Year B – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Year B - 3rd Sunday of Easter

This Mysterious Limp

(Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 1Jn.2:1-5; Lk.24:35-48)

What is the spiritual life?

It’s recognising that there’s more to life than what we can see, hear and touch. It’s knowing that we are far more than our physical selves.

It’s realising that we’re all part of something much bigger than ourselves; that we’re all part of God’s story, and not just our own. For we all come from God, and one day we’ll return to God. And we need to prepare for that.

The Ancient Greeks recognised two different kinds of life: biological life (called ‘bios’) and a deeper spiritual life (‘zoe’). Both words were used when the New Testament was first written in Greek. [i]

But translated into English, these two words simply became ‘life,’ and their differences were lost.

So, when we hear Jesus say, ‘I came that they may have life, and have it to the full,’ (Jn.10:10), most people aren’t aware that Jesus originally said, ‘I came that they may have zoe, and have it to the full.’

There’s a big difference between bios and zoe. We’re all born with bios, but physical life doesn’t last. It naturally degrades over time, and eventually dies.

The spiritual life of zoe, however, is eternal, but we aren’t born with it. Why not? It’s because of the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve.

You know the story (Gen.3): God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed in the Garden of Eden: a life of perfect harmony between themselves and God; a life of perfect balance between their physical and spiritual selves; as long as they didn’t touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

But they chose to eat that fruit and everything went pear-shaped. They lost their zoe, and so did we.

Because of their original sin, we were all born spiritually dead, and the world has been in constant trouble ever since. Why? It’s because we’re all out of balance and tend to do the wrong thing – we sin. Like a car with badly aligned wheels, we keep drifting to where we should not go.

In the original New Testament, the Greek word for ‘sin’ was ‘hamartia,’ which means ‘to miss the mark’ or ‘to veer off course.’

The French theologian Henri de Lubac called sin ‘this mysterious limp’ (cette claudication mysterieuse). It’s a corruption that stops us from walking straight.

And at the heart of that corruption is the lie that ‘I’ am the centre of the universe. That all my needs and fears are more important than anything else. [ii]

When we put ourselves at the centre of everything, the harmony between ourselves and everything else, including God, is lost, and what’s left is dishonesty, rivalry, selfishness, mistrust and sometimes even violence.

So, how do we regain our zoe? Through baptism. This is when we are welcomed into communion with God and we’re filled with the graces of the Holy Spirit. These graces are the seeds we need to develop our spiritual life, but like all seeds, they must be nourished if they are to grow strongly in our hearts.

In today’s second reading, John says, ‘I am writing this to stop you sinning.’ He knows that sin damages our relationship with God (1Jn.1:6), and he wants to help us fix it.

John basically says two things: firstly, that Jesus Christ can help us. In fact, He already has helped us, because by dying on the Cross He has paid the ultimate price for our sins. And not only for our sins, but also the sins of everyone else.

So, our debt has been paid. But this brings us to John’s second point: that we need to get close to God. How? By keeping His commandments.

As Jesus says, ‘They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father and I will love them and reveal myself to them’ (Jn.14:21).

So, which commandments? There are 613 in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

The story is told of the great rabbi Hillel who claimed that he could recite all 613 commandments while standing on one leg. Someone challenged him, so he lifted one leg and said, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. The rest is commentary, go and learn.’ Then he put his leg down. [iii]

At the Last Supper, Jesus said: ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you…’ (Jn.13:34).

If you want to fix your mysterious limp, this is a good place to start.

[i] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Fontana Books, London. 1969:135.

[ii] Bishop Robert Barron, Daily Reflection, March 21, 2018.