Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“You must dare, and dare again, and then dare a little bit more, and go on daring.”

“Let us be today’s Christians. Let us not take fright at the boldness of today’s church. With Christ’s light let us illuminate even the most hideous caverns of the human person: torture, jail, plunder, want, chronic illness. The oppressed must be saved, not with a revolutionary salvation, in mere human fashion, but with the holy revolution of the Son of Man, who dies on the cross to cleanse God’s image, which is soiled in today’s humanity, a humanity so enslaved, so selfish, so sinful.” - Archbishop Oscar A. Romero, (The Violence of Love)

Gospel Text: (JN 3:16-21)
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light
and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

What will we do with the light we have?

It seems as if this modern age is bent on “tolerance”, on “acceptance”, on not offending anyone. We are often told not to share our opinions too adamantly, or to express our values with too much zeal, for fear they will upset another. While we always need to be respectful of someone else’s beliefs, these other values should not be values for “all times” (Psalm 34:2).

Our faith needs to be intentional and obvious. Not an in-your-face, show-off faith, but a faith that seeks to be clearly and easily evident.

This evident faith can manifest itself in many forms: When we interact with others, we should act “so that […our] works may be clearly seen as done in God” (John 3:21). When issues of questionable morality arise, we should not be afraid to “tell the people everything” (Acts 5:20) about our views and the Church’s views. When good things happen to us, His praise should be the first things on our lips, so much so that others hear us and are glad, too (Psalm 34:2-3).

For me, an evident faith means not being afraid to bring up God in conversation. This is something I struggle with continually. Often, I feel weird or out of place talking about God or my faith in everyday conversation. I feel like I’m putting people off or breaking some unwritten rule of appropriate conversation topics. Sometimes, I even feel taboo saying, “God bless you,” after someone sneezes.

Why is it important that I bring God into all aspects of my life? Why can’t I just save Him for planned discussions with those who think the same things?

If I “live[…] the truth,” not only will I “come[…] to the light” (John 3:21), I will have the opportunity to bring others with me. I can let the “only-begotten Son” work through me to draw others toward “eternal life” (John 3:16).

I pray that God grants me the audacity to witness for Him in all areas of my life, great or small. I ask that my face not “blush with shame” (Psalm 34:6) the next time I bring God up while talking with a friend. LORD, give me the courage to have an evident faith.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi (13th-century Persian poet)

Gospel Text: (JN 3:7B-15)
Jesus said to Nicodemus:
“‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to him,
‘How can this happen?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?
Amen, amen, I say to you,
we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen,
but you people do not accept our testimony.
If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe,
how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?
No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.
And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what it’s like to “fall in love”? You might start by talking about your beloved and all the qualities that are attractive to you. You might try to describe how being with this person affects you emotionally; or how the relationship has changed your perspective or deepened your values or influenced you to make different choices or given your life more meaning. It’s difficult to describe. Even more challenging is how to describe what it’s like to experience oneself as the beloved.

This seems to be the difficulty Nicodemus is having in today’s gospel as he tries to understand what Jesus means when he says “You must be born from above”. It is difficult, maybe impossible, for him to comprehend this rationally. It is only by entering into a relationship with Jesus - allowing himself to be loved –that he will be able to grasp this mystery. “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.”

What happens when we allow ourselves to enter into a deeply loving relationship with another, being willing to be vulnerable and be seen as we are, with all of our strengths and faults and burdens? When we allow ourselves to be deeply loved, we are transformed. We become more patient, kinder, more forgiving, more hopeful, more compassionate, more just, more loving. We may have difficulty explaining it, but the transformation is visible and concrete.

Blessed Frederic Ozanam is a contemporary example of someone who allowed the Spirit of God to transform him. When thousands died in a cholera epidemic in Paris in 1832, many more were left destitute. Ozanam, a young university student, was moved at the hopeless state of families who had lost the support of their breadwinners. While all this was going on he was stung by another student’s remark: “In former times Christianity worked wonders, but what is it doing for mankind now? And you, who pride yourself on your Catholicity, what are you doing for the poor?”

In response, Ozanam gathered a few friends and began to do whatever he could to relieve the suffering he saw in the slums of the city. Eventually, a new organization, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, grew from Ozanam’s work and spread. Through the society, volunteers serve millions of disadvantaged people around the globe. They provide home visits, job training, housing assistance, food pantries, and medicine for the elderly. They pray with people, cared for their needs, and show the love of Christ in countless concrete ways.

God still calls us today to bear witness to Jesus through acts of generosity and loving service that are in line with our circumstances. We have to be willing to let God make us uncomfortable!!!! We have to say, “God, here are my plans, take the wheel of my life.” If we truly let God take the wheel and dare to serve others, God won’t leave us in need either.

So ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see the needs around you. Sharing even a little of your resources, even a little of your time and attention, can make a big difference!

Monday, April 28, 2014

No one can begin a new life, unless he repent of the old

Baptism is not the work of man but of Christ, and this sacrament is so holy that it would not be defiled, even if the minister were a murderer. - St. Isidore, Doctor of the Church

Gospel Text: (JN 3:1-8)
There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
He came to Jesus at night and said to him,
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God,
for no one can do these signs that you are doing
unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to him,
“How can a man once grown old be born again?
Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?”
Jesus answered,
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless one is born of water and Spirit
he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
What is born of flesh is flesh
and what is born of spirit is spirit.
Do not be amazed that I told you,
‘You must be born from above.’
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

When we encounter God, we encounter God as we are. And that means we encounter God filled with our own limits and prejudices, talents and restrictions. So much has made us who we are. Families, friends, education, background, and beliefs. These things are immutable, in many cases. And they have a substantial impact on us, shaping us, governing us, forming us. No wonder Nicodemus is so incredulous. How then, are we to be re-born, restored to our destined life as children of God?

This is why Jesus focuses on the Spirit. Re-birth is something outside of our control, it is Spirit and water. We cannot change ourselves, but we can trust in the power of God to transform us. Water washing over us cleanses us. This is the power of baptism; we are bathed and washed clean by the power of God. We are, truly, “born again.”

This can be a scary concept, disquieting and discomforting. Maybe this is why Nicodemus points out the absurdities of the situation. No longer of this world, but from above. No longer flesh, but Spirit. And this Spirit is wild, untamed. We cannot see it, we cannot know where it is going. But, Jesus assures us that it will take us with it.

And perhaps this is what is scariest – all of those immutable things, they are safe, they are comfortable, they are, if not always known, at least familiar. Jesus here invites Nicodemus (and us) into a new world, the world that is above, a world infused with the Spirit of God. It won’t be the same. It will be liberating and transformative. A new way of living, even. But that also means an unknown way of living. And a way of living that will be strange, unfamiliar, and perhaps even dangerous. For, all those around us may not understand why we are this new way. We can invite them into the life of the Spirit, true, but they will be just as challenged and discomforted as were we, initially. Yet, the Spirit blows where it wills, taking us with it, so that we might find new life in the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

“Be realistic: Plan for a miracle”

“Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” ― C.S. Lewis

Scripture Text: (ACTS 2:42-47)
They devoted themselves
to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life,
to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone,
and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
All who believed were together and had all things in common;
they would sell their property and possessions
and divide them among all according to each one’s need.
Every day they devoted themselves
to meeting together in the temple area
and to breaking bread in their homes.
They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart,
praising God and enjoying favor with all the people.
And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

“Miracles.” What does this word bring to mind for you? Spectacular healings? Multiplication of food? Suspension of the laws of nature? Signs and wonders relegated to biblical times? As Catholics, we have living proof that miracles are not things of the past. Every time a new saint is canonized, we are reminded that miracles still happen. We see in these saints evidence of God breaking into our world and transforming people in concrete ways!

Today we celebrate the canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, two modern-day examples of God’s power to perform miracles—and not just the physical healings that have been attributed to their intercession. Who could deny the miracle of John XXIII opening the Church to the modern world and speaking timeless truths in a new way to a world that desperately needed it? Countless lives were changed around the globe because of what he did. Countless people—unbelievers as well as believers—stood in awe of how vital the Church is and how active a role it can play in the world. And who could not but stand in awe of the largely bloodless way that the walls of communism came down during the papacy of John Paul II? Or think of the lives that were touched when they saw him forgive the assassin who tried to kill him. The world looked on in amazement!

As we are inspired by the lives of these two holy popes, we know there’s always more of God’s mercy. Even now, two thousand years after Christ’s birth, we see just the beginnings of how God wants to inspire awe in the world! So together let’s celebrate the new saints -  John XXIII and John Paul II—and let’s keep expecting miracles! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

When God interrupts your life, He is calling you to follow Him in a new way

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – St Matthew

Scripture Text: (ACTS 4:13-21)
Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply.
So they ordered them to leave the Sanhedrin,
and conferred with one another, saying,
“What are we to do with these men?
Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign
was done through them, and we cannot deny it.
But so that it may not be spread any further among the people,
let us give them a stern warning
never again to speak to anyone in this name.”

So they called them back
and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.
Peter and John, however, said to them in reply,
“Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”
After threatening them further,
they released them,
finding no way to punish them,
on account of the people who were all praising God
for what had happened.

Do we really believe? 

We who are sure that we have a much better hold on religion after centuries upon centuries of religious experience and clarification and living a faith which is not new to our families or our country?  Are we satisfied with being polite and nice and doing what is convenient?  Or do we let the world see him alive and at work in us and through us?  Are we living the daring and demanding life which Christ calls us to?  Or are we keeping Jesus in the tomb? 

If Jesus is indeed risen, if he is not only still alive but even more alive than he ever had been in this world, if he comes personally and lovingly to us every time we celebrate the Eucharist, why is that not more evident in the way we live? 

This is still a world of sin, crime, and grief, waiting for the Kingdom of God to appear in its fullness.  The world is waiting for a complete proclamation of the Good News.  Is it us that it awaits, waiting for us to be the people we claim to be and that God calls us to be, his lights in this darkness?

Are we keeping Jesus in the tomb? 

Friday, April 25, 2014

“The beauty of obedience is that what God expects you to do, He also enables you to do.”

Don't give in to discouragement....... If you are discouraged it is a sign of pride because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people's opinions. Be obedient to truth. For with humble obedience, you will never be disturbed. -- Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel text (Jn 21,1-14): Jesus revealed himself to the disciples by the Lake of Tiberias. He appeared to them in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas who was called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples were together; and Simon Peter said to them, «I'm going fishing». They replied, «We will come with you», and they went out and got into the boat. But they caught nothing that night.

When day had already broken, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus called them, «Children, have you anything to eat?». They answered, «Nothing». Then He said to them, «Throw the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some». When they had lowered the net, they were not able to pull it in because of the great number of fish. Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, «It's the Lord!». At these words, «It's the Lord», Simon Peter put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and jumped into the water. The other disciples came in the boat dragging the net full of fish; they were not far from land, about a hundred meters.

When they landed, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, «Bring some of the fish you've just caught». So Simon Peter climbed into the boat and pulled the net to shore. It was full of big fish —one hundred and fifty-three— but, in spite of this, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, «Come and have breakfast», and not one of the disciples dared ask him, «Who are you?», for they knew it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and He did the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples after rising from the dead.

That night they caught nothing!

When the disciples tell Jesus they caught nothing, He just points out where they are to throw their net. And, even though fishermen seem to know all the answers and they had spent the night to no avail, they obey him. «O the power of the obedience. The lake of Tiberias was refusing its fish to Peter's nets. An entire night in vain. —But now, obedient, he returns the net to the water and they caught (...) a full load of fish. —Believe me: the miracle repeats itself daily» (Saint Josemaria).

St. John points out «It was full of big fish —one hundred and fifty-three» (Jn 21:11) but, in spite of being so many, the net was not torn. These are details to bear in mind, Redemption, amid normal work, takes place with responsible obedience.

They all «knew it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them» (Jn 21:12-13). He did the same with the fish. If we obey him we shall not lack either the spiritual or the material food. He taught this to his closest followers and Pope John Paul II said it too: «When starting the new millennium, our heart reverberates with those words with which Jesus (...) invited the Apostle to put out into the deep, and let down the nets for a catch: ‘Duc in altum’ (Lk 5:4). Peter and the first disciples trusted Christ's word (…) and when they had done this, ‘they enclosed a great multitude of fishes’ (Lk 5:6). This word resounds for us to day too».

Thursday, April 24, 2014

“Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ...”

"Many people perceive Christianity as something institutional -- rather than as an encounter with Christ -- which explains why they don't see it as a source of joy." - Pope Benedict XVI, May 2004

Gospel Text: (LK 24:35-48)
The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way,
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them,
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you,
that everything written about me in the law of Moses
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

How does Jesus encounter us?

Jesus encounters us and we him in the ordinary events of our lives. As Jesus approaches us as we are with our ups and downs our grace and sin, we are changed by the encounter. To encounter someone implies a relationship with that person that is special in its depth. How well the disciples knew Jesus, but now he is coming to them at an even deeper level of intimacy.

To encounter someone is a more profound experience than simply being physically next to her/him. I may be at an airport physically present to hundreds of people, but that is not an encounter. I recall an airport scene that took place close enough for me to observe. There was a group that I sized up as a family gathered around a uniformed soldier. The interactions among them spoke of love and concern. I reckoned that the family was sending their son, brother, grandson on a possibly dangerous mission for the young man as a soldier.

Our encounter with Jesus is like that story: filled with deep emotions and love given and received. We are in a love relationship with Jesus. Thus encounters with him are suffused with care, concern, forgiveness and love beyond measure.

We encounter him in others, those who love us and we them. We encounter him in the community of faith that gathers to celebrate the Eucharist and the other sacraments like baptism and the anointing of the sick.

To celebrate Easter is to be attentive to the many ways that Jesus encounters us, in the poor, the sick, the needy, those who treat us with care and invite us to deeper love in all the events of our human life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“Go often to Holy Communion. Go very often! This is your one remedy.”

One day St. Teresa of Avila heard someone say: "If only I had lived at the time of Jesus... If only I had seen Jesus... If only I had talked with Jesus..." To this she responded: "But do we not have in the Eucharist the living, true and real Jesus present before us? Why look for more?"

Gospel text (LK 24,13-35):
Two disciples of Jesus were going to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem, and they talked about what had happened. While they were talking and wondering, Jesus came up and walked with them, but their eyes were held and they did not recognize him.

He asked, «What is this you are talking about?». The two stood still, looking sad. Then one named Cleophas answered, «Why, it seems you are the only traveler in Jerusalem who doesn't know what has happened there these past few days». And he asked, «What is it? ». They replied, «It is about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet, you know, mighty in word and deed before God and the people. But the chief priests and our rulers sentenced him to death. They handed him over to be crucified. We had hoped that he would redeem Israel. It is now the third day since all this took place. It is true that some women of our group have disturbed us. When they went to the tomb at dawn, they did not find his body; they came to tell us that they had seen a vision of angels who told them that Jesus was alive. Some friends of our group went to the tomb and found everything just as the women had said, but they did not see him». He said to them, «How dull you are, how slow of understanding! You fail to believe the message of the prophets. Is it not written that the Christ should suffer all this and then enter his glory? ». Then starting with Moses and going through the prophets, He explained to them everything in the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they drew near the village they were heading for, Jesus made as if to go farther. But they prevailed upon him, «Stay with us, for night comes quickly. The day is now almost over». So he went in to stay with them. When they were at table, he took the bread, said a blessing, broke it and gave each a piece. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; but He vanished out of their sight. And they said to each other, «Were not our hearts filled with ardent yearning when He was talking to us on the road and explaining the Scriptures? ».

They immediately set out and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and their companions gathered together. They were greeted by these words: «Yes, it is true, the Lord is risen! He has appeared to Simon! ». Then the two told what had happened on the road and how Jesus made himself known when he broke bread with them.

The Gospel leaves me reflecting on how much we miss when we see without really seeing.

Isn’t this the story of our lives as well? So often, we think about our circumstances, our families, or the world around us—as any normal human being would. Sometimes that leaves us discouraged or believing that Jesus isn’t close to us. But nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus is never absent; he’s walking with you! He longs to stir your heart through his word and through his presence. He longs to tell you that he has a plan for your life and that you can rely on him.

The disciples in today’s Gospel reading had to slow down to listen to Jesus; they had to stop their discussions to hear him. What a great model for us! Slow down and listen today. Stop and let Jesus touch your heart with divine insight. Sit down, pull out your Bible, and ask him to open the Scriptures to you. Gaze on him at Mass. You will see that he was there all along: he’s there in God’s word; he’s there in the bread and wine; he’s in your heart!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Church must go out into the streets…. Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat”

"A Christian life lived with charity and faith is the most effective form of evangelization. Evangelization testifies to the transformative power of the Gospel and the mission of the church to sanctify society…" - U.S. Catholic bishops, Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization

Gospel text: (ACTS 2:36-41)
On the day of Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people,
“Let the whole house of Israel know for certain
that God has made him both Lord and Christ,
this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,
and they asked Peter and the other Apostles,
“What are we to do, my brothers?”
Peter said to them,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you,
in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins;
and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
For the promise is made to you and to your children
and to all those far off,
whomever the Lord our God will call.”
He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them,
“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
Those who accepted his message were baptized,
and about three thousand persons were added that day.

Both the first reading and the gospel (JN 20:11-18) today have strong sentiments of evangelization. Peter, in the first reading, just by proclaiming the Paschal Mystery of Christ, convicts and baptizes three thousand people. In the gospel, Jesus appears, resurrected, to Mary Magdalene, who he then sends to the apostles to proclaim his resurrection. What is it about both Mary Magdalene and Peter’s words that cut straight to the hearts of listeners?

These words are the words of witnesses. Both Peter and Mary witnessed the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and experienced a profound intimate relationship with him. Their words were words of complete conviction to the Truth. They were not seeking to prove Jesus’ existence historically or philosophically or teach others of the facts of Christianity. Neither were they seeking to correct some sort of moral injustice in society. Peter and Mary Magdalene were simply bearing witness to Christ with their lives.

We are called to bear witness to Christ’s life, death and resurrection in our own lives as well. But we cannot bear witness to someone we do not know. Thus we must open ourselves up to knowing Christ through prayer, the Sacraments, and Scripture. Some of the greatest evangelizers in the world, people like St. Mary Magdalene, St. Peter and the apostles, St. Paul, St. Patrick, St. Francis Xavier, St. Isaac Jogues, all had this one thing in common: they all knew Christ and were willing to bear witness to him with their lives.

Evangelization is not something done in a far off land with strange people. It is done in our homes and in our own communities. Evangelization is not spread simply by words; it is spread most effectively by the way we live, by how we bear witness. Our call today and in this Easter season is to begin living like Christ is truly resurrected. We know this, because we know him.

Monday, April 21, 2014

“Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most.”

“All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he knows his course is wrong, and repairs the evil. The only crime is pride.” ― Sophocles, (Antigone written 441 BC)

Scripture text: (ACTS 2:14, 22-33)
On the day of Pentecost, Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.

“You who are children of Israel, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:

I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the nether world,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he poured forth the promise of the Holy Spirit
that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.

Can we be the same people we were before the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus?

In today's first reading from Mass, we see Peter as anything but the fearful disciple we have seen in the past. In a loud, clear voice he stands in the midst of a crowd and proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. This “new” Peter speaks in a different and more confident voice than the one who had huddled in terror in the locked upper room after the crucifixion. Now he says he can “speak confidently” and, quoting David, says his heart is glad and his tongue has rejoiced. He has been changed.

Have we been moved that dramatically by the events of the past week? Are we as courageous as Peter? Perhaps we are more like the women hurrying away from the tomb, half-overjoyed and half-fearful. Yes, there is good news, wonderful news … but can we allow ourselves to believe it? Can it really be true?

Jesus gives us the answer as he meets the women rushing from the tomb. His first words to them – and us – are “Peace!” and then “Do not be afraid!” Jesus wants us first to be at peace, to feel the love and redemption he offers us. Yes, it is true and now, as believers, witnesses to this miracle of love, we are asked by Jesus to “go and carry the news…”

Today we are still carried along on the joy of Holy Week and Easter Sunday liturgies. We may feel the call of Jesus in our lives asking us to spread the good news to our brothers and sisters. Today we have the courage, the energy and the joy inside. But can this last? We remember Peter’s fear and know of our own, so deeply entrenched. It doesn’t matter. We will, at times, forget, fall asleep, deny Jesus and run away fearfully, forgetting the joy. But always, always he will be there to meet us with his arms gently open, his eyes filled with love.

“Peace!” he says, greeting us with the understanding of someone who truly knows us and our faults – and loves us anyway. “Don’t be afraid.”

This, then is the most precious gift of the resurrection.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in."

“And he departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.” -- St. Augustine

Scripture Text: (COL 3:1-4)
Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
At this time of the year the barren soil now receives seeds which, though now hidden, will become robust crops in a few short months.

St. Paul reminds us on this Easter Sunday that “our life is hidden with Christ in God.”  Because of the gift of baptism, there is new life germinating within us, pointing us toward the future when we too “will appear with him in glory.”  So sure is this future harvest that St. Paul urges us to “think and to “seek” what is above, to orient our sight there.

The farmer tending the seed with great care does so because he knows the outcome, the harvest.  Even so, St. Paul, knowing that we live amid the incompleteness of our life’s journey, encourages us to contemplate what is to come. All this is not to distract us from life in the present, but to make sure that life has its proper focus and goal.

I once saw an inscription over the doorway of a Catholic Elementary School which read:  The hope of the harvest is in the seed.  On this day of Resurrection, do I believe that the seed of future glory lies within me?  How will I tend and care for the seed of faith which I have been given?  How will I cherish the presence of Christ Jesus alive within me today?   

Saturday, April 19, 2014

You can nail Truth to a cross, wrap it in winding sheets and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!

Lord, show us that love is stronger than hatred, that love is stronger than death. Descend into the darkness and the abyss of our modern age, and take by the hand those who await you. Bring them to the light! - Benedict XVI, Easter Vigil 2007

Scripture Text: (Zephaniah 3:14-20)
Shout for joy, daughter Zion!
sing joyfully, Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
daughter Jerusalem!

The LORD has removed the judgment against you,
he has turned away your enemies;
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.

On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, Zion,
do not be discouraged!

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior,
Who will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
Who will sing joyfully because of you,

as on festival days.
I will remove disaster from among you,
so that no one may recount your disgrace.

At that time I will deal
with all who oppress you;
I will save the lame,
and assemble the outcasts;
I will give them praise and renown
in every land where they were shamed.

At that time I will bring you home,
and at that time I will gather you;
For I will give you renown and praise,
among all the peoples of the earth,
When I bring about your restoration
before your very eyes, says the LORD.

I picked up a newspaper and skimmed the headlines today: a killer convicted and sentenced to death row in the United States, strikes and blockades in the Ukraine, unrest in the Middle East, the list can go on.  Deep suffering and death beg for an explanation.  Resurrection does not come easily to these situations.  The darkness of the tomb and emptiness can even hold sway within our own hearts.  

Yet things are not always as they appear.  This Vigil of Easter comes to awaken us to the reality that what we see in the headlines is not all there is.  And there is more than what we experience in the emptiness of our own hearts!  Our world and our lives are about to be turned upside down.  In the darkness there is light.  Truly, death and suffering will not have the final word!   

On this Vigil of Easter we gather as the people of God, and we recall our ancestral stories  in which the shedding of blood is a source of liberation, and life arises in the midst of death.  Our Scripture passages read like a well-known epoch that is born of experience of and trust in our God.  As we stand before the tomb, we can be confident that the real story underneath the headlines continues.  Today be still.  Wait on the threshold where death will give rise to new life.