Posts tagged: Easter

Sunday of the Resurrection…Do We Believe?

By , April 19, 2014 4:50 am

Everyone loves Easter! Spring has arrived, the flowers are blooming, the grass is green, the heat of summer has not fallen upon us yet, people put on their best clothes and greet each other with exuberance – “Happy Easter, happy Easter, happy Easter.” There is nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it is all very delightful but it is not the reality of what Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection, is all about.

Spiritually, each one of us needs to transport ourselves back to that hillside outside Jerusalem, stand silently before that open tomb, a tomb now empty, and ask ourselves if we really do believe in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead!

This is the heart of the Christian message. This is the ultimate test as to whether or not we are really followers of Jesus. In the following 2,000, countless numbers have died because they answered “yes” to that question. They believed in the Resurrection, were committed to Jesus and they would allow nothing to turn them away from that faith and commitment. Happily, most of us are not asked to die for our faith but it would be perfectly valid to ask ourselves would we be willing to do so?

Let us thank God for his infinite love for us. Let us walk into the future with confidence knowing that we are a redeemed people. Let us continue to celebrate the great feast of the Resurrection.

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The Church is a Mystery

By , April 2, 2014 5:43 am

The Second Vatican Council is now a little more than fifty years behind us. What an awesome event it was, and how it challenged the Universal Church to endeavor to review its ministerial effectiveness and make needed adaptations so that its ministry to the human family could be more effective. For about half of those fifty years, there was real progress and then a reaction set in. While most of the work of the Council was still on the drawing boards, determined efforts to slow it down were strong and destructively effective.

Then comes Pope Francis! All over the world, there is renewed hope that we will begin to move forward forcefully, not only to revivify the work of the Council, but to move with faith and confidence into a yet unknown future.

I have often encouraged people to go back and restudy the more powerful documents that emanated from the Council between 1962 and 1965. While we are in this recovery period, I am going to make sure that I do the same thing myself. The first document that I have gone back to is the awesomely important one called the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) . It was promulgated in November of 1964. It is a rather lengthy document and, given my always limited space here on this blog, I will have to practice verbal discipline, which is always difficult for an Irishman, especially since we are still quite close to St. Patrick’s Day.

The first important position point is the fact that the Council Fathers reminded Catholics across the world that the Church, begun by Jesus of Nazareth, guided by the Holy Spirit and inviting the whole human family into it, is in fact an awesome MYSTERY while at the same time, the Church, in terms of its membership, is all too human and there is nothing mysterious about that.

The Church is a mystery in that it originates in God’s plan. It is set up by Jesus of Nazareth. He begins it himself by teaching tens of thousands of people for three years and calling them, and all of us as well, to walk in his footsteps. The Church is a mystery because its prime director is not this bishop or that pope or the local pastor, but nothing other than the Holy Spirit who sanctifies it by its presence and guidance. The church is mysterious in that its inner life is formed, not by organizations, structures, leaders or plans, but by the saving grace of Jesus of Nazareth.
In our day by day life, going to Mass on Sunday, seeing our grandchildren baptized, receiving the Eucharist or the other Sacraments, we need to be conscious that we are living and acting and being affected by this mysterious reality, the Church itself.

As we move forward towards Easter, let us try to concentrate more clearly on the awesomeness of this mystery.

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David…God-like and So, So Human

By , March 29, 2014 5:51 am

March 30th, Fourth Sunday of Lent

It is hard to imagine that anyone who would be fortunate enough to be able to visit Florence, Italy would go there and not enter that wonderful building where Michelangelo’s statue of David is enthroned. Enthroned is the right word! It stands magnificently in the rear of the building and although there are other objects of art within those walls, Michelangelo’s magnificent statue generates awe and wonder to all who behold it. Michelangelo more or less idealizes David in perfect human form.

There is nothing wrong with that because the first reading of today’s Scripture from the Book of Samuel describes David as handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. It is God’s plan that this young shepherd boy, called in by the Prophet Samuel, be anointed as the king of God’s people. This would produce a little tension. Saul was firmly in control of the Israelites.

Then begins the story of David and it is a wonderfully human story filled with courage, action, heroism, great accomplishments and tragically destructive sinfulness. Here we are late in Lent and I think it is important that we see David, not as a dim figure in our historic past, but something of a shadow that hovers over each one of us. The Church has always taught that human nature is essentially good but weak, and during Lent we celebrate our goodness but must do it in the context of an awareness of that weakness. Yes, we fulfill our basic responsibilities to our family, to our community but we are all rough around the edges. We are brittle, hypersensitive, short-sighted and sometimes very selfish. Lent calls us to look at those weaknesses, to attempt to smooth over the rough edges and march forward with a calm confidence that we are about to join in the Resurrection.

Onward to Easter.

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Christ Working Through Us

By , July 6, 2013 4:09 am

July 7th, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

From time to time, I have to remind myself as to exactly what we are doing together as we journey through this long segment of the Church year called the time after Pentecost. At first, it seems like a fairly bland period of the liturgy. The big feasts of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are crammed in the first half of the year and now it is just, in a very real sense, walking with Jesus and listening to him talk in his public life. This period lasts half the year so we ought to utilize it as effectively as possible.

I think that it helps to imagine that you are walking with Jesus followers a little bit behind him and you can hear his voice. That was 2,000 years ago but it still rings true. Today, let’s take a look at one of Jesus’ followers who was an extraordinarily effective listener, Paul of Tarsus. In today’s second reading, Paul is writing to the community that he helped to establish in Galatia in modern Turkey. In it, he reminds the Galatians of misunderstandings that he suffered in the early Church, the sicknesses that he has had, beatings and other forms of persecution. Paul admits that he beseeched the Lord asking for an easier life but he heard the Lord say, “My grace is enough for you, for in weakness power reaches perfection.”

Here we are dealing with one of the mysteries that has always been present in the following of Christ. The world has its own set of standards in what is good, what is to be pursued, what are accomplishments, but Jesus has a different approach. Through Paul, the Lord is telling us that while we ought to try our best at everything we do, we ought to be conscious that when we do great things it is his power working through us. When we do great things, even in the face of our weaknesses, then it is really the power of God that is being manifested.

In today’s excerpt Paul says, “Therefore, I am content with weakness, mistreatment, with distress, with persecution and difficulties for the sake of Christ for when I am powerless it is then that I am strong.”

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Saint Stephen- the First Martyr

By , May 11, 2013 4:19 am

Seventh Sunday of Easter, May 12th
Once again, a reading from Acts of the Apostles gives us an opportunity to see something of great importance that was taking place in the early Church. Last week’s excerpts had two important points – that there was theological confusion from the very beginning and the apostles claimed guidance by the Holy Spirit in order to be able to maintain the purity of the teachings of Jesus.
Today is another first – martyrdom! The text tells the story of Stephen, one of the first deacons. Stephen has been effectively preaching the new joyous message of Jesus of Nazareth and needless to say, it stirs up strong resentment among those who had rejected Jesus. At this point, the sacred author has Stephen giving a long, very long, homily about the story of salvation history. Towards the end of it he points out that their ancestors had rejected the prophets and now they have rejected Jesus and they are making a big mistake. You can well imagine that the crowd was infuriated and, cheered on by the Sanhedrin, the crowd begins to execute Stephen by stoning him. Again, the sacred author makes Stephen very similar to the death of Jesus. His enemies bring forth false witnesses to accuse him of false crimes and as he begins to die he prays, “Lord do not hold this sin against them.” And with these words he “fell asleep.”
From the very beginning the Church saw martyrdom as a mysterious blending of one’s own death into the death of Jesus Christ and making that person one with Christ for all eternity.
An interesting sideline is that there was a man standing there that seemed to have some importance and we will see that later on but it was that Saul was there as a witness and approved of what was happening. A little farther along in Acts we will see that Saul is commissioned to travel up to Antioch and arrest any other followers of “the way” that he might find in that city. On the road he will find that he experiences a very interesting horseback ride.

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John Won The Race But…

By , April 10, 2013 4:51 am

Mary Magdalene was the first to see that the body of Jesus had been removed from the tomb and runs back to where the apostles had been hiding for most of the last three days and tells them that the body of Jesus has been taken. Then follows an absolutely delightful scene. Two men, one possibly in early middle age, the other quite young, race together towards the tomb. For some reason, when John was writing this Gospel he felt that this was an important footnote. They run side by side for a while but John gets there first. He does not go in! He steps back and defers to late arriving Peter. Is that just a cute writing touch or does he defer to Peter because of his age, because he already senses that in some way Peter is already the leader of the apostles? When Peter goes in John himself enters and sees the burial cloths on the floor and then comes that astounding sentence. “He saw and believed.”
In this holy season of Easter, each one of us has to ask ourselves about that empty tomb. We were not there. Two thousand years have passed and the question is as pressing today as it was then. Do we believe? Do we believe that the body of Jesus, his terribly wounded body, was brought back to life by the power of Almighty God? Sometimes our holy faith seems quite complicated. We have seven of this and twelve of those and forty something else, but strip them all away and there is really only one question that confronts each one of us. Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead?
When a person is confronting the depth of their faith, it is good to think about exactly how that faith is anchored, how it is centered and what is the cause of its depth and strength. The answer to those questions is both simple and profound. The cause of our faith is the Christian community, the Church. We believe because billions before us have believed. It is the Church which binds us to the mystery of Jesus and the historical reality of his presence among us.

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And So It Begins…

By , March 26, 2013 4:26 am

Photo: Grimes

We have finally arrived. For nearly six weeks, we have endeavored to keep our minds and our hearts focused on the reality of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, it’s not all that easy, because of the never ending pull of worldly distractions, but this week it is a little easier to do. We actually walk a little bit beside and behind Jesus as He goes through the end of His public life here on earth. Remember His exciting entry into Jerusalem? The crowds were cheering, and He was being hailed as a savior, although the croweds did not really know what they were saying. Then, Jesus retreated to the Jerusalem suburb of Bethany, and with his closest friends, entered into what today we swould call a retreat- quiet, prayer, bracing himself for what he knew was coming. On this day, you might imagine that Judas has been made an offer by the enemies of Jesus. He’s thinking about it. Will Judas betray his master?

As we look back on our own spiritual journey, we sometimes remember times when we ourselves betrayed our Lord. We remember that act of unkindnesss or dishonesty or cruelty, when we failed to follow His example. We regret that today, and THIS is the time to make up for it. We cannot undo the pain we brought into someone eles’ life last year, but we can recommit ourselves to being better, more kind. This week is Holy, and challenges us to holiness- to being, in some limited way, like our Lord himself. To be kind, generous. Regretfully it is a never-ending challenge, but this is the week to respond to that challenge.

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Feast of the Ascension

By , May 19, 2012 4:44 am

Photo: Nicole Grimes

May 20, 2012- Feast of the Ascension
The 12 apostles spent more than two fairly quiet years walking after Jesus as he moved back and forth from Galilee to Judea, frequently passing through Samaria. They heard his preaching, they saw his miracles, they were committed. But then things began to get a little rough.

In that first Holy Week, which was ushered in by the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, we saw two trials, one religious and one civil, and then the crucifixion. Finally, and most astounding, the resurrection itself. Then came those forty days of strange and mysterious visits when, from time to time, Jesus would suddenly appear among the apostles conveying extremely important messages which would help the Church to understand itself and to develop according to the mission that they had received from Jesus.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension and once again, we are dealing with startled, stunned and frightened apostles. There was Jesus standing and speaking to them, and then suddenly he begins to ascend to heaven and then disappears. What are they to do? In the next scene, they are facing heaven and two men in white were standing beside them. They said, “Why are you Galileans standing here looking into the sky? Jesus has been taken up from you into heaven and will come back again in the same way.” Would that make for shock, for wonder, for confusion? You bet. Now begins ten more days of fear and anxiety. That unpleasantness will come to an end in ten days as we celebrate the third most important feast in the life of the Church, PENTECOST and the descent of the Holy Spirit.

That question from those angels was really a challenge to us as well. Why are you standing here? You have got a job to do. Let’s get with it. We also need to know that in our heart of hearts we are being asked: Why are you standing here staring into space? You share in the missionary responsibility.

Let’s get with it.

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Inside the Early Church

By , May 5, 2012 4:49 am

Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 6th
For several weeks, we will be seeing excerpts from Acts of the Apostles being used as the first reading and if we take the time, these excerpts can provide us with delightful scenes of life in the early Church.

Today’s first reading is an excellent example. It stretches only over five or six verses in chapter 9, and tells us a great deal about that exciting period, and so much of what we see is comparable to what goes on in the Church today. We see suspicion. The disciples don’t trust Paul and they have had reason to suspect him since he had recently been a brutal persecutor. We see dedicated efforts at evangelization with Paul preaching fearlessly in Damascus. We see opposition to that preaching, opposition that was strong enough to threaten Paul’s life. We see this opposition helping to move the Gospel farther geographically as Paul sets off on one of his travels. Finally, in the midst of all of this we see this tiny community of faith enjoying the consolation of the Holy Spirit.

This was all occurring about in the year 40 or 45 AD. It is all going on in 2012 too.

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An Awesome Promise

By , April 28, 2012 5:42 am

April 29th, Fourth Sunday of Easter
Today’s Gospel excerpt is one of the shortest that we use in the entire liturgical year. It is only about four sentences. What a joyful message coming from the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth. They contain promises and those promises are made to you and to me.

Jesus says that when we hear his voice he knows us and expects us to follow him. In walking in his footsteps, we will be given eternal life and never perish. Our spiritual future is secure and no evil force can snatch us out of the hand of Jesus. This flows from the fact that the Father is greater than all and has given Jesus those who believe in him. He points out that he and the Father are one and we then remember that on the basis of our baptism we are one with Jesus and, therefore, we are one with the inner-life of the Trinity.

These words are so beautiful but you need to go and look at the whole text of the Gospel. These words were uttered by our Sacred Lord at a time when people are yelling at him and screaming at him and demanding that he explain who he is and what he is about. He does explain. They did not hear. But you and I have heard him. Thanks be to God.

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