Tag Archives: Resurrection of Jesus

Easter Saturday: We’re Slow, like the Apostles



Like the apostles we’re slow to understand the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The two disciples on the way to Emmaus are not the only ones slow to understand, and we are slow too.

Peter, who preaches to the crowds in Jerusalem at Pentecost, certainly was slow to understand. He speaks forcefully at Pentecost, forty days after the Passover when Jesus died and rose from the dead, but the days before he’s speechless. It took awhile for him and for the others who came up with Jesus from Galilee to learn and be enlightened about this great mystery..

Mark’s accounts of Jesus resurrection appearances, read on the  Saturday of Easter week, stresses the unbelief of his disciples. They were not easily persuaded.

For this reason, each year the Lord refreshes our faith in the resurrection, but it’s not done in a day. Like the disciples, we need time to take it in, and for that we have an easter season of forty days.

The disciples were slow to understand the mission they were to carry out, a mission that was God’s plan, not theirs, a plan that outruns human understanding. A new age had come, the age of the Holy Spirit, and they didn’t understand it. The fiery winds of Pentecost had to move them to go beyond Jerusalem and Galilee to the ends of the earth.

The Holy Spirit also moves us to a mission beyond our understanding. Luke says that in the Acts of the Apostles. “The mission is willed, initiated, impelled and guided by God through the Holy Spirit. God moves ahead of the other characters. At a human level, Luke shows how difficult it is for the church to keep up with God’s action, follow God’s initiative, understand the precedents being established.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles)

“You judge things as human beings do, not as God does,” Jesus says to Peter elsewhere in the gospel. We see things that way too.

Peter’s slowness to follow God’s plan remained even after Jesus is raised from the dead. He doesn’t see why he must go to Caesaria Maritima to baptize the gentile Cornelius and his household. (Acts 10,1-49) It’s completely unexpected. Only gradually does he embrace a mission to the gentiles and its implications. The other disciples are like him; God’s plan unfolds but they are hardly aware of it.

One thing they all learned quickly, though, as is evident in the Acts of the Apostles. Like Jesus, they would experience the mystery of his cross, and in that experience they find wisdom.

April 5-I0 : the Easter Season:The Long Day

www.usccb.org   (Readings for the Easter Season)

Weekday Readings for Easter Week

Monday: Acts 2:14; Matthew 28,8-15
Tuesday: Acts 2, 36-41; John 20,11-18
Wednesday: Acts 3,1-19; Luke 24, 13-35
Thursday: Acts 3,11-36 Luke 24, 35-48
Friday Acts 4,1-12 John 21,1-14
Saturday Acts 4, 13-21 Mark 16,9-15

The gospel readings this week recall the Easter appearances of Jesus to his disciples. The Acts of the Apostles, which continues St. Luke’s Gospel, is an important reading in the Easter season because it describes how, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the first witnesses gave their testimony and were received.   Acts describes the beginnings of our church and also offers insight into how our church develops today.

The gospels for the Octave of Easter describe the appearances of Jesus to the first witnesses, Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, the Emmaus disciples, the women at the tomb, Thomas, the disciples from Galilee who came up with him to Jerusalem.

In our readings from Acts on Monday, the witnesses begin to speak. Peter is the first. Just as it was with Jesus, his words are accompanied by a sign from God. The crippled man, a temple regular whom everyone knows, is cured by Peter and John as they come to the temple to pray. He becomes one of those who follow Peter and listen to him. He will be a sign that’s contradicted. The temple leaders refuse to credit him as a sign. (Acts, Wednesday to Friday)

From its beginnings in Jerusalem the church gradually spreads into the Roman world, incorporating gentiles, non-Jews, and eventually reaching Rome itself. It will depend on believers in the Risen Christ who give their testimony and signs that accompany their witness.  Its early growth described in the Acts of the Apostles can help us understand its growth in our time.

Morning and Evening Prayers here. Week I, Sunday readings all week.

Children’s Prayers here.

 

Morning Thoughts: Remembrance of Things Past

by Howard Hain

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“…forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”

—Philippians 3:13


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What is the past? A remembrance of things past. Of what has been. Of what is not now. Of what is no longer today.

What is re-membering? A putting back together of what once was. Of what was once whole. Complete. United. Unified. A re-attachment of “bodily” members currently detached. A body made whole, brought back into health. It is healing. It is “being” fulfilled.

What is to forget? The act of properly re-membering. Beyond elimination. Beyond denial. It is re-valuation. It is re-deeming. Of value. A re-establishment of worth. An instance of humanity made universality worthy once more.

What is worthy? What has value? The future lived presently. Proper hope brought into active being. Knowing ‘now’ is a perpetual tomorrow, lived fully today.

It is tomorrow’s air breathed as we currently speak.

A human being living in heaven.

A human being “knowing” heaven was once, is now, and will be forever.

Worthy is a person “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”


 

Praise be Incarnate Wisdom. Now and forever.

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Gift of the Easter Season

We think of the easter season from Easter to  the Ascension of Jesus into heaven as a period when little happens, but St. Leo the Great thinks otherwise.

“Those days which intervened between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension did not pass by in uneventful leisure, but great mysteries were ratified in them and deep truths were revealed.
In those days the fear of death was removed with all its terrors, and the immortality not only of the soul but also of the flesh was established. In those days the Holy Ghost is poured upon all the Apostles through the Lord’s breathing upon them, and to the blessed Apostle Peter, set above the rest, the keys of the kingdom are entrusted and the care of the Lord’s flock.
It was during that time that the Lord joined the two disciples as a companion on the way, and, to sweep away all the clouds of our uncertainty, reproached them for the slowness of their timid and trembling hearts. Their enlightened hearts catch the flame of faith, and lukewarm as they have been, they are made to burn while the Lord unfolds the Scriptures. In the breaking of bread also their eyes are opened as they eat with him. How much more blessed is that opening of their eyes, to the glorification of their nature, than the time when our first parents’ eyes were opened to the disastrous consequences of their transgression.
Dearly beloved, through all this time which elapsed between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension, God’s Providence had this in view, to teach his own people and impress upon their eyes and their hearts that the Lord Jesus Christ had risen, risen as truly as he had been born and had suffered and died. Hence the most blessed Apostles and all the disciples, who had been both bewildered at his death on the cross and backward in believing his Resurrection, were so strengthened by the clearness of the truth that when the Lord entered the heights of heaven, not only were they affected with no sadness, but were even filled with great joy.”

The Feast of the Ascension

 

I was in the local Barnes and Noble Bookstore recently and in the religion section noticed a good number of books on heaven. Most of these, as far as I can judge, are accounts of people who say they’ve been there or just about and are reporting on their experience. Heaven’s an item of interest today.

The Feast of the Ascension is our basic book on heaven. Look to Jesus Christ who promises us a home there. The Ascension is part of the Easter mystery. On Easter Sunday, Jesus rose from the dead and for forty days, the scriptures say, he ate and drank and met with his disciples to build up their faith. Then, he ascended into heaven.

Rising from the dead was not the end of his story. He rose from the dead but did continue life on earth. He did not rise like those whom he himself raised from the dead, like Lazarus whom he called from the tomb and the little girl and the dead son of a widow of Naim. They went back to ordinary life. Jesus did not.

No, after he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, our creed says. He entered another world beyond this one, a world greater than this one. There, from a place of great power, he extends his promise and power to us here on earth.

Because he was to ascend, he told Mary Magdalene in the garden after rising, “Do not hold me, I must ascend to my father and your father.” Jesus had to ascend to heaven, to his home and ours.

The mysterious way Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection points to the impermanence of this life and the finality of a heavenly life. His risen appearances are brief; he appears in a veiled way. He appears to his disciples mainly to assure them that he lives and to give them the promise of life eternal.

Why don’t we know more about heaven? It’s a mystery we hope for rather than understand. “Eye has not seen, or ear heard, or has it entered the human mind, what God has prepared for those who love him.” Heaven is our place of rest, the final place we’re meant to be, and so we pray for those who die: “Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.”

The Gospel of St. Matthew and the Virgin Birth

holy family

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about,” today’s reading from Matthew’s gospel begins. He describes it through the experience of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Matthew’s account is summarized in the creed. “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…who by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”

Is this true? Here’s Pope Benedict XVI:

“The answer is an unequivocal yes. Karl Barth pointed out that there are two moments in the story of Jesus when God intervenes directly in the material world: the virgin birth and the resurrection from the tomb, in which Jesus did not remain, nor see corruption.

“These two moments are a scandal to the modern spirit. God is “allowed” to act in ideas and thoughts, in the spiritual domain–but not in the material. That is shocking. He does not belong there. But that is precisely the point. God is God and he does not operate merely on the level of ideas. In that sense, what is at stake in both of these moments is God’s very godhead. The question that they raise is: does matter also belong to him?

“Naturally we may not ascribe to God anything nonsensical or irrational, or anything that contradicts his creation. But here we are not dealing with the irrational or contradictory, but precisely with God’s creative power, embracing the whole of being. In that sense, these two moments – the virgin birth and the real resurrection from the tomb–are the cornerstones of faith.

“If God does not have the power over matter then he is simply not God. But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation. So as the Creator he is also our Redeemer. Hence the conception and birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary is a fundamental element of our faith and a radiant sign of hope.”

(The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, pp 56-57 )

Like the temple rulers in Jerusalem who rejected Jesus in his time, there are those who reject him today.

You can find the scripture readings for today here.

The Resurrection of Jesus

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We’re concluding our parish mission in Shelter Island, NY, today with some reflections on the Resurrection of Jesus.

People today wonder about life after death. That’s because we want to live. We wonder about ourselves, first of all. Do we live after we die? A couple of books on the subject are popular these days: one by a scientist who claims he’s come back from death, the other is an account of a little boy who supposedly died and went to heaven and come back to life. Both are best sellers.

Our questions about life beyond this one also surface in  popular culture; the media is big into life in space and dark alien forces that invade our ordinary world. Must be life out there, but it looks scary, according to the media.

As Catholics we believe this world is connected to a world beyond. We believe in “the communion of saints, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” Big beliefs. We believe there are tangible signs of our connection with this world, for example, apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Lourdes and Fatima.

Besides wondering about ourselves, we wonder too about our universe. Will it go on forever?

A couple of years ago I followed Harold Camping on television, who predicted the end of the world was coming on May 21, 2011 at 6 PM. The world was going to explode in fire, he said, destroying everything and everyone except those who read the bible; he didn’t have much hope for the world or most of the people in it.

A lot of people wondered if his crazy calculations were accurate. They weren’t. The world is still here and most of us are too, but at a time when many have lost confidence in our institutions, including our churches, people listened to him.

We  believe in Jesus Christ, who came into our world to teach, heal and offer the promise of eternal life. His death and resurrection answer our questions about death and life beyond this one; he also offers hope for our created world.

“On the third day, he rose from the dead,” we say in our creed. At first, his startled disciples spoke of their experience of Jesus risen from the dead in short statements like that, because his risen presence was unlike anything they had experienced before or knew from the past. They knew he was real, but his new existence was something they could hardly put into words. Their initial confusion is evident in the New Testament.

Jesus did not come from the tomb the same as he was before. He was not like Lazarus who came from the tomb and was easily recognized by all as he rejoined his sisters and went back to his own home in Bethany and took up his daily routine. Lazarus would die again.

Risen from the dead Jesus would not die again. He did not a return to the normal biological life he had before, but entered a new level of being; he experienced an evolutionary change that not only enhanced his humanity but ours too. Death would not affect him. He was changed, yet his love and care for his own in this world remained.

The Resurrection of Jesus, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, is “an historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it. Perhaps we may draw upon analogical language here, inadequate in many ways, yet still able to open a path towards understanding…we could regard the Resurrection as something akin to a radical ‘evolutionary leap,’ in which a new dimension of life emerges, a new dimension in human existence.”

Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, is a good source for understanding the mystery of the Risen Jesus.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are later statements about the resurrection of Jesus meant for particular churches and situations, so we should read them with their world in mind. Each gospel offers its own unique insight into mysteries of Jesus.

At our mission today we read from Luke’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, which centers on the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Like the other gospels, Luke begins with the women at the tomb on Easter morning, but they don’t find  Jesus at the tomb. The Lord enters the world at large to share his risen life with his disciples and all creation.

In his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, Luke sees God’s plan of salvation realized in Jesus who brings God’s salvation to all humanity through his church as it goes out from Jerusalem to Rome, then considered the center of the world.

The two disciples on their way to Emmaus represent the church on it’s journey through time,  one of the themes of Luke’s gospel.  As he did with the two disciples, the Risen Lord walks with his church on its mission through the ages.

Not an easy journey. Like the journey of the two disciples, it’s no triumphant march. Disillusionment, questions and gradual enlightenment are part of their journey. If the Risen Lord were not with them, they would continue in  hopelessness. The church ends up hopeless too, if Jesus were not with her.

Like the two disciples we find the Risen Christ slowly in the scriptures and in the breaking of the bread. Like them, he makes our hearts burn within. He is always with us.

The resurrection narrative from Luke is a good corrective to a triumphalist view that sees the church as perfect. It isn’t. It’s also a good corrective to a perfectionistic view of ourselves. We aren’t.

Like the two disciples, we have questions and  disappointments, but the Risen Christ walks with us. He engages  our questions and helps us understand, slowly. He is present in the breaking of the bread, the Holy Eucharist. We don’t see him; the Risen Lord has vanished from our sight, but he’s with us, guiding us to his kingdom.

Jesus also brings all creation into the mystery of the resurrection. “He took flesh and now retains his humanity forever, he who has opened up within God a space for humanity, now calls the whole world into this open space in God, so that in the end God may be all in all and the Son may hand over to the Father the whole world that is gathered together in him. (cf. 1 Cor 15,20-28) (Benedict XVI)

Harold Camping didn’t understand this.