Thoughts on Easter Thursday

POST BY Ruth

Jesus and the Apostles by Ben Sutherland on Flickr
Jesus and the Apostles by Ben Sutherland on Flickr

A homily given at the Jubilarian's Mass on Easter Thursday.

We Jubilarians are celebrating our many years of Jesuit life and ministry, and it is my privilege and challenge to be the representative in this homily. When you are in your eighties such a request may challenge your confidence more than it used to. But here goes! Some of us are celebrating 60 or 50 years since entry into the noviceship, some 60 or 50 or 25 as priests (including Dermot.) There are some who couldn’t be with us, but are with us in spirit. I hope the under 65’s are supporting the Saga Assembly with their prayers. It is good to have the novices with us. Thank-you for preparing the Mass.

When I looked up the readings I was somewhat non-plussed. The gospel doesn’t give the Easter appearances most people go for. The Journey to Emmaus yesterday would have been easier to preach on. Still, we must respond to what we have. That’s what we Jesuits live with, learning to accept the place and people and work to which we have been sent. We may not have chosen them, but we find our lives have been enriched by that place, that work, those people. So I have looked for what those readings were saying to me, to us; to us, for we learn in our thinking and praying as Jesuits to become pastoral; me becomes us.

A Scholastic once said to me (doing his Regency at Loyola Hall and only recently out of the learning of Heythrop): You are using eisegesis not exegesis in your homily today; what you put in, rather than what you draw out. Well, I think St Ignatius did that at times.

Looking at the first reading, what stands out from that bold speech of Peter, newly witnessing to the Risen Christ? For me it is what comes at the end of his speech: “You are the heirs of the prophets, the heirs of the covenant God made with our ancestors when He told Abraham: in your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.” He was referring, of course, to the Jewish people, but by eisegesis it can apply to us as Jubilarians as we look back on our lives. In a sense we are heirs and we have offspring, spiritual offspring, I hasten to add. We are heirs of St Ignatius and of so many who have gone before us in the Society, in the Province. We remember so many who have influenced us and been our companions. We are grateful for the offspring of our prayer and work down the years: a spiritual offspring, all those people God has given us to serve, and who in so many ways have served us by their example, their help, their kindness, their friendship that has lasted down the years. They have been a gift to us, a precious gift, from our years of teaching, from sacramental ministry, from retreat-giving and from the missions, from blessing their marriages and baptising their children. We discover a special relationship with them, our family in Christ, which often resurfaces unexpectedly and which covers our bookshelves each year with Christmas cards. Even though it may become more and more difficult to remember their names as the years go by.

What stands out in today’s gospel? It is the sequel to the Journey to Emmaus and confirms the reality of the Risen Lord. For me it is His final words in the passage: “You are witnesses to this”. Witnesses to His Passion. "Look at my hands and my feet. It is I indeed.” Looking back, we may have been witnesses to His Passion in some of the circumstances of our lives. Witnesses to His risen life, to the reality of His victory over death, as he ate the grilled fish before their eyes; because the apostles had a joy so great that they still could not believe it and they stood there dumbfounded. Wouldn’t we be dumbfounded too without the gift of faith, which has to be constantly renewed for most of us and for those we serve? So that the Risen Jesus becomes real for us and for others. Witnesses to hope, to the promises in Scripture we have preached and which have fed our faith in retreats down the years.

In thanksgiving for all those gifts we can turn again to the Contemplatio at the end of the Exercises. All is gift, Lord; blessings in which we find You present and labouring with us and energising us as companions of Jesus. You are not only present in Your gifts but we will find You as the Giver of all gifts, ‘like sunbeams from the sun and streams from their source.’ And with all these gifts we thank You, Lord, for the gift of each other as we make this celebration as witnesses together in the Society and in the Province; not just me, but us.

Fr Tony Nye SJ