Tag Archives: Easter

Resurrection Preview: the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

jesus-raises-the-widow-of-nains-son-iconThere was a tradition at my grade school that, on the last day of school, students would visit the next grade up, in order to meet their teachers.

It was a preview of sorts. A mean teacher, a quiet teacher, a funny teacher: in just twenty minutes we would all get a taste of just what was in store for us after a glorious summer vacation

This Gospel – the story of the widow of Nain – is no different.

We cannot simply read this story as if it were a miracle, some type of good action: a fortuitous meeting in which Jesus, seeing a need, responds in the most extraordinary of ways. If we do, if we let this be a simply miracle, we create a God filled with caprice, a God who only intervenes in some places and for some people.

But, there is something much greater going on here: this story of resuscitation (because remember, the son would die again) is a preview of the truly momentous event in Jesus’ life, the resurrection.

It will only be two short years until another son of a widow is carried out from a city – this time Jerusalem, not from Nain. There won’t be a crowd, but there will be tears. No one will meet this widow – there won’t be mourners, nor a prophet available to great the broken and crucified body of her only son.

And yet, something will happen three days later: no one will tell his arise; no one, that is, other than the voice of his Heavenly Father who will bid him to rise.

This is, in fact, the challenge of this morning’s Gospel – to leave this place with the knowledge that Christ bids each one of us to rise – and to rise in a way more deeply felt that a simple chance encounter. Christ, indeed, does not meet us with a one-time fix. Those are only a preview to what is really coming.

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Why Holy Saturday Isn’t a Day of Sorrow

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By Brian Niemiec

One of my earliest memories of Holy Saturday was asking my father why Grandpop only ate bread and water on the Saturday before Easter.  I don’t even remember my dad’s response, but every year my Grandpop would eat only a little bread and water as he waited for Easter morning.  I used to think that his practice was a continuation of the fasting and repentance that the Church practices on Good Friday.  Yet this simple meal for a humble and loving man speaks less to fasting, and more to the true nature of Holy Saturday.

Each Gospel account to a greater or lesser extent portrays the Apostles in a less than flattering light. Throughout the ministry of Jesus we come to understand that at many times these twelve men were not the sharpest knives on the first century Palestine cutting block.  A particularly challenging concept for them was the Resurrection.  Jesus told them that the Son of God must be killed, and on the third day he will rise. He tried parables. He tried stories. He tried allegory. He tried the direct approach, and yet the Apostles were at a loss. 

Due to their lack of comprehension (and faith?), the Apostles fled in fear during and after the crucifixion. Even Peter, the rock of the future Church, denies Jesus and lurks in the shadows; not daring to get too close.  The first Holy Saturday was not a happy occasion. The followers of Jesus hid behind a locked door, and worried if they too would be sentenced to death.  It was only after Jesus’ resurrection, when he appeared in the midst of the disciples, did the true joy and meaning of the last few days make sense.  

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Links Worth Clicking: Holy Triduum Edition

By Katie Morroni

Here’s hoping this Lent has been a fruitful one — and that we may all find new meaning in both uniting with Christ’s suffering on Good Friday and sharing in the joy of His Resurrection on Easter.

Here are some links you may enjoy clicking as we head into the weekend:

1. Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska (and formerly of my parish here in Denver) led prisoners in Mass this week. His beautiful homily is here (“God is calling you men to be the saints of this prison.”) and the moving photos are not to be missed on his Facebook page.

2. Pope Francis’ reflection on Jesus’ final moments on the cross, at his general audience on April 1st:

“How beautiful it would be if all of us, at the end of our lives, with our mistakes, our sins, even with our good works and our love for our neighbor, can say to the Father as Jesus did, ‘It is finished.’ Not with the perfection (of Jesus) but saying, ‘Lord, I did everything that I could. It is finished,’” the pope said, speaking off the cuff.

3. …See also: The Way of the Cross, led by Pope Francis

4. Speaking of the pope, it’s a new month, which means the pope has new prayer intentions he’d like you to include when you pray. (Apostleship of Prayer)

5. …and speaking of the Way of the Cross, I’ve mentioned it here before, but now that I’ve started working through it myself, I have to recommend again the Pray As You Go take on the Stations of the Cross.

6. These nuns provide ‘death with dignity’ – but it’s not assisted suicide (Patheos)

7. The one thing you need to enter the mysteries of Holy Week (Word on Fire)

8. The Angelus at Work (America Magazine)

9. A beautiful take on 9 different kinds of silence — and worth a read as we enter into a time that benefits from a little silence and stillness (Brain Pickings)

10. An oldie but goodie: Harvard Business Review asks, “Why do we keep multitasking when it disrupts our concentration and saps our focus?” It’s an article written for business professionals, but worth considering for our prayer lives, too…

11. This reflection about Judas made me think. (Fr. James Martin)

12. Finally, just for fun… This is for those of us who wish we knew how to make something beautiful out of our palms after Palm Sunday:

Have a very happy, blessed Easter!

Jumping Out of the Boat

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I think that one of the best feelings to experience is the joy of seeing a good friend who you haven’t seen in a long time. When I was a senior in high school, an exchange student from Switzerland lived with my family for a year. Sera and I immediately became inseparable, and it was tough to say goodbye when she returned home at the end of the year. Two summers ago, I visited Sera in Switzerland, and when I got off the plane, we couldn’t contain our joy and excitement at being reunited after being apart for a year.

I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the disciples to be reunited with Jesus after thinking that he was gone forever. My favorite story in the Bible takes place after the Resurrection. The disciples are in the fishing boat, and they fish through the night, unable to catch anything. Just as dawn breaks, they see a figure onshore, who tells them to cast their net into the sea on the other side of the boat. They reluctantly do so, and when they pull it up, they find the net teeming with fish. My very favorite part of the story comes when Peter realizes that it’s Jesus onshore, and he is so filled with joy that he simply cannot wait for the boat to get to shore to see him—he jumps into the waves and swims toward Jesus.

Peter’s joy is so full and unbridled that he allows it to overcome him. His joy outweighs his concern about getting wet, or any worries that the waves might drown him, and he swims toward Jesus with the single-minded determinedness of one who will do whatever it takes to get to the one he loves. In a world so full of problems and suffering, we must allow ourselves to be overcome with a joy that overpowers any fear that stands in the way of us being with God.

Not everything God is calling us to do will be easy— we will have to to serve and sacrifice and deny ourselves. The sea will not always be smooth for us; there will be waves that threaten us. But we are driven forward by the joy of knowing that the one we love and who loves us is waiting on the shore for us, and he will not allow us to drown.

When we are like Peter, who will do whatever it takes to get to Jesus, the burdens we bear seem small in comparison with the happiness we feel knowing that we are heading straight into the arms of our Savior. Like Peter, we must have the courage to jump out of the boat. We all have our own boats, made up of the things that are familiar, easy, and comfortable for us. We are all sometimes reluctant to venture into the unknown; we often prefer to stay where we are comfortable. But what is waiting for us onshore is so much better! Peter had to leave the safety and familiarity of the boat in order to remove the space between him and Jesus. Likewise, we have to venture away from what is comfortable and be willing to face head on whatever challenges life has in store for us, propelled forward by the pure joy of knowing that God is there waiting for us with open arms.

I love to think about what it must have felt like, after a long, dark night of fishing and catching nothing, to see the sun finally rise, and to realize that one you thought was gone has come back for you. Just as we must not be afraid to allow ourselves to feel pain and sadness, we also must not be afraid to allow ourselves to feel pure happiness, because we are loved completely and unconditionally. Even when the night is dark and the waves are high and the water cold, we rejoice and jump out of our boat, because love is waiting for us onshore, and we will allow nothing to separate us from it.

The Most Jarring of All Facts: Resurrexit Sicut Dixit

1025- Anastasis Loukas, Phocis

 And he saw and believed.

People of God: see and believe!

We have seen the betrayal of Holy Thursday, known the despair of Good Friday, and felt the loneliness of the quiet tomb on Holy Saturday. During this past week, we remember the betrayal, despair and then eerie quiet that surrounded Marathon Monday in this city just a year ago.

But now, on this Easter Sunday, in this very place, we may see and believe that tomb is empty – empty not because someone has moved the body – but rather empty because the Lord is risen!

Easter Sunday doesn’t wipe away the death of Jesus: it doesn’t wipe away the pain and suffering that we have felt in our own lives either – it doesn’t bring back lives lost – but it does show us all that even in the darkest shadows of death, the light of Christ summons us back to a world that isn’t perfect, but still filled with the loving embrace of God’s love. This love is found in the care of our family, friends, neighbors, and please God, our Church too.

Easter – the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God – transforms Jesus’ existence. He lives, no more to die. And so too it is with us: Easter doesn’t guarantee us happiness; but it does promise us salvation.

The Good News of Easter is that the promise of salvation isn’t pushed off into some distant time: no, our salvation is the experience of God among us right now. It’s in the form of the Eucharist that we will share in just a few minutes; it’s in the form of forgiveness, compassion, and mercy. It’s in the form of each other – you and me – when we take others down off their crosses so that they can rise again.

The Easter event is not something that just happened once, as if it were simply dot on the map history. The reason we celebrate Easter is not because of one event in history: we gather here to celebrate Easter because the Spirit of the Risen Christ lives in each one of us in our hearts, minds, and our actions too. This Spirit resides in each one of us because someone, at some point in our lives, loved us enough to bring us to be baptized, so that we might become part of the Body of Christ.

As the sun rises this morning, we recall that there are days in our lives that are filled with the light of life, and yet, at the same time, there are days filled with darkness. Our lives are lived between light and darkness: sometimes it is our own fault, sometimes we’re innocent by-standers, and still other times we don’t even know what has happened – we’re just left to pick up the pieces of our lives.

But – Easter stands out as God’s great yes to all of us – to all humanity. The sun fades each day, but the light of Christ does not: the light of the Son – the Son of God – shines on each of us precisely because Jesus, God’s Son, has risen from the dead.

Today, by coming here, we have taken the same journey of Mary Magdalene: hoping against hope that the events of Good Friday could be reversed. We have taken the same journey as Peter, running toward the tomb, not daring to hope that God could be as good as to raise Jesus from the dead.

Brothers and sisters: the question asked of us today now that we are here in the same place as Mary and Peter is what are we to do? What are the things that we’ve buried in the tombs: is it shame, anger, grudges, lack of mercy, or refusing compassion? What are those things that we have sitting in the tombs of our lives, perhaps out of sight, but not out of mind, thinking that they aren’t weighing us down? We all have them: maybe we cannot bring ourselves to say I’m sorry; or perhaps we cannot say, “I forgive you.” Maybe we’ve let our relationship with a friend, a sibling or a spouse go cold – perhaps even we’ve lost touch with God.

Whatever these tombs are located – the forgotten slights or the old wounds — today we remember that Mary and Simon Peter and all of us too – still go running to the tomb to find the most jarring of all facts: the tomb is empty, death has been defeated, the Lord lives no more to die: Christ is risen, Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

Patristic Voices: Hieratikon – The Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

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By: Thomas Palanza, Jr.

Have you ever thought that God wasn’t all that fair?  You probably have, but if not then you probably should.  The psalms certainly do (see psalm 10).  Fair is not, however, an appropriate word to ascribe to God.  Fair means “agreeing to what is thought to be right or acceptable” (Merriam-Webster).  Since God – in his very being/essence/nature – is goodness, beauty, and truth then he does not agree to what is thought to be right, he simply is what is right.  So when we find a situation where God doesn’t seem to be fair, perhaps we should ask ourselves if this is simply because we don’t see what is really right.

This “unfairness” of God takes two obvious forms: we either think he is being too generous or too harsh; sometimes both at the same time (see Mark 4:25).  Easter is one of those moments of unfairness.   We might not think this at first, but let’s take a look at St. John Chrysostom’s Easter homily and see if we can begin to see Easter as a time of “unfairness.”

1

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

2

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.

If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.

If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.

If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.

If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

3

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first;

He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.

He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first;

To the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.

He both honors the work and praises the intention.

4

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.

O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy!

O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day!

You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today!

The table is rich-laden: feast royally, all of you!

The calf is fatted: let no one go forth hungry!

5

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.

Let no one lament their poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.

Let no one mourn their transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.

6

He that was taken by death has annihilated it!

He descended into Hades and took Hades captive!

He embittered it when it tasted His flesh!

And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed:

“Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.”

7

It was embittered, for it was abolished!

It was embittered, for it was mocked!

It was embittered, for it was purged!

It was embittered, for it was despoiled!

It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!

8

It took a body and came upon God!

It took earth and encountered Heaven!

It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!

9

O death, where is thy sting?

O Hades, where is thy victory?

10

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!

Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!

Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!

Christ is risen, and life reigns!

Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!

For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.

11

To Him be glory and might unto the ages of ages.

Amen.

Indeed, John portrays a very “unfair” God.  A god who is much, much, much too generous for our human palates.  John Chrysostom was not an easy going person.  He was continually at odds with the wealthy and powerful and was exiled twice mainly due to his uncompromising uprightness.  Yet here, we see him inviting to the great Easter Vigil not just those who have done well observing the practices of the Church, those who have given alms, who have fasted, and who have been steeped in constant prayer.  No, here we see John inviting – even more emphatically – begging people to come to the Easter Vigil to celebrate.  We can see this most clearly in paragraphs 3 and 4.  John alludes to the parables of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24), and the Workers in the Vinyard (Matthew 20:1-16), all of which portray a God who is unfair – unfair because he is far too generous!

What does this mean for us?  First, we must ask ourselves, what kind of Christian am I?  Am I the kind that believes they are worthy of going to Church and celebrating the Great Feast?  Am I the kind that sees all of the “Easter Lilly Christians” and judges them as less worthy than myself to participate at the Lord’s Table?  If we identify with this kind of Christian, then John’s message to us is clear – “The Master is gracious and receives the last EVEN AS the first!”  Or am I the kind of Christian that does not think they should be at Church this Easter?  Am I the kind of Christian who is afraid of the judgment of other Christians?  Am I the kind of Christian that is longing to meet God, but afraid to do so at the same time?  If we identify with this kind of Christian, then John’s message is equally clear – “Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward!

To all kinds of Christians, John is telling us to joy in the glory, the goodness, the grace of God!  What matters is that you come to the feast ready to be joyful – for the only thing that can ruin the feast is if you do not participate in it joyfully!  Everything else that you are, that you have done, none of that matters on this night.  One thing alone matters, that you answer the Master’s call joyfully, honestly, lovingly.  If you come to the Easter celebration in love with God then you come to the Easter celebration doing all that God asks you to do.

On Light Shows and the Light of Christ: A Reflection for the Easter Vigil

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I think most people would agree that Disney World has nothing significant to contribute to the spiritual life, and if it does, that something is certainly not in any proportion to the astounding cost one pays to walk its suspiciously happy streets.  Having visited there recently with some dear friends, however, I am less inclined to poopoo the spiritual possibility nestled therein.

As far as my people-watching skills could tell, there were really two sorts of people present during my visit.  The first was far more common:  they were the folks that–well aware of  how much they paid for their families–were at Disney World to be entertained.  They paid for a product and demanded a very damn good one in return.  I do not blame these people in the slightest, and suspect very many of them go home frustrated.

The second sort of person seeks less entertainment than they do an imaginative experience for themselves and their families.  They go to Disney (paying just as much money, I should add) seeking entry into a world that is otherwise – one where perhaps magic, princes, princess, and evil sorcerers may exist.  Especially during the Magic Kingdom’s nightly light show, this sort of person, the one who desires to be elsewhere, can actually achieve their goal of feeling like they are in a different world.   In a mind-blowing use of high-tech projection, Disney’s master artists bring Cinderella’s Castle to life, making it seem like its bricks were falling from the sky, changing colors, and being rebuilt to the heavens.  It was not only stunning, but also almost made a believer out of me.  Their use of light was playing on deeper, more magical sensibilities deep within me.

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