Jesus opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.

Jesus continues to teach Nicodemus and with these words, “No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man” (Jn 3:13), Jesus expresses the truth about who he is, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. From all eternity and for all eternity the Son is begotten not made. The Son has always existed with the Father and at the appropriate time, the Father called and sent his Son to be one with us so that we can become one with him.
We have been loved into existence by the outpouring of the love between God the Father, God the Son and the Love that is shared between them, God the Holy Spirit. This Son, the second person of the Trinity is the one who entered into our humanity. He came to invite us back to himself, to show us where we have strayed, so that we may correct the course of our journey back to who we have been created to be. We have been created to be in communion with God and one another.
Jesus, the Son of God became incarnate, took on flesh, and entered into our human condition that we would be deified, transformed into the very life of God by our participation in the life of Christ. This is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that we are to be born from above because through our baptism we are born again as sons and daughters of God the Father. The one who has come down from heaven has, as St Irenaeus wrote, “opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.”
Our life is about being willing to be loved into existence and to love in return. Our life is a gift given to us by God such that we can receive his love and share it with others. During these present uncertain times, we are given an opportunity to be more aware of what is important to us. It is in times like these that we are given a chance to appreciate and grow closer to our family and friends, as well as begin to be more aware of those who are in dire need.
The gift of all life is precious. We need to resist taking this precious gift for granted, and love others today in our own special and unique way, as Jesus has loved us from the beginning, more than we can ever imagine and more than we can ever mess up! Just as the sun shines on the good and bad alike, so God loves each one of us with a love that is beyond our understanding.

Photo: An evening walk from last year.
Link for the Mass readings for today, Tuesday, April 13, 2021

“You must be born from above.”

In today’s reading from the Gospel of John, we are presented with Nicodemus “a teacher of Israel” struggling to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “You must be born from above.” Jesus attempted to clarify for Nicodemus with an analogy of the wind, yet this still did not help. Jesus went on to explain how much of a problem it was if Nicodemus and the leaders of Israel did not understand things that are concrete and plainly in view: “If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
Thinking at that point that Jesus would soften his message he instead deepened his discussion, talking about how no one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, that the same Son of Man would be lifted up as Moses lifted up a snake in the desert, and God sent his only Son so that all might have eternal life. If Nicodemus’ head wasn’t already spinning with Jesus’ born from above statement, the follow-up statements would have really done it.
What Jesus conveyed to Nicodemus, his Apostles, and disciples, as well as anyone in earshot, and ongoing for generations up to us this present day is that Christianity is not Gnosticism, some secret sect of knowledge that is passed on for a select, elite few. Neither is Christianity a form of dualism or Manicheism such that our body and all that is material are bad and we need to shed the physical as soon as possible to attain the fullness of our potential through the absolute embrace of the spiritual only. Nor is Christianity Pelagianism, where we just need the proper discipline, will power, and persistence to follow the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus offers us a universal invitation for all to “be born from above”, which means to be baptized in his name, to follow him into his death, to die not to our our false sense of self, to our sin, our pride, that attitude and disposition that strives to set apart, diminish, devalue, dehumanize, divide, and polarize, and to rise with him. In being born from above, we receive the offer of divinity and so, instead of rejecting our humanity, embrace the fullness of our humanity. The grace of God builds on our nature, the goodness of the creation he has made and formed into existence with his love. We accomplish this the same way Mary, the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and Nicodemus did. We answer the call to holiness and sanctity. We say yes to Jesus and give him all we are and recognize all that we have is a gift from God the Father.
Day by day we need to be willing to be lead by the hand of Jesus, the firstborn of the new creation and participate with him by offering our hand to others. May we resist the temptation to put up barriers, to keep others at arm’s length. We are all, every one of us, invited to become saints through our participation in the life of Jesus.
I agree with Pope Francis who in his exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), that we cannot “claim to say where God is not, because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there. If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life.”
God is present in each of our lives. May we embrace the gift of our baptism, so to understand what Jesus was teaching Nicodemus, that we have been born from above. Through our dying and rising in Christ, we have better access and a share in the breath and life of the Holy Spirit. In this way, we are transformed and made new by the Holy Spirit, the very Love of God. This is a gift to be shared so that we all may draw deeply from this spring of living water.
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Painting: Nicodemus talking to Jesus, William Brassey Hole
Link for the Pope Francis article on “Rejoice and Be Glad”
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, April 12, 2021

 

“Peace be with you.”

The disciples locked themselves in a room fearing further persecution from the Jewish leadership. Jesus was crucified and as their followers, they believed that they would be next. They were also ashamed of having turned away from Jesus during his time of dire need. Amidst this heavy weight of fear, despair, and shame, Jesus “came and stood in their midst”. Their reaction of amazement and fear of Jesus’ judgment could only just begin to form in their minds because as Jesus came and stood in their midst he said to them, “Peace be with you.”
Jesus forgave them for their betrayal. He did not rub their nose in their shame or say that he had told them so. Jesus came among them and immediately bestowed upon them his mercy. He then commissioned them to be his Apostles as he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” As Jesus is the Son of God, he has the power to forgive, and he is now sending his Apostles to be bearers of his forgiveness and mercy as he works through them.
Thomas, though not present on this first encounter, is present the following week and seeing the marks on Jesus’ hands and his side, he too believed, saying, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas too, even though initially doubting the resurrection of Jesus, became an agent of mercy and reconciliation.
Today, we still have access to the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness instituted by Jesus as is recorded in today’s Gospel of John. This is a gift of healing made available to each of us, like the Eucharist, so that we may continue to experience Jesus, our Lord, and our God, working in our life. When we come to the priest, we are coming to those, who in an unbroken apostolic succession, have continued to be bearers of Jesus’ forgiveness and mercy. It is to Jesus, through our priests, that we confess, and that we hear the words of and receive absolution.
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, may we spend some quiet time with today’s Gospel and imagine ourselves in the locked room with the disciples. Experience Jesus appearing in our midst as he says, “Peace be with you!” Allow the radiating light of his mercy and forgiveness to wash over and through our whole being. Let us call to mind those sins that have kept us bound, visualize them as words floating up and out of us and dissipating into the radiance of the white and red rays emanating from the merciful heart of Jesus. May we allow ourselves to be transformed by the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Having been reconciled and healed, Jesus sends us out to practice mercy and forgiveness with others. May we react less and breathe deeply more. Instead of adding fuel to the fire of negativity, let us seek to be an advocate for healing and reconciliation. May we also take some time today to think of someone who could benefit from the presence of Jesus through our being present to them, someone who may need “to hear God’s good news of forgiveness and love” (Francis, 25). We may not able to absolve someone of their sin, but we can forgive, make an effort to reach out to others in prayer and in person, and allow the love and mercy of Jesus to flow through us to those in our midst. Alleluia!
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Close up of painting by Robert Skemp. “Have mercy on us and on the whole world.”
McCann, Deborah. 30 Days of Reflections and Prayers: What Pope Francis Says About Mercy. New London, CT: Twenty-Third Publications, 2015.
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, April 11, 2021

“Proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark, 16:9-16, is commonly called, “The Longer Ending.” Most ancient manuscripts of Mark end at 16:8. Whether this Gospel ended there or the original ending was lost is not definitively known. Many biblical scholars also recognize in these verses a different writing style, so attribute this longer ending to a different author. This ending recounts that Mary Magdalene and two disciples, presumably the same on the road to Emmaus, met the risen Jesus. When both Mary and the two disciples share their experiences with the eleven, they are not believed, and “later, as the eleven were at table, he [Jesus] appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart”
How many times had Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for being hard of heart? Now he is saying the same to the eleven for not believing the accounts of Mary and the two disciples. We do not have a reason for their unbelief and maybe that is well and good because that gives us the opportunity to ponder for ourselves when has someone brought us a message from Jesus and we responded to them with hard hearts and were unbelieving? Are there certain people we would not believe no matter what good news they had to share with us? Maybe someone is bringing us a message from a different or no faith tradition…
Jesus does not belabor the point. His rebuke helped them to see that as his followers their hearts needed to be open to him working through others, as he told John when someone was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, “whoever is not against us is for us” (cf. Mk 9:40).
Christianity is not a secret sect, it is a universal call and proclamation to be shared with all. We are celebrating this Easter Octave, and we continue to do so each year. We celebrate the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, that the Son of God became incarnate, entered into our human condition, lived, suffered, and died, conquered death, and rose again, for all of humanity and creation.
This was no mere resuscitation. Jesus conquered death and became the firstborn of the new creation and invites us to participate in his reign of the kingdom of heaven. This is the Good News he wanted his eleven to proclaim when he said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
Jesus is calling us to do the same, as brothers and sisters, working in solidarity, not for a select few in our pew, but for all in our realm of influence. We are to build relationships by bringing the light, joy, and love of Jesus to each individual that we meet, person to person. Let us also be open to God working through others and receive his message from them as well! Alleluia!!!
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Photo: My first seniors at CN, the class of 2104!
Link for the Mass readings for Saturday, April 10, 2021

We grow and are transformed when we are willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

There are a handful of incidents in today’s Gospel reading from John that refer back to encounters Jesus had with his Apostles before his death and resurrection. Jesus waits on the shore as seven of his disciples; Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two others, return from a night of fishing. This is reminiscent of when Jesus first came to Andrew and Simon, James and John as they were casting and mending nets and he invited them to follow him.
The disciples are on their way back to shore with their nets empty, and Jesus suggests that they cast their net over the right side and they quickly find that they “were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.” Peter had this experience in one of his first encounters with Jesus when he had been fishing all night and Jesus encouraged him to put out into the deep water, and that time they were able to fill two boats with fish.
After their great catch “of one hundred fifty-three large fish,” John told Peter that the Lord was the one who had instructed them. Just as when Jesus approached his disciples that night walking on the stormy waters, Peter jumped out of the boat and walked on water until he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. Peter again “jumped into the sea.” When Peter and the disciples came to shore “they saw a charcoal fire.” The most recent event with another charcoal fire was outside the gate where Jesus was led for his judgment. To keep warm Peter joined the servants and slaves huddled around a charcoal fire. It was at that charcoal fire that Peter denied Jesus. The final scene in today’s account was when Jesus offered cooked fish and bread to his disciples, this is reminiscent of Jesus feeding the five thousand with two loaves and a few fish.
Throughout our lives, we will have encounters with people and experience incidents that we have experienced before. We may not have been as present as we have wanted to be when attempting to comfort someone, we may have given in to temptation we regretted, or we may have been involved in some task and made a mistake, just as Peter had denied Jesus three times at that charcoal fire. Peter wept when he heard the cock crow. The sound brought back Jesus’ prediction, brought to light Peter’s own denial and cowardice. How many times must he have berated himself, as we have done when we have sinned, fallen short of our goals, or made mistakes?
Making mistakes and taking risks, are necessary for learning and growing in any endeavor in life. Jesus does not want us to beat ourselves up when we fall short or fail. What is required for maturation is an honest assessment of the situation, an acknowledgment of our mistakes and sins, and then a movement to correct and learn from them. Often we overcompensate in the beginning, but as we remain persistent we reach a healthy balance.
A concrete example of this was my first experience with bowling. The first time I walked on the lane, took aim, and released the ball, I threw it into the left gutter, and then the next throw went into the right gutter. Eventually, my adjustments were less drastic and eventually, I was able to strike more pins than hurl my ball into the gutter. The same is true for our everyday lives.
Jesus returns to be with his disciples after his resurrection, he meets them in very similar settings as he had before his death. All of his disciples failed him, yet Jesus did not condemn them. Jesus helped to show them how far they had come since he first called them, while at the same time helping them to see how far they still have to go to actualize their potential. Jesus is not only their teacher but the divine source of their own transformation.
Jesus guides and empowers us with his love and encouragement, to help us to move beyond our own self, so hopefully, we will be a little more present to someone the next time we are in a position to provide comfort or understanding, have greater resolve when tempted, and be able to identify our sins and mistakes as well as learn from them.
Jesus has risen, appeared to his disciples to guide, encourage, and empower them to be who God has called them to be. Jesus offers us the same teaching, guidance, and power shared from the wellspring of his humanity and divinity that we will be able to also access when we choose to accept the free gift of his grace and participate in his life. Our repentance and Jesus’ forgiveness go beyond helping us to become better people. Through the love of Jesus, our minds, hearts, and souls change, we are transfigured, and conformed to Jesus and his life of resurrection. This is good news to share not only in word but in deed. Alleluia!!!
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Photo credit: Roman Pohorecki from Pexels
Link for the Mass readings for Friday, April 9, 2021

Be on the alert for Godincidences!

Just as Jesus came among Cleopas and the other disciple on their road to Emmaus, Jesus does so again as the pair was recounting their encounter with the risen Jesus. What Jesus does differently in this interaction is that he clarifies that he is not a ghost, that he is not a mere spirit. Jesus said to those gathered around him, “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” (Lk 24:39). He then requested some fish and he ate and talked with his disciples as he had done during their time together before his crucifixion and resurrection.
We have heard about the resurrection of Jesus, maybe for years, but it is important not to get complacent with the amazing miracle that this is. Also, we need to resist the temptation to diminish in any way the significance of the transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus was and continues to be a hypostatic union, meaning that he is one divine person, fully divine, subsisting in two natures, the human and divine.
The humanity of Jesus through his resurrection was fully actualized and transcended the limitations of the three-dimensional realm that he had experienced in his humanity before. This is how he could disappear after making himself known in the breaking of the bread and how he will come through a locked door to interact with his disciples.
The relevance of the bodily resurrection of Jesus for us is that he, in dying and conquering death, is now the reality of who we will one day be. We will be fully actualized as God has created us to be. The good news is that we do not have to wait to go to heaven for this process to begin! The path of becoming fulfilled and whole begins in this life, now, as we accept Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and Redeemer. Jesus in his encounter with his disciples from today’s reading from Luke continues the message he began at the beginning of his ministry, which is one of repentance and forgiveness.
When we were baptized we were born again as an integral part of the new creation given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Through this grace, our humanity has been redeemed. Each day we are to live in humility, calling to mind our sins and repenting daily. As we do so, Jesus will forgive us, and as we receive his mercy and forgiveness we will not only be more and more conformed to him, we are to offer the same to others. Jesus suffered and died for each and every one of us, and he also seeks to live through us. Jesus is the foundation and source of our life and salvation. Jesus has come to show us that we are not in competition with God, but that his Father, our Father, seeks to be in solidarity with us.
There have been times when I have felt pretty wiped out physically. During this recovery from pneumonia, feeling tired has seemed to be a constant and steady companion. Even so, I find rest and renewal in God’s word through praying the liturgy of the hours, reading the daily Mass readings or just meditating silently. A few days ago while meditating, I felt a little jolt of energy that brought with it an experience of joy.
Another time last year, I sat looking out of the window while praying and there was a line of gray and white billowing clouds. As I made the sign of the cross and said, “God come to my assistance,” the light of the sun broke through. The light washed over me and I felt the warmth fall upon my face. This was not Jesus walking through the locked door as he did with the Apostles, but it was certainly a welcomed loving embrace from him. As Pope Francis has said, Jesus cares more for us than anyone else.
There are other examples I can share like these that some may just pass off as mere coincidences. I believe they are Godincidences. Moments where God is saying hello and letting us know that he walks with us and that we are not alone. Even in the midst of our trials and tribulations, when weary and worn, we can experience joy! Sometimes we just need to take a moment to open our eyes to see and our hears to hear. Alleluia!!!
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Photo: God can speak to us in many ways.
Link for the Mass reading for Thursday, April 8, 2021

“Were not our hearts burning within us.”

Our Gospel reading for today begins with a feeling of despair. The hope of Jesus being the Messiah, the promised one who came to redeem and deliver his people Israel died a brutal death. Even though Jesus sought to prepare his followers for this reality, they could not conceive or believe that the promised Messiah could die.
Cleopas and his companion are in mourning as they walk along the road to Emmaus. They have left Jerusalem and are commiserating among themselves about how their dashed hopes. They were so sure that Jesus was who he said he was, now what were they to do? Jesus met them where they were and wove his way into the conversation and their journey.
When the time for them to part arrived, Jesus motioned to them that he was going to continue on. The pair of disciples urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over” (Lk 24:29). Jesus did just that and he revealed himself to them “in the breaking of the bread”(Lk 24:35).
The account of the road to Emmaus has significant relevance for our own spiritual journey. How many times have we had an inaccurate understanding of Jesus in such a way that we felt let down? Have we domesticated Jesus, or limited who he is, seeing only one aspect of his totality, attempted to shape or conform him into our image and likeness? Have we prayed for something and then that petition or intention was not fulfilled in the way we had hoped? Have we sought Jesus and felt that he wasn’t there for us in our time of struggle or during those times that we felt that we needed guidance?
We need to remember that Jesus is the Son of God and we are not. He meets us as we are, accepts us as we are, walks with us even when we are walking in the wrong direction, but he also calls us to be more, to actualize the fullness of our potential according to the plan of his Father. That means stretching us beyond our comfort zones, urging us to let go of our safety nets and training wheels. Jesus invites us to nothing less than being transfigured by entering into the participation of Trinitarian Love. This begins when we resist withdrawing into and curving in upon ourselves, and instead are willing to be loved and to be expanded outward beyond ourselves to love in return.
A good practice this Easter season will be to spend time meditating on the wonderful daily readings of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels, so as to allow Jesus to set our hearts aflame, like Cleopas and his companion. As this pair returned to the community of Jerusalem, let us gather together each Lord’s Day, in person or whatever technological means we can access if we are not able to attend in person, to hear his word proclaimed until we all can return again to experience him revealed in the breaking of the bread in our worship together in the celebration of the Mass.
As we put into practice what we hear and receive, we too will begin to: see Jesus more active in the midst of our everyday activities, recognize him in our daily events and even the interruptions that arise, be more inspired to share the sacrificial love we have received from Jesus with those in our realm of influence, and come to realize that Jesus is among us, closer to us than we are to ourselves. We just need to invite him to walk with us on our journey, even when we are heading the wrong way, just like Cleopas and the other disciple did on the road to Emmaus. When we invite Jesus into our lives God will happen. Alleluia!!!
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Painting: Road to Emmaus, Robert Zünd
Link for the Mass reading for Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Like Mary Magdalene; we need to remain close to Jesus and share what we have received.

As we continue through the readings for Easter we will be given glimpses of encounters with the risen Jesus. This is good news for us, as the risen Jesus of the Gospels is the same Jesus who we have the opportunity to encounter each day.
In today’s Gospel, Mary does not return with Peter and John after having observed the empty tomb. Mary stayed by the side of the tomb and wept. Mary then peered into the tomb and witnessed two angels. As she turned back she saw who she believed to be the gardener. She questioned the man as to the whereabouts of Jesus. Mary sought a rational reason for where the dead body had gone. When the man did not immediately answer, she must have turned away again, because Jesus said to her, “Mary” (Jn 20:16)!
Upon hearing her name, Mary Magdalene recognized Jesus.
Peter and John left the empty tomb. We do not know why. Maybe they wanted to confirm to the other disciples that Mary was correct about the empty tomb? Mary could have gone back also, but something impelled her to stay. It could have been the sorrow that brought her to tears, it could have been her dedication and faithfulness to Jesus to find him, to anoint him as she had come to do that first early Easter morning, it could have been that she did not know what to do next, or there was a sense beyond her understanding that compelled her to stay. Shortly thereafter, Jesus came to her, she recognized him not at first, but when he called her by name. When she called him “Rabbouni”, Jesus asked her to, “Stop holding on to me”.
What was Mary holding on to? Though mistaking him for the gardener at first she came to recognize that he had indeed come back to life. But in calling Jesus Rabbouni, teacher or master, Mary was going back to the relationship she had with him before. Jesus was transfigured, he was different than he was before. Jesus actualized the perfection of his humanity, while still retaining the fullness of his divinity. Though his mission would not be complete until he returned back to the Father at his Ascension.
There was not only a newness to the appearance of the resurrected Jesus, but his relationship with his followers would also be transformed. He was not coming back to avenge those who betrayed him. Jesus charged Mary to return to convey the message he gave her to his “brothers”. He no longer was calling them his disciples but his brothers. As Jesus would return to the Father, he would unleash the power of that divine communion of love unto his new brothers and sisters who believed in him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are heirs to the same promise that Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles, shared with the Twelve. Jesus has become the firstborn of the new creation and through our baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we participate in his death and resurrection as well, so to share in Jesus’ life and love that he shares with his Father. We too are his brothers and sisters, we too are being configured and transformed into the Body of Christ, and we too are being perfected, divinized, such that our image and likeness to God are being restored. This is why we have cause for joy and celebration. This is why, like Mary, we are called to, “Go and announce the Good News of the Resurrection” in our everyday lives! Alleluia!!!

Painting: accessed online, but not able to find the artist’s name.
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Stolen body or Resurrection?!

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were bewildered from their encounter with the angel and the empty tomb. As they ran to get the news to the disciples, they were also dealing with mixed emotions, feeling both “fearful yet overjoyed,” (Mt 28:8) when in the midst of their travel they were greeted by Jesus. Jesus assured them and then sent them to, “tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me” (Mt 28:10). Off the pair went to share the message that Jesus had risen!
At the same time, some of the guards who witnessed the event at the tomb took a different way and headed into the city to meet with the chief priests. They relayed the incident about the earthquake and the angel appearing to them and the two women. After deliberating, the chief priests and the elders paid the guards a large sum to perpetuate the tale that his disciples took Jesus away.
Who would be believed, the two women or the guards? Apparently both! Mary Magdalene and the other Mary fulfilled their first apostolic role and passed on Jesus’ message to his disciples for them to meet him in Galilee. Galilee was where the public ministry of Jesus began. They would all go back to the beginning. The tale spread by the guards would also be believed, because by the time of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew, the community, to which he wrote, were aware that, “this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day” (Mt 28:15).
Did Jesus really rise again from the dead as the angel, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary claim or was this an elaborate plot by the disciples of Jesus to stage his resurrection, as the guards portrayed? How we answer these questions ought to make a difference in our lives. If we say yes, that we believe in Jesus and that he rose again, do we live our lives any differently than those who say they don’t believe?
We, who follow Jesus who rose again, are to be like the angel and each Mary. We are to be an Alleluia people, allowing the risen Christ to proclaim through us to those facing death – the promise of hope and life; to those living in the darkness of sin and addiction – the inviting light of a new direction; to those who are weak and indifferent – our presence and accompaniment. Each day, during this Easter Season, may we become less, so that the risen Jesus, who is our Way, our Truth, and our Life, becomes more.
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Photo credit: Il Ragazo from http://www.cathopic.com
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, April 5, 2021

Blessed and Happy Easter!!!

Mary of Magdala comes to the tomb during the wee hours of the morning while it is still dark and finds the stone rolled away. She runs to Peter and John to share with them the news, that: “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him” (Jn 20:2). Peter and John retrace the steps of Mary, running to find the tomb empty as well. All three are stunned because “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (Jn 20:9).
How can we blame them? Do we fully understand the reality and fact that Jesus has risen from the dead? There is conjecture today that Jesus did not really die, but woke up three days later, aching all over from the excruciating effects of the crucifixion. Others say that the accounts of the resurrection were mass hallucinations, or that the Gospel accounts of Jesus rising from the dead are a mere myth. These propositions do not stand up to the fact that Jesus, fully God and fully man died, entered death, and conquered it. In so doing he entered into a new life, a new reality. Jesus, in becoming the firstborn of the dead, was transfigured from our three-dimensional reality that we all know and experience, such that he now resonates at a higher pitch, in a higher dimensional reality. Jesus is the firstborn of a new creation!
All of human history changed in that tomb because of this new fact of the resurrection of Jesus. How this has happened is indeed a mystery, but in our seeking understanding, we will fall short and be frustrated if we only approach the mystery of God in the same way that we tackle a problem to be solved. The Apostles and disciples of Jesus struggled to find meaning and understanding about how Jesus crucified was now gone from the tomb. They came to understand the Mystery of the Resurrection, the same way that they would the mystery that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. This happened when they encountered Jesus again. The Mystery of the Resurrection is not a problem to be solved, but a person to encounter, a relationship to embrace, as it was for the Apostles and is so for each of us.
Faith seeking understanding is grounded in having an encounter with a person, Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Pope Francis writes: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (Francis, 9).
Easter Sunday is the day where this joy first truly became possible, and this joy is needed now more than ever. Because of the pandemic, many, like myself since I am still recovering from pneumonia, will not be present in person at Mass. We are not able to dip our fingers into the baptismal or holy water font or be sprinkled by holy water to renew our baptismal vows. Yet, because of this day that we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death we still have hope no matter what challenges we are experiencing.
Each day we are able to renew our commitment to open our hearts and minds to Jesus who is the Christ, who has truly risen – Alleluia, Alleluia!!!
We are an alleluia people, meaning that no matter what ails or troubles us, we are a people endowed with hope. We have not only been loved into existence, but we have also been loved into the promise of eternity, where suffering and death are no more! A promise I believe even more strongly on this Easter, as I celebrate my second one without JoAnn. I believe though that she is now celebrating along with Mary and the saints. She is now where we will one day be rejoicing because Jesus opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed, the death he conquered, and the resurrection we celebrate today! Alleluia!
May God bless each of you and fill you with his joy! Happy Easter!!!
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Photo: Together for the Easter Vigil 2014
Francis. Evangelii Gaudium, Joy of the Gospel, Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Frederick, MD: The Word Among Us Press, 2013.
Link for Mass readings for Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021