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April 18, 2021
[St. George Church, Waimanalo (Confirmation & First Communion)]
Do you ever think you are in a time machine? A time machine can take you back to any time in history you choose and help you live in that time – as long as you are in the machine. Or it can even take you to a future time so that you can be there – as long as you are in the machine. This is an interesting concept, but we know it is science fiction. There is really no such thing as a time machine in reality, only our imagination of it.
I wonder if we sometimes think of coming to Mass as being in a time machine? We put ourselves back two thousand years to the time of Jesus, and we try to imagine what it was like way back then. This time machine may even take us further back than the time of Jesus, to the time of the Old Testament, even to the creation of the world. We try to enjoy the experience of reflecting on another time with the clothes, buildings, and sayings that are quaint for us, because they are not our contemporary experience. But then we go out the church door, and we are back in the reality of April, 2021.
The apostles felt like they were in a time machine, that what was happening to them was not reality, but simply illusion. They loved the Lord Jesus, but they knew he had been cruelly crucified, was dead beyond a doubt, and was buried in a tomb. Yet for a moment they must have thought they were in a time machine, because this dead man was walking with them, talking with them, and explaining the Scriptures to them. He was eating in their presence. Perhaps they thought they would eventually snap out of it and come back to face the reality that he really was past history. Perhaps they thought this experience of being in something like a time machine would soon be over, and they would have to face the fact that they had been duped to put their trust in a loser.
But they realized this was very real. Jesus was with them at that moment, physically, speaking to them and making his presence known to them in the breaking of the bread. If it had only been a time-machine experience, would they have gone out from there with the kind of boldness that Peter had of directly telling the people of Jerusalem that they had put Jesus to death, and yet offering them a path to repentance in the name of the living Jesus? Would he have risked his life to possibly suffer the same fate Jesus had suffered if he were not convinced that this was not science fiction, but that Jesus was truly risen from the dead?
We are here today to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation with our friends. We are not just stepping back into time to recall how the Holy Spirit was sent to bring power to the words and deeds of the first disciples, making them bold enough to proclaim Jesus’ name to all the world, even when they were persecuted for doing so. No, we are here because the risen Lord himself is here in his Body, the Church, represented by the bishop, so that Jesus can breathe his Holy Spirit on our brothers and sisters here and now and give them the wisdom and fortitude of the early disciples so that Jesus’ love and mercy can be proclaimed today. Yes, they may have to directly confront the sins of the world – and even their own – and then remind everyone of the great freedom and love that await us when we turn away from our sins. This is no time machine, but the risen Jesus breathing out his Holy Spirit upon them here and now to strengthen and enlighten them to be his messengers of healing.
We are not here simply to remember a Jesus who lived long ago and far away and to be inspired by the teachings he left us. We are here to have the same encounter with the risen Jesus that those early disciples had, when they first did not recognize Jesus, but then had their eyes opened to taste and see him as he was physically present with them. We are here because the living Jesus speaks to us directly in his Word and opens the Scriptures for us. We will be in the physical presence of the risen Jesus when we call down the Holy Spirit to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and when Jesus gives himself to us as the living bread come down from heaven. And when we leave here, we do not step out of a time machine, leaving the memory behind us, but Jesus goes out with us to our homes, to transform them, through us, into holy places where love is shared in a thousand different ways. We go out with the power of the Holy Spirit and the very presence of Jesus to bring good news to the poor by the way we treat them, healing to the sick by our prayers and care for them, and liberty to captives by our bold commitment to truth. This is no science-fiction time machine we spend an hour or so in each week so that we can recall wonderful stories of the past. We are in the reality of Christ risen from the dead so that, through us who are anointed by his Spirit and nourished by his flesh and blood, he can continue to create the most wonderful stories of his healing, mercy and love in the very real world in which we live today.