readiness to obey him.
I say, “maybe” because I should not be telling you
what you heard.
I don’t know what God is saying to you;
I only know that he is speaking to you.
To hear the Lord, you cannot be passive
and listen like one might listen
to the Reds baseball game on the radio.
You must listen with your heart
as people listened to Dr. Martin Luther King,
as young people once listened to the peace songs of Joan Baez,
as people now listen to the homilies of Pope Francis,
listening with heart speaking to heart.
We are also united with God at the Lord’s table.
We touch the host to our hands and tongue;
The precious blood of Jesus touches our lips and inner mouth.
Fr. Walter Burghardt,
whom I have quoted on previous occasions.
has said that when his fingers enfold the flesh of Christ
and when Christ’s blood moistens his lips,
he touches in a unique way the risen humanity of Christ,
and through this contact
with Christ’s life-giving Body and Blood,
he shares in Christ’s awesome divinity.
Would that we all would have that same feeling?
I will close with a short story:
Last weekend, my wife and I went to a memorial celebration commemorating the life and recent death
of the wife of a dear friend.
She had strongly stipulated that after her death
there were to be no religious services of any kind for her.
Her reason was that she did not believe in God.
I presume that was because she did not know God,
because it would seem to me that if you knew of God,
you knew of His love for us and his infinite mercy,
certainly you would be one
who would believe in Him.
She was a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother,
good teacher and a dear friend.
I would have to say that she expressed many of the qualities
of a good Christian;
in fact, she was the product of Catholic education
from grade school through College.
Certainly this woman had learned about God
throughout all of her education,
and yet, she did not know God.
My guess is that she probably stopped coming to Mass,
ceased hearing the message in God’s Word and
lost all contact with the Lord’s Body and Blood.
That experience coupled with today’s readings
brought home to me what it really means to know God
and to be nourished by the Word
and at the Table of the Lord.
*Based on a homily by Walter J. Burghardt, S.J.
in “Still Proclaiming Your Wonders” Paulist Press
New York 1984 pp 84-89