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.