Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fourth Sunday after Easter

James 1:17-21 / John 16:5-14

Many of us struggle over finding the perfect gift for a friend. Every now and then the decision is easy, but often enough we find ourselves stumped. By why should that be? While we trust that anything given in love will be received with thanks, we worry that perhaps our gift does not make quite a perfect fit with our friend's personality and interests. Perhaps it would have been perfect a year before, but now he has changed. On the other hand, perhaps the gift is just perfect for now, but will find itself discarded in a short time, as our friend changes in unexpected and unforeseen ways. We want the gift to be both meaningful and lasting, but find this to be a rather tall order.

St James assures us, however, that every best gift and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights. Now, in one sense, this should be no surprise. Price is no limit for God. Moreover, God surely knows what it is that each one of us wants in our heart of hearts, what will indeed meet our deepest hopes and needs, and nothing so desired is outside of his power to provide. Yet, what if we should change? What if what answers our hopes and dreams here and now fails to do so in the future, or what is what we are given now will serve us well in time to come, but here and now is all too easily discarded? Can God, with Whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration, possibly meet the needs of those of us who are all too changeable, whose lives are deeply shaded with one alteration after another?

What St James wants to assure us here, and what Jesus assures us in the Gospel, is that, through being reborn in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, we have been begotten ... by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of His creature. We have been made partakers and friends in the Spirit of truth, so that by his work in us, even if in many ways there are many truths, many gifts that we cannot bear here and now, nonetheless he will teach us all truth. Said differently, we have been made, through the Easter mysteries we celebrate, part of the very mystery of God, and so every good gift that comes to us from God, comes to us not as something foreign and unknown. It does not come as something unexpected or unprepared. It comes to us, if we will receive it, as an echo and foretaste of the mystery into which we are being conformed and transformed every day.

This is why, in the end, the world cannot and will not be able to see our Christian joy as a source of delight. This is why, when all due apologetics have been made, the world will still reject us as unreasonable. This is even why we ourselves, until we have passed this vale of tears, will find some feature of the Gospel to be difficult to bear. It is because we are being transformed daily to be made like God himself and to share in his inner life forever. This is indeed the gift beyond all gifts, the perfect gift which comes from above. We can, in the Spirit sent to us by Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, receive it in joy, or we can turn away from it, and find our hopes forever obscured in the shadows of change. That is the offer, that this the gift of Easter, of the empty Tomb. Will we receive the gift we are offered this day?

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