Achievement to Implementation

Fr. Tom McKenna, C.M. | April 25, 2019

Certain stories might well be styled “echoing” because they reverberate with the inner story a person tells about herself. Gospel stories have a way of setting off this kind of echo, striking chords people recognize inside their own experience. “Oh yes, I’ve been there.”

An incident in John’s 20th chapter sounds such a note in many believers. And that is the pull to move forward but not being able to do so, the feel of an inner prod to take a further step and yet feeling helpless make it.

This is the predicament of the post Resurrection disciples who are locked behind doors for fear of what the authorities might do. Other believers have arrived with testimony that Jesus is alive, not just come back but radiant with a new kind of life. They recognize also that his teachings and actions have come out of the tomb with him and are indeed the truth and the life. Hearing this, the disciples in the room still can’t unlock their locks and move out, can’t take that next step.

That’s their predicament when suddenly Jesus comes through the barred doors. He wishes them peace, shows them his wounds, and then does the crucial thing – he breathes on them. This breath is his (God’s) own Spirit, the breath that blew over the waters of creation, that dried up the Red Sea, that brought vitality back to the dry bones on the desert floor. This is the new and overflowing life that streamed out from his side and that is now flooding into this room. It enables the disciples to move from what they know they ought to do to what they now can do — be sent out proclaiming that their Lord is alive and his Way is everlasting life.

You might say this is a story about people being strengthened to cross the gap between the achievement and its implementation. Christ has died, Christ is risen: that’s the achievement. But living as if that Christ is alive and active in our world: this is the implementation, the enablement of what has already happened.

This is a story that echoes inside our own. It’s the initial plot line of recognizing the pull to step more out onto Jesus’ Way, but hesitating to venture beyond those locked doors. But there’s the second thread in the story, the one where a person felt the breath of Jesus’ Spirit blowing through a wavering heart and then moved forward. It’s that remembrance of crossing the gap between what I knew I should do and then doing it.
If you can bring up the memory of such a movement in yourself, you’re back in that fear-filled room on the first day of the week — but no longer imprisoned by your fear. You stepped out because you let the Lord breathe his Spirit into you and so carry you across that wide chasm between realization and follow-up, between the achievement already accomplished and the implementation needing to be done.

If there is a patron saint of implementation, it is our own St. Vincent. Always suspicious of pure ideas untethered to concrete effects, he looks to the world of action to validate the ideas and follow through on their possibilities. He not only experiences the breath of the Spirit blowing through but also moves with that inspiration to put flesh on the “achievement” of Risen Life. His story echoes what happened in that room, the story of people who have heard and then been empowered to bring the Good News to the world. Might this be our story too.

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