Today the whole Christian world celebrates with joy the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The sacred liturgy today is truly beautiful. The dreary weeks of Lent are behind us. Our churches are illuminated magnificently. The bells are ringing constantly and the throngs of people who gather before the altars across the world are filled with joy and enthusiasm. Happy Easter! Happy Easter! Have a great Easter! When we gather as families later on that joy continues because we believe with all our hearts that the great event of history is being marked today – that the second person of the Blessed Trinity, having come among us, to join us, to be one with us, to assume a true human nature, has suffered and died for us and his infinite act of obedience and generosity more than balanced the endless acts of human frailty that had been committed throughout the centuries. He has risen indeed – Hallelujah!
Oh the joy and the celebration and happiness that dominates this wonderful day. It is probably the wrong day for me to say this but I want to mention that in the midst of that joy there is a serious note, or more accurately a serious responsibility. Jesus called the twelve apostles to journey with him for nearly three years. He was not just seeking out traveling companions. He did not want to gather admirers around him. The fact is that there was a job that had to be done and these frail human beings were to be the first people on the job. That job, that role, that vocation, is being a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is what the apostles were. They were witnesses. They saw him alive. They saw him crucified. They saw his body. They saw him resurrected. And they were to tell the world of that awesome reality. And so they did and in the process commissioned others to join in spreading the good news.
It is 2,000 years later and the job is still there. It still needs to be done, still needs to be carried out day by day. It is wonderful that so many of us attend Mass frequently. It is good that we are happy to declare to others that we believe in Jesus Christ but we must also tell those people that we believe in the resurrection, that we believe that this awesome miraculous act had the purpose of documenting the infinite power that resided in and passed through Jesus of Nazareth.
Let’s continue to celebrate today, but remember that we have a job to do and we need to get started in the morning.
Posts tagged: Lent
It is almost over. For five weeks the Church has been calling us to examine ourselves more honestly, to center our thoughts more clearly on the reality of Jesus of Nazareth and enter into a spirit of prayer that would carry us forcefully into Holy Week and the great Feast of the Resurrection.
Holy Week is here and the next seven days we will symbolically walk with our blessed Lord. First, he experiences a brief triumph as he enters on a donkey (a symbol of royalty) and cheered wildly in his honor as he enters the city gates of Jerusalem. The text of Matthew’s Gospel says that the crowd was huge, very excited, tearing branches off trees and even laying down their cloaks so that the animal could, a symbolic sense, walk on a carpet. Then it gets quiet.
Jesus and his disciples would again go outside the city to the suburban town of Bethany and he will abide with his close friends for three very quiet days of prayer and preparation.
Wednesday has Judas cutting a deal. He promises to give the enemies of Jesus the opportunity to arrest him at a time when it can be done quietly without instigating a riot.
Thursday reminds us of the institution of the Eucharist and the beginnings of the priesthood.
Friday we call “good” but it is awful and holiness explodes on Saturday as we anticipate the celebration of the actual resurrection.
The whole process will be over in just a few days. If we have slipped a little during the past weeks, this would be a good time to say I am going to give it my all, to concentrate on this sacred week for ourselves and for our families.
March 17th, Fifth Sunday of Lent
I just opened my lectionary and I can see very clearly that tomorrow is the fifth Sunday of Lent. I am also joyfully aware that March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day. This is a sad reality that surfaces every seven years because the Sundays of Lent are so important in the liturgical calendar that they block out the lesser feast days themselves. My comments come from the Mass of this Sunday rather than those of the Votive Mass of St. Patrick. I am sure that God will forgive me.
It is not a problem because the Gospel excerpt used for this Sunday is simply marvelous. It is clear, dramatic and our Lord drives a point home with tremendous power. You know it well but let’s take a quick look at it again.
It shows our Lord’s teaching in the courtyard of the temple and, as usual, there is a large crowd. Suddenly, there is excitement and people begin to jostle. We see then a number of strong men pushing and shoving a single woman through the crowd until they get in front of Jesus. They denounced her and ask for his view on whether or not she should be stoned to death because she had been caught in an adulterous act. Adultery requires two people! Where is the man? Try to visualize this dramatic scene. There is a lot of yelling going on and a crowd of men are demanding that Jesus agree to Mosaic law that a woman like this should be killed. They have already humiliated her tremendously and now they are pushing for her death.
Our Lord drops to his knees and then begins drawing in the sand. When they kept demanding a response, he really threw back one of the great stories of the Gospels. “Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her.” Jesus then returned to his crouched position and waited to see what would happen. The crowd slinked away leaving no one there but Jesus and this poor abused woman. When the woman told Jesus that no one had accepted his challenge, that no one had condemned her, he merely said, “Nor do I condemn you. You may go but from here sin no more.”
From a Christian perspective, that is one of the greatest statements ever made. He knew that the woman had made mistakes but he was informing her that God instantly forgives true sorrow. She was being given another chance to live a better life.
As Lent approaches, be conscious that Jesus was speaking not only to the Jewish woman but to you and me as well. Let us remember that as we move towards Holy Week.
For the first couple of weeks in Lent, the scripture readings are usually somewhat grim. We are reminded of human weakness, the urge to know ourselves better. We try to be motivated to improve ourselves. This is all a process and the Church urges us to make good use of this holy season. And this Sunday is using one of the most meaningful parables that our Lord presented to his listeners. The story of the prodigal son.
Many of us read that story and put the emphasis in the wrong place. We are glad that the kid came back. We are glad that the father is forgiving. We hope that the same thing will happen to us. But a very important part of the story is the older brother. He does not forgive. He does not celebrate his brother’s return to a good life. He does not appreciate the infinite forgiveness of the father. This parable of our Lord says a great deal about God’s infinite forgiveness but it also says in a very pointed way that you and I have to be forgiving people as well.
As Holy Week draws closer take a few minutes and run through your mind people against whom you have held some grievance of late. Do you see that person as being forgiven by Almighty God? If you answer affirmatively, shouldn’t we do the same?
All three of today’s scripture texts touch on the idea of suffering, human suffering, a subject that nearly everyone knows a great deal about because life on this planet is difficult. Every one of us has our faults and our weaknesses and, of course, God who created us knows all about them. Despite our weaknesses and sinfulness, we always have to remind ourselves that God still loves us. He loves us despite those weaknesses. Or maybe he loves us because of them?
One of the purposes of the holy season of Lent is to cause us to meditate on our failures and faults and to use our intelligence, our will, our faith, our determination to improve our life and, in so improving it, to deepen and strengthen our relationship with God.
We are almost in the middle of Lent. Let’s endeavor to ask ourselves honestly are we taking it seriously? Am I making any progress? Are our good intentions disappearing with the ashes that marked us at the beginning of Lent?
During this holy season, our minds should be on two tracks. One is efforts at our own spiritual renewal and the other in joyful appreciation of the beauty of spring. This beautiful weather is a symbolic reminder of the brightness and joy that comes from our awareness of God’s love for us.
Today is the first Sunday of Lent.
Did you make it to your parish on Ash Wednesday? Even if you did not, you might want to give some thought to the symbolism of that special day. We all know that we are called to do good, we are called to a better life. We also know all too well our own weaknesses and Ash Wednesday was supposed to lead us to recommit ourselves to greater efforts on our spiritual journey. Now comes today’s Gospel and what is its message?
Now brace for temptation
We all experience temptation. We think that we might want to do this or that thing which is actually evil and against God’s directions on how we should live. Temptation presents us with the danger of failing to utilize effectively as possible the gifts that we have been given. Temptation itself is not a sin but it does present us with a moral risk. It provides us with an opportunity to practice doing better. Today, the first Sunday of Lent is a good opportunity to start. We don’t have to climb to the mountaintops in order to improve ourselves. Abundant opportunities are all around us. Is there anybody in the workplace that you really dislike? Is that person’s obnoxious qualities offensive? Have you ever tried to find out exactly why that person was so difficult? If we knew the answer, we might be much more willing to reach out to that person and maybe our reaching out would end up being a gift from God that helps draw that person back to a better life. When we try to pray for somebody for whom we are not particularly fond we are really helping that person, but much more importantly we are helping ourselves as well.
Each of us should review our conscience and ask ourselves if we are making enough efforts to making this a better world.
Ash Wednesday is a beautifully symbolic day when we come forward to be marked with the symbol of repentance from ashes left over from something having been burnt. It is a beautiful symbolic act but it is also intended to be motivational. We begin the holy season of Lent, a season of preparation, a season of purification and look forward with joy and enthusiasm to the great feast of the Resurrection, but at the same time we know that proper preparation for that celebration requires humility, honesty and an attempt to do better.
Let our minds go back for a moment to January 1st. Did we make any simple resolutions at that time? Were they forgotten on January 15th? Did we possibly make some serious commitments to improve ourselves spiritually? Well, Lent is a gift to the faithful. It is a six week boot camp where we are urged to freely choose to give ourselves additional spiritual aids and help so that we can not only smooth over the rough edges of our spiritual life, but deepen the level of our understanding of ourselves and the God that we worship.
Lent is a serious gift. Lent is a serious spiritual gift and we should not fail to utilize it as best we can.
Today is the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Well, here we are again with “Ordinary Time.” We haven’t had one of these Sundays since before Lent and that was back in late February. We operate under these rather dull titles now until the Feast of Christ the King and will close out the ecclesiastical year in November. Today is also the great American celebration of Father’s Day and happily enough there is a connection between the liturgical cycle and the American experience. Today’s Gospel from St. Mark is all about seed – life being passed on, the next generation growing up and the awesome and beautiful reality of life continues.
Fathers. Our society salutes them today and well it should because fathers are crucially important to the well being of every family. I will pass over the temptation to bemoan their absence in so many of our families and the damage that is done by that absence, and concentrate on the extraordinary good that comes from a father being present in our all important nuclear social unit.
Mothers and fathers each bring awesomely important but distinct gifts to the individual family. Their presence together compliments the two of them in a way that creates an extraordinary strong bond and ambience for a healthy and productive family structure enabling the children to move forward in life with the best possible advantages both material and spiritual.
Let’s hear it for all our fathers! God bless them one and all.
As dawn slowly moves across the planet, the rising sun will see that all of the Catholic churches of the world seem empty and lonely. They only seem such because actually they are filled with joyful followers of Jesus who will pray through the day in our darkened churches but always calmly aware that tonight the Mass of the Resurrection will introduce the great feast of Easter, will introduce the fact that we are a redeemed people.
I think that it is good that we celebrate Christmas in the wintertime, but I think it is much more important that we celebrate Easter in the springtime. Springtime ushers in new life, the beauty of exploding flowers and all types of living things. People want to get outside to gather in the streets and the towns and villages of the world celebrating not only their faith in Jesus Christ, but their love for each other and the shared happiness that they are experiencing during the explosive beauty of spring.
Yesterday, I described that the church building today would be presented to us as an enormous tomb. No matter where we are in the world, our parish church would be empty and lifeless. The Blessed Sacrament is not present in the Tabernacle, no candles are used and the prayers are sad and mournful. Yes, Christ has died.
While thanking God for his infinite generosity, the Christian world mourns the fact that our frailty, our weakness, our sinfulness have brought about the agonizing death of Jesus of Nazareth. As grim as this issue is we do not let it depress us. We know that on Saturday night we will turn away from our sadness, we will turn from the consideration of the agony of Jesus and we will explosively celebrate our faith, faith that teaches us that yes, Christ has died but more importantly, he has risen and he will conquer all.
Onward to Saturday.