If we take a look at the readings of the Easter season, they have a very different purpose than Lent’s readings. Lent teaches us what we need to know about Jesus; Easter teaches what we need to know about living Christian community together. Perhaps the best story is Peter and John’s healing of a crippled man on their way to the Temple one day. The guy is looking for a benefactor, a patron, someone to provide him some cash to get though the day. The lame one thinks he’s getting a handout, but Peter says: “Neither silver or gold do I have, but what I have I will give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the risen one, take up your mat and walk.” Peter’s gift, the gift of the Christian community helps the man not only walk right away, but join them as an equal. An outcast, excluded from his place at the table now has more than he’d hoped for: not only is today taken care of, but there’s a future he never imagined.
The early disciples were Christ’s presence on earth after he ascended to heaven; they did what Jesus would have done. They weren’t superstars, or spectacularly wise: they didn’t see themselves as an elite, but part of a larger whole. They had no egos, since they knew from Christ’s return He was the only important thing worth talking about, and they were secondary to the message. They survived and prospered because they were willing to put themselves entirely in service of the Mission: proclaiming Christ and the Empty Tomb to the world. What’s important to me is they didn’t approach the world as Benefactors: something we’re tempted to do very often. As a Benefactor, we throw our resource the right direction, something gets fixed, and we get the credit. We really don’t have to get involved on a long term basis, other than taking our place in the spotlight, gathering our share of the gratitude. Our regular lives are unaffected, and out of the spotlight we’re tempted to think of ourselves as beyond the rules, a privileged person who gets a pass because they did a nice thing. Many Christians today want to see themselves as benefactors, heroes, saviors in their own right.
We live in an age of many heroes (and want-to-be heroes). This gets to be problematic because the value of the hero is in himself/herself. The message succeeds or fails with the messenger. You chose the hero, ignore the hero or choose against them, and if they fall from grace, then you’re lost. This is the strength and failure of most religious movements today, and why Pope Francis so far is such a refreshing departure: he is clearly trying to focus the message away from himself to toward Christ, just as the early disciples did.
As the old Tina Turner song said: “We don’t need another hero.” We have a savior who came back from the dead and brings us new life. The only thing we can do to honor that hero is try to live together in harmony as He taught, and go out of our way to offer more than Silver or Gold.