See also Stations of the Cross by young people at: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2018/documents/ns_lit_doc_20180330_via-crucis-meditazioni_en.html
See also Stations of the Cross by young people at: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2018/documents/ns_lit_doc_20180330_via-crucis-meditazioni_en.html
We call this week “Holy Week,” because it’s the week the church follows Jesus closely to his death and resurrection. Today we go with him into Jerusalem where people clapped their hands and shouted out his name and sang his praises; a few days afterwards they put him to death by crucifixion.
This is a week to ask “Who is this?” and “Why did this happen to him?” We ask these questions because they answer the great questions of life. “Who are we?” and “Why are we here?”
Jesus Christ came upon earth, not just to teach us but through his death to take away the death we all face, and through his resurrection to give us the promise of life, eternal life.
The first few days of Holy Week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the gospel readings follow Jesus as he prepares to die. He stays away from the temple area in Jerusalem where he spoke previously to mostly hostile listeners. In these first days of Holy Week he looks for the company of “his own,” his friends in Bethany and the disciples who have followed him up from Galilee.
On Thursday of Holy Week Jesus goes with his disciples into the city, to an upper room near the temple, and at that meal he offers himself to his Father as a new sacrifice for the life of the world.
On Good Friday he faces death on a cross in a drama that has never been equaled and has hardly been understood.
Holy Saturday is a day when the world is silent. Like the disciples of Jesus before us, we wait with the little faith and hope we have for the light that will come from the empty tomb.
Easter Sunday Jesus Christ rises from the dead.
This week at Immaculate Conception Parish in Melbourne Beach, Florida, I’m preaching a mission for the first three days of Holy Week. My reflections will be mostly from the Gospel of Mark, but they will include the other scriptures that speak of the mysteries of Holy Week.
On Monday, I’ll speak about the supper at Bethany and the Last Supper in Jerusalem.
On Tuesday I’ll speak about the Passion narrative of Mark from the arrest of Jesus in the Garden to his burial in the tomb.
On Wednesday, I’ll speak about his Resurrection from the dead as the scriptures describe it.
Just down the road from Immaculate Conception Parish here in Melbourne Beach is a small park on the beach commemorating the spot where the Spanish explorer and 1st Governor of Puerto Rico, Ponce de Leon (1475-1521) touched down in Florida in April 2, 1513. He came with three ships and over 200 crewmen, looking for gold and new land for Spain–not for the “Fountain of Youth” as later legend claimed.
He called the land “Florida” because it was the Easter season, in Spanish “Pascua florida,” “Easter of the flowers.”
There’s going to be a big celebration here next April, 2013, 500 years after his arrival.
Certainly, that day brought grief to the native peoples, many of whom suffered death and enslavement at the hands of the newcomers. The Spaniards who came were battle-hardened veterans of the recent triumphant campaign against the Moors and they used the tools of war to get their way.
So what’s to celebrate? Can we say this was in God’s plan that his kingdom come through Jesus Christ. The conquerors were Christians who came here, and like their Jewish predecessors who invaded Canaan from the Sinai desert centuries ago, they came by way of the sword. Unfortunately, we learn the teachings of Jesus slowly, “Put your sword into its place, for those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”
Religion, in spite of what many think, looks to the future more than the past. It’s about what is to come and how we can get there. Our nation is dedicated to Mary, under the title of her Immaculate Conception. She was free from the sin that marked her ancestors and ours. The dedication expressed a hope that this new land be unmarked by the old rivalries, ambitions and sins of the Old World.
That hope may still be unfulfilled, but it’s interesting that close by the site where Ponce de Leon came ashore, where the 500th anniversary celebration will occur next Easter, is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, dedicated to the humble woman who carried no sword.
Can our Catholic faith offer that noble hope for the years to come?
I spoke today, the final day of our mission at Immaculate Conception Church, Melbourne Beach, Florida, about the mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus, a crucial mystery of our faith. Each of the gospels presents it in its own way. Here’s a summary from a previous blog of mine.
A recent presentation on the Resurrection by Bishop Wright, the Anglican bishop of Durham, to the Catholic bishops of Italy, is particularly interesting. I put it on my blog last month.
I began my presentation talking about Harold Camping’s prediction from last spring that the world was going to end on May 21, 2011. It didn’t, of course. But Harold’s thinking probably reflects the widespread gloom in our western world, in particular, about where the world is heading.
Our belief in the Risen Christ affects the way we see our church, ourselves and our world. We learn from this mystery to trust in the Risen Christ who King of all creation, our Way, our Truth and our Life. We need Resurrection Thinking.
Here’s a visual meditation on the Passion of Jesus from Rembrandt:
Jesus of Nazareth
Following up on the pope’s remarks about the blurred picture of Jesus we have today, here are some reflections on what we know about Jesus today. I’m offering these reflections at our parish mission:
“Tell me the landscape where you live and I’ll tell you who you are.” (Ortega y Gasset)
Thanks to recent archeological discoveries and historical studies we know more about the land where Jesus lived and the ancient texts of the bible than has been known for centuries. These new resources help us know Jesus Christ.
New editions of the bible like the New American Bible Revised Edition and the New Jerusalem Bible Revised Edition (both Catholic sponsored) make use of these resources.
We know more about Galilee, the northern part of Palestine where Jesus lived most of his life, than we knew before. He grew up and was raised by Mary and Joseph in the Galilean hill town of Nazareth, the gospels say. Extensive excavations have gone on in Nazareth, today the busy capital city of modern Galilee.
After his baptism by John in the Jordan River Jesus made his home in the Galilean town of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee–also extensively excavated in recent times. From there, he visited the small Jewish towns scattered nearby in the fertile plains and mountains, teaching in their synagogues, healing and performing extraordinary signs. New historical studies tell us much about Jewish life in these places.
In Galilee Jesus proclaimed the good news that God’s kingdom was at hand. He used images from this land, like the seed and the sower, in his preaching as well as the scriptures he knew so well. Today Galilee still offers a picture of the land as he knew it.
“After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
‘This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” Mark 1
Under the rule of Herod Antipas, Galilee during Jesus’ public ministry was dotted with important cities like Tiberias, Bethshan, Sepphoris, and the seaport of Caesarea Maritima, all with large gentile populations. Matthew’s gospel calls it the “Galilee of the gentiles.” Hardly the backwater land once thought, the region was an important provider of food for the Roman world.
The gospels suggest that Jesus avoided these important Galilean cities. Instead, he saw himself sent first to the “children of Israel,” although he occasionally performed cures for some gentiles, like the Syro-Phoenician woman who sought him out and the Roman centurion whose servant was sick in Capernaum.
The arrest and execution of John the Baptist by Herod may have been a practical warning about the danger of places where the powerful lived.
After his baptism in the Jordan River by John, Satan told Jesus to reveal himself in a spectacular way in the temple of Jerusalem, the religious center of Judaism; some disciples urged him to go there too. However, Jesus made Peter’s simple home in Capernaum his home and from there brought his message to Jews and some non-Jews who lived on Galilee’s farmlands and fished in the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus grew up in Nazareth and his ministry was mainly in Galilee, but he customarily celebrated Jewish feasts, like the Passover, in Jerusalem. Visiting the Holy City, he likely camped among the olive groves that surrounded Bethany, where other pilgrims from Galilee stayed. He had friends in Bethany– Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary, and also some friends in the city itself.
His visits to the temple at Jerusalem became more significant as the years passed. Even at twelve, he began to dialogue in the temple courtyard with the rabbis who marveled at his questions and answers; he spoke of the temple as “my Father’s house.” (cf. Luke ) After his baptism in the Jordan his dialogue with the rabbis sharpened and the claims he makes about his relationship with his Father increased.
John’s gospel, which we read extensively in the last weeks of Lent, offers some of his exchanges in the temple courtyard about his relationship with his Father. The scriptures and the prophets testify to him, he says. (John 5,31-47 Thursday 4th wk) “I am from him, he sent me.” (John 7,1-30 Friday, 5th wk) “ Just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.” ( John 5,17-30 Wednesday, 4th wk) “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize I AM.” (John 8,21-30Tuesday, 5th wk ) His divine claims were violently opposed by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.
The gospels, especially Luke’s, emphasize Jesus’ love of people. He reached out to those in need; he welcomed women as well as men to his company. His acceptance of outcasts like tax collectors and sinners brought him criticism from others. When John’s disciples asked him “Are you the one who is to come?” he replies, “Tell John what you see and hear: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. “
“Come to me all you who are weary and I will refresh you, for I am meek and humble of heart,” he said, and he urged his followers to also welcome the weary: the sick, the prisoner, the homeless, the naked, the hungry needing refreshment.
He taught that God should be loved above all and we should love our neighbor as ourselves. He said we should forgive those who have offended us, because God forgives our offenses. He told us to pray to God thankfully and ask for what we need.
People listened to his teaching and knew that he lived what he taught himself.
After his resurrection, he appeared on a mountain in Galilee to his disciples and told them to go out to all the nations and preach the gospel, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” From the “Galilee of the gentiles,” he sent his disciples out to farthest corners of the earth.
Become like children, he said, because those with the spirit of the child belong in the kingdom of heaven.
According to St. Leo the Great, Jesus does not ask us to return to our play pens. We can’t do that. The spiritual child is
Today we began a parish mission in Immaculate Conception Parish, Melbourne Beach. I’m preaching at the Sunday Masses and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Masses at 8 AM and 7 Pm.
Here’s the sermon at the Sunday liturgy.
“We would like to see Jesus”
In his remarkable books on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict describes his own personal search for God as he follows Jesus through the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the way to see the face of God. The pope, who spent most of his life as a theologian, understands especially how modern scholarship has influenced the way we see Jesus.
The figure of Jesus has become “more and more blurred” today by different interpretations of him, the pope says. For example, some say that “Jesus was an anti-Roman revolutionary working–though finally failing–to overthrow the ruling powers.” For others, “ he was the weak moral teacher who approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief.” Jesus loves everybody and everything goes.
What we face today, the pope says, is widespread skepticism about our ability to know Jesus at all. “This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference (Jesus Christ) is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which all else depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.” The pope wrote his books on Jesus of Nazareth to affirm who Jesus is and what he means to us and to our world. They’re worth reading.
( Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Ignatius Press 2008, foreward xi)
It’s true what he says, isn’t it? If you go into the religion section in a big book store like Barnes and Noble today, you face an array of books about Jesus Christ that see him in totally different ways. If you search the internet, you find the same situation. The figure of Jesus becomes “more and more blurred;” some wonder if we can see him at all. Then, of course, others say he’s totally irrelevant to our times and our lives.
That’s why today’s gospel (John 12,20-33)–part of the Palm Sunday event we’ll celebrate next Sunday– is so interesting. Let’s look at its context. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead. A crowd is ready to acclaim him by casting palm branches before him as he enters Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Many of them see him as a political messiah, someone who is going to change the government and restore Judaism to its golden age. As his popularity grows, his enemies see him as a dangerous troublemaker in a volatile time and place. Jerusalem’s religious establishment has decided to kill him. Jesus, of course, sees death coming.
Even before he enters the Garden of Gethsemane, he’s fearful about what lies before him.
Just then, some Greeks approach Philip and Andrew and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” It seems like a minor thing, some Greeks requesting to see him, but John’s gospel loves simple signs like this, signs that point to something else, signs that point to glory.
The Greeks who come to Jesus tell us it’s not the end, but the beginning. They come as Jesus approaches his death, like the Magi who approached him at his birth. They’re people from afar; they’re the first of many, the promise that others will come from the east and the west, from centuries beyond his own.
And Jesus rejoices at their coming. At this crucial uncertain time, when so many misunderstand him, when so many oppose him, so many ignore him, these strangers want to see him.
He sees the lasting fruitfulness of his mission on earth. “Like a grain of wheat I will fall to the ground and die, but if I die I’ll bring much fruit.” “My soul is troubled now, yet what shall I say, “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this hour I have come.” His Father gives him this sign to strengthen him.
The unnamed Greeks received an immense grace when they saw Jesus at this time. An immense grace can come to us when we see Jesus at a time like theirs, when we search for him and find him.
The Greeks see him as seed falling to the ground, as the one rejected by his own, as a suffering man who dies on a cross. Shall we join them?
Help us see signs like those you gave them, Lord,
Unexpected signs like the mystery of your cross,
Dark signs like a church in decline,
Small signs like Bread and Wine
And Words from an old Book.
We want to see you, Jesus.
Just finished conducting a parish mission at Immaculate Conception Parish Melbourne Beach, Florida. I’m always impressed with the people you meet in an ordinary parish like this. Here’s where believers meet.
How much power they have! Literally, those I talked to this week reach around the world. I tried to help them realize their potential by pointing out just one thing: they’re reaching out across the world already on the internet, which most of them use.
So I asked them to use their parish website and this blog as a way of thinking together about the gift of faith they’ve been given. We have to stir up the gift of faith we’ve been given, together. It will make us at home in the world we live in and thirst for the world still to come.
Some parishioners took me to a wonderful play on Sunday afternoon in the neighboring parish. It’s called “Miracles,” about the miracles of Jesus, told in gospel songs. Beautifully done, by hometown talent.
I hope they keep doing that kind of thing. We need artists to help us imagine our faith and point out its beauty. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to combine a play like that with a parish mission, I thought. Maybe some day.
We need to think about our faith as well as approach it imaginatively.
For thinking about faith, I’ve found some books helpful. Here they are:
What Happened at Vatican II, John W. O’Malley, SJ, Cambridge, Mass, 2008
A fine explanation of Vatican II and its blueprint for the future of the Catholic Church.
The Faithful. A History of Catholics in America. James M. O’Toole, Cambridge, Mass. 2008
A interesting look at the church in America from Colonial days till the present.
A Secular Age, Charles Taylor, Cambridge, Mass 2007
Hard to get into, maybe, but for me it’s the best explanation of the times we live in now.
United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, US Bishops, Washington, 2006
A good modern catechism. In the mission I used the catechism’s approach, which introduced doctrine through the lives of saints and people of faith.
Besides books, there are blogs. It’s getting harder to keep up on things as magazines and newspapers, both secular and religious, decline. Cable news is so often shallow. But here are a few blogs of Catholic interest that I follow. If you know any more let me know.
http://cnsblog.wordpress.com/ Catholic News Service
http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/ The Jesuits, God bless them
http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/ Laypeople write this one
http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/ Plenty of Roman stuff from Rocco
We Would Like To See Jesus
Lord Jesus Christ,
Once you passed along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and saw some fishermen working at their nets.
You called them and they followed you. You went into their homes and lived with them and their families and you changed their lives.
You call us too to follow you. Be with us where we live day by day. Strengthen our faith in you.
We would like to see you.
Peter, the Apostle
Readings: St. Mark’s Gospel 1,16-33
Before the New Testament was written, people were telling stories of what they’d seen and heard about Jesus Christ. Peter, the fisherman from Galilee was one of them.
Jesus called Peter and his brother Andrew as they tended their nets in the fishing town of Capernaum, along the Sea of Galilee. They followed him. Others soon joined them, mostly uneducated men and women.
They saw what Jesus of Nazareth did, they listened to him teach, they followed him to Jerusalem where he was crucified and died. Then, they saw him risen from the dead.
They came to believe that he was God’s Son, the Messiah sent by God to bring good news of life and hope to all creation. Then, they went out into the world to tell others. And Peter was their leader.
Our faith rests on their preaching.
Most of the first followers of Jesus were ordinary people from Galilee, with little education and knowledge of the great Greek and Roman world beyond them. They weren’t philosophers speculating about life, or people trying to cash in on Jesus’ celebrity.
They told what they had seen and heard to others. Their experience of Jesus was simple and powerful. From their lowly homeland, they traveled to every part of that world to tell about Jesus Christ.
When these eyewitnesses began to die, possibly from the years 40 to 70 AD, their recollections were written down and then collected into the gospels that we know today. But before we had books, we had people who spoke about Jesus first hand from their experience of him.
Let’s look at one of them, Peter the Apostle.
The Preaching of Peter
We may be able to capture something of what Peter said about Jesus through the lens of the Gospel of Mark which, tradition says, is a summary of Peter’s preaching. It’s based, then, on what Peter said about Jesus as he went from place to place. Some scholars say the Gospel of Mark was written in Rome shortly after Peter died there by crucifixion around the year 67 AD.
Not all scholars agree with that theory, of course–that’s what scholars do, disagree–but it’s a solid opinion that Mark’s gospel substantially reflects what Peter as an eyewitness said about Jesus. And so it’s possible to read Mark’s gospel, not as the writing of an anonymous author, but as Peter’s account of Jesus.
Let’s consider two sections of the gospel¬– Mark 1, 16-33, which relates their meeting at Caphernaum along the Sea of Galilee and the surprising beginning of Jesus’ ministry in that town, and Mark 14, 17-72 which takes us to Jerusalem and Peter’s painful denial of Jesus after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemani.
Can we see in these accounts what Peter might say in his own words if he came into one of our congregations today?
Maybe he would start like this.
“ I’m here to bring you good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Prophet Isaiah said that God would send a messenger in the desert to prepare for the Messiah. Just before Jesus, John the Baptizer appeared in the desert, baptizing people in the Jordan River. He wore clothes of camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist and people came from all over Judea and Jerusalem to hear him. John told them to turn to God and confess their sins. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’
Then, Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the River Jordan and a voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
When Jesus came up from the water, he was led into the desert where he was tempted.
They arrested John, and Jesus came to Galilee– where I lived–saying that God’s kingdom was near, and we should believe.”
I’m sure Peter told his story with honesty and surprise. I think you can still hear Peter’s excitement in Mark’s gospel.
Memories of Capernaum
Jesus calls Peter and Andrew from their fishing boat to follow him. They take him to their home and he lives with them. He cures Peter’s mother-in-law. He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and teaches there with authority. The people of Capernaum are astounded by his preaching. They’ve never heard anyone like him.
But then a man cries out. “Get out of here, Jesus of Nazareth. You’ve come to destroy us!” The gospels say the man has an unclean spirit. I don’t know what that means, but someone like Peter would probably see the man as one of the first who would violently oppose Jesus. Jesus drives the unclean spirit out of the man.
After Peter’s mother-in-law is cured, “That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons. And the whole town was gathered around the door. And he cured many.
In the morning, while it was very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place and prayed.” Peter and the others went looking for him. “Everybody’s looking for you.” they told him.
Let’s go to the neighboring towns and proclaim the message there too,” Jesus said, “for that’s why I came.” So they went to the towns and synagogues of Galilee.
Peter and the Mystery of Jesus
It was exciting but mysterious. It must have been puzzling to Peter, a simple fisherman used to routine. He believed in God, he believed that God was at work in the world, he believed a Messiah, the Christ, was coming. But how was God’s kingdom to come?
Jesus himself was a mystery, and Peter didn’t always understand him. Their thinking wasn’t always the same. At one point, Jesus called him “Satan”. But there was a bond between them that lasted. They were friends.
Jesus chose Peter, not because he was perfect, or because he was smart, or because he liked international travel, or because he was a good linguist. He wasn’t any of these. Peter mirrors the humanness we find in the church and in the world.
In Peter we see Jesus reaching out to engage humanity so frail and sinful. He’s reaching out to people like us. Peter is the rock on which Jesus builds his church, but he is hardly “rocklike.” He is rock because Jesus makes him so and sustains him.
“Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man,” Peter says to Jesus. But Jesus does not depart from this sinful man. Holiness belongs to God, and he never abandons his church or the world, sinful and imperfect as it is.’
The second selection from Mark’s gospel I’d like to consider is Mark 14,17-72, the account of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Peter denies he ever knew Jesus when a servant girl confronts him in the courtyard of the house of the High Priest.
If this section of the gospel represents Peter’s preaching, it indicates that Peter never toned down or omitted or excused himself from betraying Jesus. His betrayal and the entire story of the Passion of Jesus are stated bluntly in the gospel. Evidently, the apostle never omitted the story of his own cowardice during the Passion of Christ.
No doubt, Peter was a good man with natural gifts. He was a loyal Jew, a religious man–probably a good fisherman, a good businessman, a good family man. He seems to have been a natural leader.
But he was a sinner too. He didn’t know everything; he learned through time, and he learned through his own faults.
For him, the Passion of Jesus was a testimony that God forgives. When they first met at the Lake of Galilee, Jesus invited him to follow him. When they met there after Jesus rose from the dead, after Peter’s betrayal, Jesus’ words were the same: “Follow me.””Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” Jesus told him. Tell them what happened and tell them to follow me too.
Lessons for us and our world
Can Peter describe our relationship to Jesus Christ for us. Like him, we are unworthy friends, but he continues calling us to friendship. We sin, but he calls us anyway. He comes to stay in our homes, to be our teacher, our guide, our Savior. He is with us as our lives unfold, with mysteries of our own.
Jesus Christ is the image of God who loves the world and reaches to save it.
Can Peter tells us something about the nature of our church? I don’t have to tell you we don’t live in a perfect church. Our church is capable of sublime actions, we have extraordinary saints, but it’s also weak and sinful and sometimes scandalous. “We have to suffer as much from the church as for it, “ Flannery O’Connor, the writer, once wrote.
Can Peter tells us something about how God looks at our world. It’s not a perfect world either. But God loves the world and cares for it and serves it. So should we.
Jesus Died and Rose Again
There’s another reason for the Peter’s stark portrayal of Jesus’ death, which appears also in Mark’s Gospel. It has to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
First of all, the gospel emphasizes that Jesus had really died. Certainly, rumors were circulating at Peter’s time, as they are now in certain books that are popular today, that Jesus appeared to die and his disciples had taken his body away. You can hear that claim in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 28), written after Mark’s Gospel but surely representing an early argument against the death and resurrection of Jesus.
In Mark’s Gospel (chapter 15) Jesus is brutally beaten by the soldiers; they put a crown of thorns on his head, causing him to lose blood; Simon of Cyrene has to help him carry the Cross. They he refuses to take wine mixed with myrrh, a sedative; the soldiers stand guard at his execution, representatives of the Jewish establishment are there. Jesus cries out a cry of death, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When Joseph of Arimathea goes to ask Pilate for his body to bury it, Pilate wonders if Jesus has really died, so he calls the centurion who was at the cross, if it were true. Only when he is assured does he release Jesus’ body for burial.
Jesus really died, Peter says in his preaching, and he rose again–I saw him, I talked to him, I ate with him, and the mystery of his death and resurrection affects us all.
The apostle describes Jesus’ death so starkly because death has been changed by Jesus Christ. In the account of Peter’s preaching at Pentecost, in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1,14-36) we can hear Peter’s most important message: Jesus is “Lord and Messiah.” He comes to destroy death and bring life. He really died; he really rose from the dead. He fulfills what the prophets promised of old. Death does not end life; Jesus has made it the door to a new life.
In his address at Pentecost, which he gave in Jerusalem, the apostle points to the tomb of King David, which all his hearers who came to the Holy City reverenced. His tomb is there; his bones are still there, Peter says to them. Not so, the tomb of Jesus. His body is not there. He has risen.
This is the Good News Peter will bring to the world.
The Gospel of Mark indicates that being a disciple of Jesus can be hard: we’re not sure what it demands. Peter began to be a disciple slowing, over time. He found the Cross a mystery , which he could not understand or accept.
• Is that what you feel too?
Peter never omitted the story of the Passion of Jesus in his preaching and, in fact, never omitted his own betrayal of Jesus. In his Passion, Jesus reveals a surprising love for his disciple, even when he failed. For Peter, the Passion of Jesus is a promise of life; death is not our final destiny. If we die with Christ, we will rise with him.
• Can you see that too?
How about praying the Stations of the Cross every day of the mission? You can find an internet text at http://www.cptryon.org/xpipassio/stations/index.html A video version: http://www.vimeo.com/user1344343/videos
In the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, Peter introduces readers to the mystery of the church, a rock established by Jesus Christ, yet ever frail and sinful.
• Can the figure of Peter help you understand your church and your parish today?
You can find a biography of Peter (I wrote it myself) at Bread on the Waters http://www.cptryon.org/holylives/nt/peter/index.htm
Visit some of the churches honoring Peter. They’re wonderful places to get to know him. I have a video visit to some of them: St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Peter in Chains in Rome. See http://www.vimeo.com/user1344343/videos
The Franciscans have an extensive website that features Capernaum, Peter’s hometown. Jesus stayed in Peter’s house through most of his Galilean ministry. Franciscan archeologists have excavated a house pointed out by ancient tradition as Peter’s. http://www.ffhl.org/2006/Capernaum.asp
The Passionists have a good presentation on the Passion of Christ at http://www.cptryon.org
Here’s a description of our world today, from Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Sounds like a description of Peter, on a world scale, doesn’t it?
The world today appears both powerful and weak, capable of the best or the worst. The way to freedom or slavery, progress or regression, community or hatred lies before it. We’re aware that we can give direction to the forces that we have awakened, forces we can master or serve. So we question ourselves.
The tensions that disturb our world today are in fact like those that disturb the human heart. There are conflicts within us. We see our limitations, yet we have unlimited aspirations. We know we are called to a higher life.
Many things compete for our attention, and we know we have to choose some and give up others. In our weakness and sinfulness, we often do what we do not want to do, and fail to do what we should. Therefore, we are conflicted within ourselves, and this causes so many tensions in our society.
Many people, infected by a materialistic way of life, can’t see this state of affairs clearly, or can’t think of it because of their own unhappiness.
Many look for peace in different philosophies. Some look for liberation from human efforts alone.
Some despair of finding any meaning in life at all, or say life means only what they say it means.
Yet, in our world today many are asking fundamental questions: Who are we? What’s the meaning of pain, of evil, of death, which are still with us despite all our progress? What does success bring anyway? What should we bring to society and what should we expect from it? What comes after life here on earth?
The church believes that Christ died and rose for all and can give us light and strength through his Spirit to achieve our high calling–he is the one who saves us.
The church also believes that the center and goal of human history is found in her Lord and Master.
The church believes that underlying all change many things don’t change. They are founded on Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever.
The Church in the Modern World, 9-10
The reading from the Book of Numbers in today’s Mass is a classic text describing the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land. After their miraculous release from Pharaoh’s armies, the people make their way through the desert where miracles are few and their steady march never seems to end.
The people lose patience. They had wished for an easier way. They complain about their food and they probably complained about everything else. Falling into a nest of snakes, they suffer from their poisoned bites. In answer to his peoples’ pleas, Moses fits a bronze serpent on a pole, and those who look at it are healed.
In the reading from John’s gospel, Jesus promises that when he is lifted up, he will heal those who look at him with faith.
The Lord wishes to lift us up by the power of his cross. This holy time is a time to receive healing through this holy mystery and gain patience for our journey.
Losing patience is still one of our greatest trials, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a long illness that turns our lives into a desert, or a strained relationship, or a marriage that ends without hope for repair, or dreams dashed by years of failure. We grow impatient, and impatience can be a poison.
So we look for signs that lift us up. Besides the cross of Jesus, there are people in our lives who are like him, who follow his example and his love. Look at them; they lift us up. They’re saving signs, strengthening us on our journey.
The Mass texts for March 30th, 31st, April 1st and 2nd can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/ , the site of the US Catholic Bishops. It’s a good site to bookmark for the future because, besides the readings, it offers daily reflections and podcasts.
For Monday March 30th, I’ll be using the 5th Sunday readings for the RCIA (the raising of Lazarus) instead of the regular daily readings.
Here’s a reflection on raising Lazarus:
The blind man sees, Lazarus lives. John’s Gospel links these two figures closely because of the gifts they receive from the Word of God, Jesus Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.” John 1:4
Light touched the blind man, as the Word of God enlightened his spirit along with the gift of physical sight, and he believed in Jesus.
And Life came to the tomb of Lazarus, as Jesus, “the resurrection and the life,” raised him from the dead.
More is known about Lazarus than the nameless blind man. Most likely from an influential family, he and his sisters, Martha and Mary, were friends of Jesus, whom they welcomed to their home in the village of Bethany, a little under two miles from Jerusalem. Jesus often stayed with them when visiting the Holy City.
Jesus was not there, however, when Lazarus died some days before the Passover. Threatened by Jerusalem’s authorities, he had left the area, traveling down the ancient road to Jericho, then to the safety of Transjordan where John had baptised.
Once he heard the news of Lazarus’ death he returned up the same road to be with his friends.
John’s account describes a typical Jewish burial. Wrapped in linen strips, Lazarus’ body was buried the same day he died; his tomb a cave, sealed with a stone, outside the village. His sisters, Martha and Mary then began the customary 30 days of mourning at home, receiving the condolences of their friends and neighbors.
By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead four days, the point the rabbis claimed no trace of the soul remained in the body. Decomposition had set in.
Hearing that Jesus was coming up the road, the two sisters left their home to express their grief. “And Jesus wept.”
Then, deeply moved, he went to the tomb and ordered the stone removed. Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed to his Father and in a loud voice cried, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen bandages, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said, “Loose him; let him go.”
The raising of Lazarus, which John’s gospel places immediately before Jesus’ passion and death, made the Jerusalem authorities finally decide to put Christ to death. It is an irony like others the evangelist makes. Jesus, bringing life, is put to death and placed in a tomb.
His death and resurrection are life-giving, the church’s faith proclaims. Dying and rising from the dead, he brings hope of eternal life to all who, like Lazarus, must die. That hope is realized in the sacrament of Baptism:
“Are you not aware that we who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. If we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a like resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)
Lazarus was only a sign of what the Savior of the world, the Resurrection and the Life, would do for all humanity.
like the traveler
lifting the fallen one
on the Jericho road,
healing all his wounds,
you went to Lazarus’ tomb,
and would not let him die
but loosed the bonds of death,
so great was your love for him.
you weep at every death,
and pray at every tomb,
for all the dead
whose faith is known to you alone.
call us your friends,
stay in our company,
share what we have,
come to our aid when we call.
and grant us eternal life.