“Ready For Combat” –by Father Phil Bloom
First of all, my wish that Easter brings you joy, peace and hope.
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in what the early Christians believed about Jesus.
In order to find out how they understood his death and resurrection, his humanity and divinity; we must read their actual writings. Back in the second century, a man named Melito (meh-LEE-toe) gave a famous Easter homily.* He was bishop of Sardis – one of the seven cities which John refers to in the Book of Revelation. Melito pictured Jesus rising from the tomb and, in a loud voice, issuing this challenge:
“Who will contend against me? Let him stand before me.”
Melito’s vision of the Risen Lord helps correct a modern misconception about the Resurrection. We sometimes think of Easter as the final chapter of Jesus career, like a man receiving a gold watch upon retirement. Nothing could be further from the truth. The resurrection is not so much the last word as the opening line of a whole new story.
In his movie The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson had a brief, but powerful depiction of the resurrection. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who has not yet seen it, but I can say this: Gibson has an understanding very similar to that of Melito – the Risen Jesus is ready for combat. As he opens his eyes, he clearly possesses his full humanity. On his right hand we see the nail wound. With a determined look, Jesus stands and takes a firm step.
Our Easter Sunday Psalm says, “The right hand of the LORD has struck with power.” Melito tells us that by his death and resurrection, Jesus has:
-triumphed over the enemy
-trod down Hades,
-bound the Strong Man,
-snatched mankind up to the heights of heaven.
Jesus then makes an invitation: “Come here, all you families of men, weighed down by your sins and receive pardon for your misdeeds.”
In today’s first reading, St. Peter refers to Jesus as judge not only of those who have died, but of us still who are still alive. As judge he is stern with those who seek to shift the blame. At the same time he offers clemency and assistance to those who approach him. Although he possess immense power, we do not need to fear him. He says to us:
I am your pardon.
I am the Passover which brings salvation.
I am the Lamb slain for you.
I am your lustral bath.
I am your life.
© copyright 2004 Fr. Phil Bloom all rights reserved. Used with kind permission. Father Bloom’s homilies are online on his website “Simple Catholicism” http://geocities.com/Heartland/2964/
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