Easter Reflection May 6, 2018

East6B18. Acts of the Apostles 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48. The Acts of the Apostles 15:1 states: Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved.” Today’s first reading helps to set the stage for debate that was to rage later in beginnings of Christianity. Was what Christ was establishing a new form or sect of Judaism or an entirely different religion that was rooted in Judaism? It is the latter. “Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him (Jesus),” Peter says. The Holy Spirit poured out himself on Jew and Gentile alike without any discrimination.

John 15:9-17 & 17:11b-19. (Since in the Wilmington Diocese we do the Mass for the Ascension on the second Sunday from now, thus leaving the readings of the Seventh Sunday without any coverage, I would like to bring the second and third readings from the Seventh Sunday into this reflection so that they get some attention. In John 15:9, “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” In other words, remain in and live in the divine love that I pour into you. We have always heard, “Love with all your heart, with all your mind and all your soul,” as if we ourselves create the love from within ourselves from our own resources that enables us to respond positively to this command. I believe that it is not our love with which we love but rather the love that God is always giving us that is the love that we bring to the commandments of love. In other words, I understand that on our own, apart from God, we cannot truly love. In John 15:5b, Jesus says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” It is only that we have received love from God that we have love to bring to anyone. In our second reading for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, we read, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” God is always at the center of our bearing any fruit. In John 15:16a, Jesus says, “ It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” What we must ask for is true love in the midst of a world that all too often wants to love itself and a life in the flesh that only wants to love pleasures for the flesh. It is now as Jesus said in John 13:34, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” and no longer, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus who offered himself up as a sacrifice for our sins to open the gates of heaven to us showed us that love is what we do for the true unadulterated benefit of others and not for what we can get out of it.

In John 17:6, Jesus says, “I revealed your name (you) to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (lived by what they have been taught.) In John 17:9, Jesus says, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours.” Since we Christians belong to God, he protects and guards us from the evil one. The devil roams about the world trying to steal away from God those who have chosen to belong to God. We are in the world but do not belong to the world and the devil but to God and heaven. In John 18:36, in speaking to Pilate, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world’.” In John 17:17, Jesus says, “Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth.” To be consecrated means to be given or devoted completely and totally to God who is the fullness of truth, of what is eternally divine and not just a temporary gloss or veneer that appears to be momentarily pleasing in the eye of the world.

1 John 4:7-10, 11-16 (the second readings of both the Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter). In 1 John 4:16, we read: “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” When our life comes from the love that God is giving us every moment of our lives, then we remain in God and in his love. If we cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work for our sanctification, then we build holiness within ourselves from the Spirit’s developing within us a sharing in God’s divine life that is the result of God’s endless act of loving us. The love that has been poured into us is what we share by loving one another as he has loved us. God demands to see the fruit of his work of love in us. Jesus says in John 15:16-17, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.” When we do God’s work of love, we do it with him. He never leaves our side, so to give us whatever we need to accomplish his Will, his work of love through us and in us.

Easter Reflection April 29, 2018

East5B18. Acts of the Apostles 9:26-31. Barnabas brought Paul “to the apostles, and he reported how he had seen the Lord,” and how in Damascus Paul “had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.” Paul cooperated with Jesus so that a true conversion was effected in him to the extent that, despite the threat of persecution, he spoke out publicly to convert others to Jesus. The presence of Jesus bore fruit in him as it did in the building up of converts in Israel.

John 15:1-8. “Remain in me as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me.” The power of Jesus flows through us so that we can be truly productive. Whatever we try to do without Jesus is useless. Since what we ourselves do is worthless, then we are useless, worthy to be thrown out in the fire like worthless branches and be burned. To remain in the Lord means to draw our life from him. So deep should our life be in Jesus that it is no longer we who are at the center of personhood but he who lives in us. We lose ourselves in our life with him yet still remain people who daily must renew our choice to live in him. For each of us, I still am I but now I find myself living in the depths of a joy I had never known before because I remain in him and he remains in me. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” In 1 John 5:12, John writes, “Whoever possesses the Son has life; whoever does not possess the Son of God does not have life.”

In Philippians 2:13, Paul writes, “For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” God and only God is the root of all goodness. It is God working through us who unite ourselves to him who truly works the genuine good. Without uniting ourselves to him everything we do is worthless or bad. The good we do in God gives glory to God. Jesus says in John 14:13, “And whatever you ask in my name (i.e. in accord with his will and in Christ), I will do, so that the Father may be gloried in the Son.”

1 John 3:18-24. I believe what John is addressing here is that some Christians needed to be reassured that they were truly living in Christ and not just diluting themselves. “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit he gave us.” His Spirit reassures us that he dwells within us because Jesus and his love is our way of life. “And his commandment is this: we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.”

Easter Reflection April 22, 2018

East4B18.   Acts of the Apostles 4:8-12.  “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit said ‘Leaders of the people and elders.  He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.’”  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:11, calls Jesus Christ, the only foundation upon which we can build.  Otherwise, one’s work will come to nothing.  In the passage in John 10:9 Jesus calls himself the gate to the sheepfold or sheep coral, saying, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  In other words we cannot get into heaven, unless we follow Jesus, who leads us there, as our good shepherd.  In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’”  Peter spoke filled with the Holy Spirit.  In other words, it was the Holy Spirit who spoke through him, using Peter as his spokesperson, as God did of the prophets in the Old Testament.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10a, Paul also says he acts “according to the grace of God given to me.”  In 1 Corinthians 3:9a, Paul speaks of himself and Apollos as “God’s co-workers.”

John 10:11-18.  “I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Jesus has laid down his life for us.  No one took it from him but he laid it down on his own because of his infinite love for us.  “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.”  He knows us as a loving parent knows their child.  Our daily task is to come to know him just as we know anyone who loves us and in turn we love.  God is not just a celestial being who lives only to calculate our positive and negative behaviors but an intensely loving Father and brother, a real though spiritual person in our lives.  We are called upon to know Jesus just as the son knows the Father and the Father knows the Son, the divine relationship that is the model for us.  As Jesus is the obedient son in what he did for us while in the flesh on this earth so should we be, obedient to our Father.  Jesus’ death on the cross was his loving gift of redemption to us.  Our giving of ourselves to God should be our gift in response to his love for us.

1 John 3:1-2.   “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.”  The shepherd is shepherding us to become the sons and daughter of God, the Father.  The joy of what he is, he wishes to give to us.  To his good and faithful servants, Jesus says, “Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25: 21c & 23c)  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34b)  “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”  Taking us to himself in his home, our Father will share something of himself with us, his children, out of his infinite love for us.

 

 

Easter Reflection April 15, 2018

Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19. “Peter said to the people: ‘The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.’“ What a wonderful way to announce solemnly that the God who created the Hebrew people as his own has fulfilled what he had spoken through his prophets. He would send the Christ, the Savior, as a sacrifice for our sins so that all those who repented and converted would have their sins wiped away.

Luke 24:35-48. The two disciples to whom Jesus had just appeared were recounting to the Apostles their recognizing him in the breaking of the bread, when Jesus himself stood in their midst. Jesus went through great efforts to prove to them that it was really he, the risen Lord, and not a ghost. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’”

1 John 2:1-5a. Jesus has offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice in expiation, atonement or reparation for the sins of the whole world whenever they may be committed. Since sin offends God who is pure and perfect love for us, who has made us to be loved and become love as he is love, our sins reject God’s love. Reparation requires that something equal or more of what was taken away be given back. Offense against an infinite God requires an infinite reparation or sacrifice. Therefore only God can offer an adequate expiation for sins against God; Jesus, who is God the Son, offers expiation to God, the Father. When we do what God commands of us, which is the only acceptable way that we have to show that we receive his love, then we treat his love in a way that is truly loving. To do otherwise is sin. “If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.” He has already given himself on the cross, as our gate way to forgiveness for sin, has a vested interest in pleading for our forgiveness. This world is place of temptation, the home of sin but at the same time the home of redemption from sin. We have an Advocate who will never fail us when we fail.

Easter Reflection April 8, 2018

Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35. “The community of believers was of one heart and mind.” Their oneness was out of their unity in the one Lord Jesus over them. “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” This scene occurs after the Pentecost when they received the Holy Spirit who gave them great power to help them bring others to believe in Jesus as their Lord.

John 20:19-31. In this gospel there is a study of contrasts or opposites. Jesus comes to bring peace to those who locked the doors in fear of the Jewish authorities, who had put Jesus to death and who might put them to death too. Alone behind those locked doors they were powerless against the powers of this earth but Jesus came to empower them with a heavenly power to forgive sins and to go into the world to bring others to Christ. Thomas came to believe because he saw with his own eyes the physical presence of the risen Lord; to which Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Belief is the central message of this gospel which ends with the words: “But these (words) are written you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” Not physical evidence but rather words that testify to the resurrection are given us that through the power of the Holy Spirit that we may have the belief that gives us life in his name.

Jesus says in this Gospel: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus in his public ministry made it clear that it made no sense to give the fullness of life to the body yet leave the soul sick in sin. After having lowered a man on a stretcher through the roof since they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd around him, Luke 5:20 reads: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “As for you your sins are forgiven.” In Luke 5:24, Jesus continues, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” His forgiveness of us through the sacrament of Reconciliation gives spiritual health to a sick soul so that we “may have life in his name.” As it says in psalm 118:2, “Let the house of Israel say, “His mercy endures forever.”

John 5:1-6. This epistle begins, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God.” Belief in Jesus requires that we are no longer people of the ways of this world but rather of the ways of heaven. In John 3:6, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “What is born of the flesh is flesh and what is born of the spirit is spirit.” Jesus continues in John 3:7b, “You must be born from above.” In today’s epistle, John continues, “For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.” Being born of the Father, as his sons and daughters, demands that we love no only God but also his love for us which is expressed in his loving will and direction over us. Since Jesus Christ is Lord over us, we are subjects of Jesus and not this world. “The victory that conquers the world is our faith,” that Jesus is Lord and not this world. Jesus came through the water of his baptism to begin his work of redemption and then through the blood of his cross to complete our redemption. We do not have to see with our eyes the actual physically risen body of Christ because we have the Spirit who is “the one that testifies, and the Spirit is truth.” We have the faith that is given to us by the Spirit and not by sight. In 2 Corinthians 5:7, Paul wrote, “We are always courageous, although we know that while we are home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Easter Reflection April 1, 2018

This Easter I would like to bring together ideas in the Vigil Epistle & Gospel and the ‘Mass During the Day’ readings. In Romans 6:3-11, the immersion that occurs in adult baptism is understood to be symbolic of one’s going down into the grave as a sign of death to sin to rise out of the water as a sign of rising out of the grave to a new life in Christ. In baptism we are joined to Christ’s death and resurrection so that “we too might live in the newness of life,” that was given to Christ and also to us by the glorious power of God the Father. “If, then, we have died with Christ,” that is to say that “our old self” that was enslaved to sin “was crucified with him,” “we believe that we shall also live with him,” as his holy people in heaven. We no longer belong to a body that death will conquer and put into a grave or tomb forever. The tomb with the stone covering the entrance or mouth of the tomb represents the jaws of this earth that has swallowed up our lives; whereas the tomb with the stone removed or rounded back represents the fact that the physical forces of this earth are not able to block or restrain the almighty force of the eternally living God. “As to his death, he died to sin once and for all (people); as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

In Colossians 3:1-4, Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” To be a people who seek holiness our whole way of thinking must change. Our whole perspective must change. We ought to live in this world as if we are already people in heaven, “hidden with Christ in God.” This world is no longer our life; Christ is our life. We belong to something entirely different from this world. “When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”

In 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8, Paul writes, “Celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” We are the fresh batch of dough, unleavened, without the corruption or yeast of this world, made new in the newly risen Christ, recreated sinless and holy through his work of salvation in his sacrifice on the cross.

These Easter accounts do not agree or blend well together, not even within the same Gospel writer. These remembrances were written much later after the fact, when the writers were much older. However, the basic ideas agree. He had arisen; he was no longer dead in the tomb. Mary Magdalene, especially, had a great love and respect for Jesus, desiring to care for him even in death. Through the gospels we have physical proof and heavenly proclamation that Jesus had arisen. Jesus had often told his Apostles that he would die and three days later arise. They did not get it. Even after Peter and John were witnesses to the empty tomb, still “they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” Jesus understands our human condition and never stops working with us on our way to heaven.