22 Apr 2012
“‘Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.’” (Luke 24:39) In the name …
This past week Sharon, Kristin, Amanda and I went to Boston for a couple of days. The girls are 16 and 19; Sharon and I are not. The Celtics were in town, but they were playing for their division title so no tickets to be had. The Red Sox were playing, but it is Fenway’s 100th anniversary so no tickets to be had. But the Boston Symphony was holding an open rehearsal. When I mentioned going over to hear Beethoven and Mendelssohn, all of a sudden the girls had the great idea that it was getting time to split-up. They would go their way and we could go ours. Who can figure kids out?
I had never been to an orchestra’s rehearsal before this past Wednesday. What I’m used to seeing at a Classical concert is the men attired in suits or even tuxedos and the women in gowns, and the concert flowing flawlessly from start to finish. Open rehearsals at Symphony Hall are a bit different. To start, tickets are general admission. You can sit wherever there’s an available seat. Sharon and I were up pretty close. We were in the expensive seats if it were a formal concert. We could hear everything clearly, and we could see everyone plainly. The most common attire for the musicians on stage was blue jeans. I don’t remember even seeing one tie.
The music started. It was Beethoven’s First Symphony. I thought it was beautiful, but the conductor, Bernard Haitink, stopped the Boston Symphony in their tracks, told some of the musicians to actually get-up and move their seats around, and gave specific directions to a few of the violinists about their playing. I saw one of them writing something on his score and then the violinist behind him standing up to look over his shoulder to see what reminder he had jotted down. Like I said, I’m used to seeing these highly talented musicians dressed to the hilt and playing so beautifully that it looks effortless, like any of us from the audience could go up there and do the same thing. I’m used to being a part of an audience that applauds their efforts and even stands at the end of their concerts because everything sounded spot-on perfect. To see them dressed, however, in blue jeans, and not necessarily make mistakes in their playing, but to get instruction on how to play better, was an eye-opener. It made the men and women on the stage more real. They weren’t only professional musicians at the top of their field; they were men with dirty sneakers and women in florescent orange slacks. Seeing them in open rehearsal helped me to see them as more than music machines. It gave me a more well-rounded impression of them.
Now let’s turn to the two resurrection stories from today’s Mass. The Lesson is taken from Peter’s speech in the Temple courtyard in Jerusalem. He is addressing devout people of the Jewish faith and he’s trying to convince them that Jesus is the Messiah. They all know about the crucified Jesus. They all know about His human nature. Of this they have no doubt. What they could not see was Jesus’ divinity. This is the point that Peter stresses: We put the man, the human, to death, but God raised Jesus up. This is the earliest Easter language. As the church matures, she speaks of Jesus resurrecting, of Jesus bringing it about, but the earliest testimony to Easter was that God raised Jesus from the dead, that Jesus was passive. This language marks Peter’s speech as quite authentic. The earliest Christians are trying to convince their neighbours of Jesus’ divinity.
But Luke has other priorities in mind. In today’s Gospel, we catch the tail end of the Road to Emmaus story whose point is that Jesus becomes real for us through the mystery of the Mass and the reception of Holy Communion. Luke, unlike Peter, is not addressing people who knew the historical Jesus of Nazareth. Luke is writing for Christians who believe in the reality of Jesus in the Eucharist, but who are having trouble believing in the Jesus who ate and drank with His followers, and who suffered real and terrible wounds on the cross. They believed in the divinity, but they were having trouble accepting the humanity of Jesus. And for them Luke shares the resurrection story of: “‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see.’” The resurrected Jesus is not a ghost of His old self. He remains Jesus. The resurrected Jesus carries the fullness of His human nature into the divinity. Jesus in heaven still can look upon the nailprints in His hands and the scar on His side. Jesus did not leave His human nature behind in a forsaken body. The tomb was empty. The body was resurrected. Jesus in heaven and Jesus on earth are one in the same.
When I saw the open rehearsal at Boston Symphony Hall, it was the same consummate professionals of their formal concerts, but in a more ordinary setting. They’re the same musicians who play flawlessly in tuxedos and gowns, but the blue jeans and scuffed sneakers added to the picture of the whole person. Likewise, we reverence Jesus in the formal attire of the Holy Eucharist, but the historical Jesus is what makes Him and God understandable to us. Because of both aspects of Jesus, we come into communion with a Saviour who knows the fullness of God’s glory and also the realities of human life. We recognize Jesus in the mystery of Mass, but we also need to recognize that His human nature and experience have sanctified the ordinary, have sanctified this life and this world.
Today is Earth Day, a day designed to help us appreciate the gift of creation and to urge us to care for that creation. Just as Peter directed his message to his particular audience, and Luke the same for his, so we Christians today need to hear the particular message that Christ is not locked in the church, that Jesus is also out in the world, and that we need to be reminded of this. God is in the sacred, there is no doubt, and in Jesus, God has sanctified also the ordinary. Communion is Jesus in a tuxedo; the wholeness of creation, from its center to its margins, is Jesus in scuffed sneakers and blue jeans. That’s the message behind the resurrected Jesus’ “Touch me and see.” Jesus has revealed to us the holiness of the world and of nature, and as people of God it is our duty to reverence the sacred in Holy Communion and in the holiness of creation, and for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo