Sunday, April 16, 2017

Homily for Holy Spirit Catholic Community for Easter by Beverly Bingle RCWP

Advances in scientific understanding
say that some experiences
that were once labeled “pathological”
are “normal,
among them religious ecstatic trance experiences.
Because of the work of cognitive neuroscientists
we now know
that our brains have many different levels of consciousness.
So far they’ve detected 35 of them.
Dr. Felicitas Goodman ‘s research shows that four elements
of ecstatic trance experiences exist in all cultures,
especially cultures where death is understood
as a process over time
rather than a point in time.
All four elements appear in our New Testament accounts
of people who saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion,
and it’s easy to recognize the parallels
between the resurrection gospels
and Dr. Goodman’s description.
First, she says, the visionary is usually frightened by the vision…
as it’s told in the resurrection appearances
in the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke.
Second, the visionary doesn’t recognize who it is who’s appearing
or what it is that’s being seen…
as in the gospels of Mark, Luke, and John.
Third, the vision communicates calm assurance
followed by self-identification...
like the angel in Matthew’s gospel
telling Mary Magdalene not to be afraid.
Finally, the visionary receives some useful information,
like an answer, an insight, or a commission…
like Mary being told that Jesus has been raised
and given the commission to go tell the disciples about it.
These ecstatic trance experiences can happen when we pray.
They are are common to grieving people,
especially when they visit burial sites.
Other cross-cultural psychiatric research shows that,
when death is seen as a process, a journey, or a transition,
survivors keep relating to the departed for many years,
most commonly within the first ten years after the loss.
This science can help us understand today’s Gospel
and the other resurrection reports.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
report what fits the scientific description
of an ecstatic trance experience.
The other Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles,
and the letters of Paul relate the same kind of experiences.
What about us?
In our culture we tend to think of death as a point in time,
not as a process,
so we’re less likely to be open
to the reality of post-death experiences.
At the same time,
we’ve all heard a bereaved widow
saying she felt her husband’s presence at certain times.
“It’s like he’s still with me,” she’ll say.
Maybe it’s a dream,
where the deceased person gives you a message.
I had one of those.
Maybe you’re praying, and you zone out,
and when you come back to your everyday consciousness,
you feel assured that it’s going to be okay.
I’ve had those, too.
Science now tells us that these are normal human experiences.
Our evolving brains
have developed multiple levels of consciousness.
As Professor John Pilch puts it,
good science can help us to understand and appreciate
the marvelous gifts to human beings from our Creator God.
There’s not much reason to doubt
that Jesus’ disciples experienced his presence with them
after the crucifixion.
By the time the scriptures were written down,
the lived reality of Jesus’ resurrection
had found expressions in multiple levels of consciousness
of those witnesses and their communities.
As we know from trying to tell someone else
about our own spiritual insights and experiences,
the words don’t come easily.
The experience often defies description.
But our understanding grows
as we live with that experience
and embrace its meaning.
We believe, and we begin to act on our belief.
We carry Christ into the world, wherever we go.
Our families bask in the bright light
of our care and concern for them.
Our friends call on us for help
because they know how we are.
The poor find us with them,
providing for their urgent needs
and working to change the systems
that keep them from thriving.
In John’s Gospel Mary of Magdala looks at the empty tomb
and laments, “We don’t know where they’ve put him.”
She will soon find out.
I know exactly where to find him,
where that unique expression of the Divine Presence lives:
in you!
In your heart, in your values, in your prayers,
in your reaching out, in all you do and all you are.
Yes, Christ has died.
But Christ is risen!
And Christ comes again!

Public Domain
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Holy Thursday, April 13, 5:30 p.m. Mass of the Lord's Supper
Easter Mass of the Resurrection, Saturday, April 15, 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
(Washington Church)

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006

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