Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014
The readings that we are presented with today give us as close to a history as we are going to get in the New Testament. Coming a week after Easter, these readings let us know the events that happened immediately after the Resurrection event.
The Apostles were afraid. It had been a traumatic week for them, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem when things looked rosy, with the Passover meal which bonded them. But after Judas’ betrayal things went sour. It had climaxed in the death of the person they believed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who would save the people from what? the Romans? poverty and submission? Jesus had often been clear in his mission but that clarity was sometimes submerged in the wishes and expectations of his listeners.
Now, after his death comes word of his being alive again. How confusing things must have been for the Apostles! How afraid were they for their own lives for following and being associated with this Jesus! They had left everything for this man – what would they do now? How could he be alive? Yet people reported he had been seen. His tomb was apparently empty. Would they be blamed for that as well? All of this seems to be implied in the simple phrase from the Gospel today: “the doors…were locked for fear of the Jews.” Fear of what their own people might do to them.
We notice that the door was locked and yet Jesus “came and stood among them”. This is rather mysterious in itself since the doors had been locked. How did Jesus get in? In this first encounter with his followers, Jesus greets them the way Jews greet other Jews: Shalom aleikhem! “Peace be with you.” By itself, this was just a standard Jesus greeting like “Hello” might be for us. But Jesus makes it more than that because he repeats it. He is trying to calm their fears by offering peace to them.
Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as he did before the resurrection. You would think the apostles, having lived so close to Jesus for three years would have recognized him, but Jesus felt he had to show them the wounds he endured – the nail holes in his hands and the cut in his side where he was stabbed. Only then did the Apostles really believe it was him and they rejoiced.
Now we know that pentecost was yet to come when the Holy Spirit would descend upon the Apostles, but John today has Jesus breathing on them and giving them a mandate. Perhaps this was more a foreshadowing of what was to come, the breath being a symbol of a new creation, just as God breathed life into Adam. After they receive the Spirit, they will be able, as he did, to forgive sin – the Spirit of God working through them.
Then the story jumps eight days – actually only seven the way our calendars work, but the Jewish way of counting from Sunday to Sunday would count eight days – when the same situation presents itself. They continued to stay locked up in the room even though Jesus had come to them. They had not yet received the Spirit. During that week, Thomas, who had not been present on the first visitation couldn’t believe what they all told him, just as many people today can’t accept the testimony of the Apostles. Thomas wanted to see and judge for himself. So this time when Jesus comes, he seemed to know what Tomas had said, and he reaches out directly to Thomas’s doubts and asks Thomas to examine his wounds, which Thomas does. Having seen this for himself first hand, Thomas now believes, and his expression “My Lord and my God” is the first direct reference in the Gospel accounts of Jesus being identified as God. This is a very important step because the whole basis of the Hebrew religion was the premise that there was one God, and to change that concept was a heresy of the highest degree. But Thomas now equates Jesus with God. Jesus does not comment on this statement but only notes that those who come to believe without the “seeing being believing”, are more blessed.
John’s Gospel is almost at an end. He says that no Gospel could contain everything that Jesus said or did, but that he has chosen those things that might help us doubting Thomases to come to a belief in Jesus and to receive the life that he brings. This is perhaps why we have four Gospels that don’t always agree on everything. Based on oral traditions spread different parts of the Eastern world, the writers chose things that would help them to achieve what they wanted to do and wanted to show in the life of Jesus. How they put it together, the facts they chose, the myths they kept, the parables they used, all suited the theological reasons they wrote – to build the faith of those who already believed and to help the unbelief of those who didn’t.
The opening reading today from the Acts of the Apostles showed the life of the early Jewish Christian communities. Note that what was happening had two components – teaching and fellowship celebration. The breaking of bread probably does not refer to mass as we know it, but to a common celebratory meal that begins with the traditional prayer over the bread, which Jesus had elevated to something else at the Last Supper, making his presence at these celebrations real. They would come together for fellowship and prayer. I think that is the reason that I like the approach we take at this parish where the greetings and the after Mass groupings tend to stress the fellowship part of our community. In a small parish we can do that so easily because we all get to know each other so well and there are opportunities for all of us to be known. The celebration we had on Holy Thursday would be more typical of the early church meetings.
We also might get the idea that the early church was rather communistic, or if that is a bad word – commune-like. It probably wasn’t. Because the church was growing and there were more and more people coming from out of town, they had to find ways to care for these people, and through their charity they did this by sharing their food and clothing, their homes even. It wasn’t so much a common pot, but a charity that extended to all the others, especially those in need.
They still were Jews – they still went to the synagogues and temples on Saturdays but on Saturday evenings they had their services in various homes. Since the Jewish day started at dusk, these were considered Sunday or first-day-of-the-week meetings. That is why we can have Sunday Mass on Saturday evenings in Catholic churches today.
When First Peter, our second reading today, was written, there were probably few people around who had actually met, and listened to Jesus. Peter probably did not write this letter though it is ascribed to him, but it was written in Rome during early Christian persecutions by someone highly educated in Greek. It is concerned with the concept of suffering because the early church in Rome was being persecuted and Christians had become fearful. Peter says that all good things have to go through fire to be tested, and uses the image of testing gold which was put through furnaces to separate the impure elements from it. It is a good image for Peter too use because it is one of the most precious of metals, and when purified is very expensive and precious. Christians too have to go through testing to rid themselves of impurities. The end result will be something precious to God, and through his resurrection we become that pure gold – “imperishable, undefiled and unfading.
The early church, as we see today, went through a process of fear, belief, celebration, fellowship, and finally testing. That is the progress of the history we read today. If it has any relevance to us today, I think it is that we must recapture the spirit of the early church. Our religion, our belief in Jesus as God, our belief in the Spirit as God, must lead to celebration and fellowship. And the daily things that we have to suffer and endure can be blessings which lead us to greater things. It is all in how we perceive them.
I will close with words of the Psalm today: I was falling, but the Lord helped me. [God] has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory.” We must always keep in mind the Jesus who rose from the dead and how he gave us new birth and celebrate that in everything we do. Being Christian doesn’t mean for an hour on Sunday. It has to become the integral part of our daily life, just as it was for the early church members.
Let us rejoice in this Good News and put it into practice as we go through our coming week! May God bless us all.
Bishop Ron Stephens, Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - Teaching the Church Year”]
Gospel reading of the day:
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Reflection on the gospel reading: I believe Jesus was bodily resurrected from dead, and it is this fact that makes of all material reality a poem and imbues it with lyrical meaning. The resurrection of Jesus shows that the material world is a sheer veneer that covers shimmering truths; it is a course veil spread over what is brightest and truest: those mysteries that abide beneath the surface of what we see, taste, touch, hear, and smell. The resurrection of Jesus testifies that the things in the world of the senses, the things that we can measure, are absolutely true still but not the most real reality. Jesus’ resurrection pierces the veil to reveal the freshest deep down things that lie out of sight just beneath the surface and makes us see that what is true is seemless, that the surface things of daily life and the deep down things of mystical experience are really and truly one and the same thing. The resurrection of Jesus teaches us that the promise of life is that just as we now see, taste, touch, hear, and smell to sense the surface, one day we will throw away every illusion and abide in what for now is the mystery beneath the surface.
Spiritual reading: Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord. You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today. The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet. The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry. (Easter Homily by John Crysostom)
Gospel reading of the day:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be handed over. Taking the body, Joseph wrapped it [in] clean linen and laid it in his new tomb that he had hewn in the rock. Then he rolled a huge stone across the entrance to the tomb and departed. But Mary Magdalene and the other Mary remained sitting there, facing the tomb.
The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that this impostor while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ Give orders, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.
Reflection on the gospel reading: Sometimes in the moments of our deepest grief shared with God, we sit, waiting and listening, only to encounter silence. There are no prophetic words, no visions, no angels–just silence. But silence does not mean absence; God is present, maybe not saying anything, but never more present. When Jesus was on the cross and experienced the deep sense of abandonment, the Father was never more present and the pathos of God was never more aroused. No one can relieve us fully of our pain–no one can truly understand it. But God meets us there–God is present in our silence. Holy Saturday doesn’t get much press. It is sort of wedged between the activities of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Perhaps we rush it and miss the poignancy of Holy Saturday, but it is really where most of us live our lives most of our days; it is comforting to know that the Creator of the universe, the all powerful God, also went through Holy Saturday, and when we go through ours, God is more than qualified to meet us there.
Spiritual reading: Easter, with its grace of interior resurrection, is the radical healing of the human condition. Lent, which prepares us for this grace, is about what needs to be healed. (The Mystery of Christ by Thomas Keating)
Gospel reading of the day:
Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons.
Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM,” they turned away and fell to the ground. So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.” Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”
So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.
Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm.
The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.
Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone,” in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” >So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”
When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.
So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be,” in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.
Reflection on the gospel reading: We have been preparing for this day for a long time, and it is God’s Spirit who has led us to Good Friday. This is the same Spirit who has always known where it was blowing, who led Jesus into the desert, and allowed Jesus to suffer from the start. After John baptized Jesus, and Jesus went to pray and fast for forty days, the Evil One tempted him and, as the gospel of Luke describes, even had a physical power over him, transporting him to a high mountain and then to the pinnacle of the Temple. Satan mocked Jesus for his pretensions to be the Son of God, and then left him, only to return at a more opportune time. As the antiphon for the Invitatory in morning prayer has reminded us throughout Lent, “Come let us worship Christ the Lord, who for our sake endured temptation and suffering.”
Those who follow Jesus also are tempted, abused, and insulted. On the evening of his betrayal, Jesus understood that his disciple Peter would be at Satan’s mercy, and he prayed that Peter receive the gift of faith and finally persevere so he could love and serve his brothers and sisters. Then the Wisdom and Word of God, the Author of Life, was also taunted and physically destroyed on the Cross. Through Jesus, God makes Godself vulnerable, marginalized, oppressed, dispossessed, chastened, broken.
If the Spirit is to make us like Jesus, we too will inevitably be led to one form or another of the Cross. This certainty cannot comfort us or lift us up, because the cross may humiliate us, or personally wreck us, or perhaps even cause scandal for something in which we implicated. The Spirit of God gives us power to overcome evil, but this empowerment does not guarantee that we shall walk through the gauntlet without being hit or injured in some way.
Yet we Christians live in the faith that the only response which God has given to the mystery of evil is the crucified Lord. Jesus’ crucifixion and death are the promise that evil does not triumph in the end, but to experience the transformation which the Paschal mystery promises, we will need to follow Jesus into the depths of hell.
Hemorrhaging from the concertina
crown, brass knuckles, scourging, cigarette burns,
lurching the last meter of Golgotha
where He must dangle three hours in urns
of japing ether, He drops His bloody tree.
Executioners rip His clothes away,
cut cards for His keepsake convict jersey.
He’s not uttered a word except to pray
for the spike drivers limbering their mauls
to fasten the scripture of agony.
He’s ready for the juice, the black hood, spalls
of sniper fire, the hangman’s ennui.
Naked upon the whorled slab he lay,
dreaming of the governor’s last-second stay.
(Joseph Bathanti, “Jesus is Stripped of His Garments”)
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the Lord’s supper, his last meal and the celebration of the feast of Passover where the Paschal lamb was slaughtered as a sacrifice before God. The Last Supper is intimately tied to the Lord’s institution of the Eucharist, when Jesus takes bread and wine, says the blessing, and shares them with his disciples saying, Take and eat, this is my body, this is my blood. All three of the synoptic gospels record this event, and Paul renders an account of it in his first letter to the Corinthians. But John’s gospel makes no mention of Eucharist at the Last Supper, and on the night we celebrate the Lord’s supper, the Church invites us not to reflect on the Paschal lamb or the institution of the Eucharist but instead on love and service for each other. For at the heart of Jesus’ role as the lamb of God given on the cross and in the breaking of the bread and the passing of the cup is the notion that we are not here for our own sakes so much as for each other: that it is losing ourselves, by picking up our crosses and sharing ourselves like Eucharist, that we realize the totality of the mystery of who we are.
Spiritual reading: In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. (Brennan Manning)
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The teacher says, My appointed time draws near; in your house I shall celebrate the Passover with my disciples.’” The disciples then did as Jesus had ordered, and prepared the Passover.
When it was evening, he reclined at table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another, “Surely it is not I, Lord?” He said in reply, “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.” Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.”
Reflection on the gospel reading: In day-to-day life, the people who have the easiest time saying hard things to us are the people who are closest to us. Familiarity causes us to let our guards down, and it is often easier to be polite to people who are strangers or passing acquaintances than it is to show love to the people whom we love. We often hold parts of ourselves in reserve, so even with the ones we love best, we maintain a certain distance and have our doubts. Jesus had many enemies, but none of them actually moved to lay a hand on Jesus until one of the 12, the people who were closest to the Lord, turned on him, and none of the 12 was sure enough of his own faithfulness to know it was not he who was to betray his friend.
Saint of the day: Famed visionary of Lourdes, baptized Mary Bernard. She was born in Lourdes, France, on January 7, 1844, the daughter of Francis and Louise Soubirous. Bernadette, a severe asthma sufferer, lived in abject poverty. On February 11, 1858, she was granted a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a cave on the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. She was placed in consider able jeopardy when she reported the vision, and crowds gathered when she had futher visits from the Virgin, from February 18 of that year through March 4.The civil authorities tried to frighten Bernadette into recanting her accounts, but she remained faithful to the vision. On February 25, a spring emerged from the cave and the waters were discovered to be of a miraculous nature, capable of healing the sick and lame. On March 25, Bernadette announced that the vision stated that she was the Immaculate Conception, and that a church should be erected on the site. Many authorities tried to shut down the spring and delay the construction of the chapel, but the influence and fame of the visions reached Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Napoleon Ill, and construction went forward. Crowds gathered, free of harassment from the anticlerical and antireligious officials. In 1866, Bernadette was sent to the Sisters of Notre Dame in Nevers. There she became a member of the community, and faced some rather harsh treatment from the mistress of novices. This oppression ended when it was discovered that she suffered from a painful, incurable illness. She died in Nevers on April 16,1879, still giving the same account of her visions. Lourdes became one of the major pilgrimage destinations in the world, and the spring has produced 27,000 gallons of water each week since emerging during Bernadette’s visions. She was not involved in the building of the shrine, as she remained hidden at Nevers. Bernadette was beatified in 1925 and canonized in 1933.
Spiritual reading: I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough to make every moment holy. (Rainer Maria Rilke)
This Easter night, to truly appreciate the Resurrection of Christ, we must remember the experience of Good Friday. In one way or another, all of us have experienced dying and death. The stark reality of it being so final, being cut off from someone we knew and loved, being left to go on and be alone so to speak. Jesus had been a man with disciples and had forged a new teaching and relationship with his followers. His teaching on love and the need for it and the love and care for one another all in a few days had seemed to be obliterated and led to his disciples fleeing and hiding themselves. They were truly at a loss for what to do and how to carry on. The swiftness, the brutality, the finality all had them huddled in fear. What they had seen and heard, they did not understand. They felt lost, abandoned, purposeless.
The news of the empty tomb was implausible. In their fear, they did not understand. Like all of us they were afraid of the worst. What was the impending new disaster? Was there more to fear? Were they in peril? Seeing the tomb they began to believe, but like we ourselves know, believing is like a seed that needs to see and hear and be assured. Gradually they came see and believe that Jesus was alive. What he was, what he taught was real. God truly was love and this spirit came on them and was present in a new and different way. His son had come and died and rose and now lives to carry on that message to all and extend his forgiveness if we have enough faith and love to ask for it. Few men and few entities enter history and are remembered for centuries. The constant presence of Christians from the time of Christ in itself shows the belief that his resurrection and spirit continued in the world. As he taught and instructed his message continues today. We see him and know him in our sacraments, most notably in the Eucharist, His very body and blood, poured out for us, yet given in a unique way that he can be a part of us and we of him.
Yes, this is the day the Lord has made. Easter is truly a new beginning for how the love of God was poured out to the whole world. True life is now measured in the love of God and how we carry out that love by loving as we are loved. It was and is a new beginning. Humanity unfortunately still needs to learn much to erase the evils of the world, but Easter and the resurrection gives hope that all the dark days and good Fridays of this world can be put aside and life restored in the way God intends. Working together the world could do so much. In some ways this has happened, yet selfishness and all the other foibles inflicting us, interfere with the message of Christ. Remember Christ said to go out to all the world, preach and baptize. The more we do, the more his gift of faith and love will come to this broken world of ours.