Sunday, April 10, 2016

Anne Duquette has something to say!

April 10, 2016
Third Sunday of Easter

I remember learning about the apostles’ deaths at my Catholic school, in middle school. I was especially haunted by the death of St. Peter, crucifixion upside down. St. Peter’s faith in Christ, rooted in a deep love, would cost him his life. St. Peter knows that by being a witness to Christ, he is risking arrest, punishment, and death, and yet he continues to be a witness under dangerous conditions, declaring in Acts 5:29: “We must obey God rather than men.”  He and the apostles, in this chapter of Acts, are flogged, and yet “rejoice” because “they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41). This early act of “civil disobedience” would set the way for centuries of Christians after them, many of them martyrs, who would obey Christ rather than man.
            How timely that this reading for April 10 is the Sunday after the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., on April 4, 1968.  Dr. King, like the apostles, recognized that it was highly probable that he would be killed. In his final speech, I’ve Been to the Mountaintop, delivered the day before his death, Dr. King recognizes that he “may not get there (to the promised land).” Dr. King, like the apostles, does not “fear any man,” having witnessed “the glory of the coming of the Lord.” In the words of Dorothy Day, Dr. King “knew he would be killed for the faith that was in him. The faith that men could live together as brothers. The faith in the Gospel teaching of nonviolence. The faith that man is capable of change, of growth, of growing in love (Dorothy Day, The Catholic Worker, April 1968)”.  King’s faith, like the apostles’ faith, was driven by love.
            What does this love, for which the apostles are willing to be punished and even killed, look like? In Revelations, chapter 5, we are given an image of “the Lamb, who was slain.” This image of the slain lamb- of Christ on the crucifix with his head hanging down- gives me chills. It is a visual reminder that our God loved us unto death. Yet before He died, Christ showed us how to love in practical ways. Christ, after dying for all of us and rising from the dead, does not reprimand the apostles for their cowardly ways(during His last hours), but helps them to catch a bunch of fish, and then serves them breakfast in the gospel of St. John, chapter 21.  Christ is setting an example for us to be merciful and to continue to serve each other. This is love in action: to forgive those who hurt us, and to even take it a step further and to serve them. No wonder St. Peter jumped out of the boat and ran (or swam?) to Christ, and later died for his belief in Christ. He was full of love for Christ, the One who taught him how to love.
            These readings help to inform the practices of what Dr. Cornel West would call “prophetic Christianity,” the Christianity of Dr. King, Dorothy Day, Sister Megan Rice, the Berrigan brothers, and other saints, here on earth and in heaven. It is a Christianity of civil disobedience- being arrested for one’s beliefs that are rooted in faith and love of Christ. It is the Christianity that led Bree Newsome to scale the flagpole and bring down the confederate flag. It is the Christianity of service. Of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, just as Christ fed the apostles breakfast. Of seeing Jesus in the breadline, as per the Fritz Eichenberg  print.  Of seeing Jesus’ face in the “other.” Of knowing, in the words of Dorothy Day, that I “only love God as much as  love the person I love the least.” It is a Christianity driven by a love that surpasses all understanding.
By Anne N. Duquette

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