The priest was working in his office one day when the church secretary came scurrying through the door, out of breath.
“Father, Father, I have news!” she said, trying to regain her composure.
“Well, what’s the news?” asked the perplexed priest.
“Jesus is coming. He is back and he’s coming here right now. What should we do?”
The priest suddenly became flustered and wringing his hands, turned back to his computer and answered, “Look busy.”
St. Peter said to Cornelius and the other gentiles, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Jesus died and rose again on the third day. That is the Easter proclamation: the resurrection, but why? Why did Jesus die and rise again? Answer: so that we would look busy. We must be busy little Christians or we’re not really Christians at all. Right?
I was reading a devotional by Bishop Robert Barron (he’s Roman Catholic, so don’t tell our friends across the street that I quoted him) and Bishop Barron was reflecting on the calling of St. Matthew. He pointed out something that I hadn’t noticed before: what is the first thing that Jesus and Matthew did after Matthew was called? Multiple choice quiz: A) heal a leper, B) feed the 5,000, or C) have a party? Jesus “saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.” The answer is C). The first thing Jesus and Matthew did after the calling of Matthew: they had a party.
Skip ahead: the house of Mary and Martha. There is busy Martha scurrying about the house making all the preparations, while her sister Mary is sitting at Jesus feet enjoying his company. Busy Martha gets irritated with Lazy Mary and complains to Jesus: “Make her help me,” cries Busy Martha. Jesus says, Busy “‘Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”
Returning to today’s reading again: what did Jesus and the disciples do following the resurrection? Peter said, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”
Do you see a pattern? Party. Sitting at Jesus feet. Having a meal with friends.
In his reflection, Bishop Barron quoted from a book by a Trappist Monk, Fr. Simeon (I know, two Romans Catholics in one sermon, oy!). Fr. Simeon wrote, “The deepest meaning of Christian discipleship is not to work for Jesus but to be with Jesus.” I thought that was so simple, but brilliant, that I had to find the book and read more. Fr. Simeon, speaking to those whom Jesus calls, says, “Jesus is inviting those he chooses to forsake worldly concerns and busyness, a circular routine of habits and prejudices leading nowhere, in order to recline with him and his friends in the joy of breaking bread with the eternal Word…. All by itself, working for Jesus would be a call to a higher servility.” (Source: Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word, Vol. 1 by Fr. Simeon, formerly Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis). We are chosen by Jesus, not to be busy Christians, but so that we might recline with him and break bread with him and his friends. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that there is no work for us to do—there is more than enough and there always will be, but… Jesus did not die on a cross and rise on the third day so that we would be busy. He died and rose so that we might be with him and have fellowship with him and one another and break bread together.
Have you been doing it wrong?
For me, the answer is: most likely. Why? Well, as nice as it sounds to simply be with Jesus, it is a whole lot easier to work for him, to be busy for him. You see, fellowship with Jesus and his friends isn’t like, “Party at JC’s Place!” with the BeeGees playing Saturday Night Fever in the background—You should be dancing…. (you can tell I don’t get out much). Fellowship with Jesus isn’t like that. Do you remember your first love: how you ached for them and when you saw them, you wanted every part of them. You couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from them. You would lay awake at night thinking of them, anxiously waiting to be with them again… my goodness, I can still smell her perfume! Anyhow, that is fellowship with Jesus, the thing is, that’s not how we always feel about him, but it is how he always feels about us; and to be loved so intently will either consume you, scare you away, or cause you to put up barriers—like being busy; and we put up those barriers so that we can hold onto something of ourselves, afraid that all will be lost if we don’t, never realizing that we have everything to gain.
Today, if you have been scared away, I invite you to come back, for our God is faithful and just, and if you confess your sins he will forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness; but if you have put up a barrier of busyness or some other barrier, then I invite you to allow God to tear it down and then I invite you to be consumed by his love for you.
Jesus did not conquer death so that you could be busy for him. He conquered death so that you might be consumed by him and become one with him as he and the Father are one.
Let us pray:
Draw us forth, God of all creation.
Draw us forward and away from limited certainty
into the immense world of your love.
Give us the capacity to even for a moment
taste the richness of the feast you give us.
Give us the peace to live with uncertainty,
Help us to experience the resurrection anew
with open wonder and an increasing ability
to see you in the people of Easter.