Skip to comments.The Blessed Season of Easter - Fifty Days of Reflections
Posted on 04/19/2004 8:33:36 PM PDT by Salvation
Even though I have been offline, you have been in my thoughts and prayers.
I am typing the following reflections, so please bear with me. (Some I am retyping, because this new system is not letting the A drive function properly.)
The first post for each day is different. Topics include the Easter Season, personalities, traditions, customs or the saint whose feast is celebrated on that particular day.
The second post for each day is an excerpt from the Gospel passage for that day during the weekday Mass. Additional reflections are offered on Sundays.
I hope you enjoy these six minute daily reflections during the Season of Easter as much as I am.
Also, please do "Spend some time with the Risen Lord!"
Apart from Mary Magdalenes presence at the cross and at the tomb, there is only one other reference to her in the entire New Testament. She is included among the women disciples who traveled with Jesus.
Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities. Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna Susanna, and many others (Lk 8:1-3)
As often happens with those about whom little is known, legends grew up about Mary Magdalene. One says that after Jesus ascension, she was miraculously transported to France in an oarless boat.
Another legend is that she went with the Mother of Jesus to Ephesus, and died there. Still another legend has her going to Rome.
Mary Magdalene is an important figure in the recent book -- The Da Vinci Code. This novel, which does not claim to be historical, draws upon legends and mixes fact and fable to create a fascinating story. Scholars are careful to point out that the plot is thread together by means of much historical and theological fiction.
These two women are sent by Jesus to tell the good news to the other disciples.
If Jesus wants to meet the disciples in Galilee, why doesnt he go and tell them himself? Because the Risen Christ acts through others. His appearances were not favors to selected individuals. He manifested himself in order to send the newborn Church on its mission. In todays passage, we see him send Mary Magdalene and the other Mary on a mission -- passing on the good news and a sense of forgiveness.
Notice that Jesus refers to the other disciples as my brothers. He had done this during his ministry, but that was before they had failed miserably and abandoned him in Gethsemane. But the Lord came for sinners. He mercifully restores them to full discipleship by referring to them again as my brothers. They are forgiven.
There are two traits we must never lose. But along the way there have been times when one or the other is weaker or stronger.
Which is most needed in our time? In my life?
William E. Barrett (1900-1986) was an advertising man who left his full-time job to become a free-lance writer. Over his career, he wrote many novels and short stories, most of which had a Catholic theme.
Several of his books became movies, including The Left Hand of God starring Humphrey Bogart as an escaped convict who disguised himself as a priest.
Another of Barretts books, The Lilies of the Field, was made into a movie in 1963. It starred Sidney Poitier as Homer Smith, and itinerant handyman who ended up working at a convent.
On this date 40 years ago, Sidney Poitier became the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award for his role in The Lilies of the Field
The Lilies of the Field introduced the song Amen, which not only became a top 10 hit, but also is sometimes used at liturgies.
I grew up as a Catholic
I think every writer uses their life experiences in their writing. I wasnt preaching to anyone. I was just writing what I knew best. ~William E. Barrett
Mary Magdalene had only one thing in mind to find the body of Jesus, which she thought had been stolen. So she disregards the question Jesus asks and gets right to the matter at hand: Are you the one who moved Jesus body .. and will you help get it back?
She doesnt realize that she is saying this to the Risen Lord himself.
How can someone who believes in Jesus, meet Jesus and not know its Jesus?
Well, he wasnt what she had expected. His risen body was transformed.
I wonder if there are times when the Lord is present to me in a special way and I miss it because its not what I expected.
Like right now?
Some of the sites mentioned in the Gospels are difficult to locate today. For one thing, their names changed over time. Also there was not, in the early centuries, the same interest in pilgrimages that later developed.
Cana is an example of this two different villages claim to be the site where Jesus changed the water into wine.
Emmaus is another example. There is no known village that was called Emmaus at the time of Christ, and still is called that today. Luke indicates that the village was seven miles from Jerusalem but unfortunately he doesnt say in which direction.
There are three villages today that claim to be the site.
It is a custom in some places to take an Emmaus Walk in the days following Easter.
The idea is to go out for a walk and greet and speak with anyone along the way, recognizing that it was by such a greeting that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus met the Risen Christ.
Todays Gospel is the familiar Emmaus story.
Remember these two disciples are disciples of Jesus. They walk with him for seven miles, and they dont realize who he is.
Luke, writing some 50 years after the event, is teaching his community (and us) something crucial. Things arent always what they seem. We may think the Lord is absent, but in fact he is present. Truly present. Its a real presence, not just a memory.
Luke is also teaching us that one of the most powerful experiences of the Risen Lord is the Eucharist. That is where Jesus is specially present in his words and in the breaking of the bread.
Note that the disciples didnt recognize him in his words (while they were on the way).
I need to think about that. Because thats what Im doing right now reflecting on the Scriptures.
Could it be that the Risen Lord has been with me these past few minutes, and I havent realized it?
It is not recorded that anyone actually witnessed the Resurrection. No one not Mary Magdalene, or Peter, or the Beloved Disciple saw Jesus emerge from the tomb. (There are some apocryphal accounts, but the Church has never accepted these as part of the Scriptures.)
Some of the disciples saw the empty tomb on Easter morning, but this is not in itself compelling evidence of the Resurrection. (Mary Magdalenes thought was that someone had taken the body of Jesus.)
What is compelling is that after the Resurrection, the Risen Christ appears to the disciples.
But is this compelling evidence? Did they really see him, or was it some kind of mystical experience?
While nothing forces us to believe that their experience of the Risen Christ was real, there is much that warrants belief in this. Most of all, it is the change that took place in these first witnesses. Before their experience of the Risen Christ they were skeptical. But afterwards, there was a radical change that lasted for the rest of their lives. For some of them, it would be at the price of their lives.
The Gospel descriptions of these encounters indicate a happening far different from a dream, an ecstatic episode or merely a subjective experience. It is reasonable to say that the change that took place in these witnesses is only understandable in the light of an actual experience.
To believe in the Resurrection ultimately requires an act of faith. But the accounts of these early witnesses provide very strong support for that act of faith.
Jesus shows them his hands and his feet. Were there still traces of the nail marks on his risen body? John, in his Gospel, is quite clear on this Jesus invites the doubting Thomas to touch his wounds.
We all have wounds from broken relationships, injuries, setbacks, crime, tragedies. Perhaps some wounds were the result of our own mistakes. Some may still be bleeding.
We live with these wounds. They may have healed, but the scars are still there. They are part of our lives. They stay part of us even after death.
But after death, theyre transformed. No longer the dark side of our life, they shine.
This transformation begins this side of death when, especially at Eucharist, I join my wounds to the Lords suffering and death. Like a musician who uses dissonance to produce a beautiful song, the Lord uses the dissonance of my wounds to create something beautiful within me.
Take some time with the Lord and compare wounds.
Please notify via FReepmail if you would like to be added to or taken off the Reflection Ping List.
PS. I am rebuilding my ping list after a computer crash, so if you did not get a ping and you previously had contacted me, please send me another FReepmail.
Thanks in advance for your understanding.
And, to NYer, for the daily readings. Inspirational, indeed.
This is the time of year when many second-graders receive their First Communion. But it was not always so.
Until about the 13th century, children were admitted to Communion from infancy. At baptism, infants were confirmed, and then given the Eucharist. usually a small amount of the consecrated wine. (The Eastern Rites have continued this practice down to the present day.)
Over the centuries, as disputes arose over the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, there developed a trend toward requiring that children not receive the Eucharist until they had some instruction in the real presence.
In 1215, because Catholics by then received the Eucharist very infrequently, the Lateran Council decreed that all persons who had reached the age of discretion receive the sacraments of Penance and Eucharist at least once a year. (This came to be known as the Easter duty.)
When applied to children, this meant that first Communion was now delayed until they reached the age when they could have an understanding not only of the Eucharist, but of sin and forgiveness. This delayed First Communion until the age of 10, 12, or even 14.
Seven centuries later, in 1910 (less than 100 years ago), Pope Pius X decreed that children should be admitted to First Communion as soon as they could distinguish between the Bread of the Eucharist and ordinary bread. Thus, First Communion was given at about the age of seven.
Several details are interesting in this scene.
First, it takes place on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee the same area where Jesus had miraculously fed the crowd with the loaves and fishes.
Second, at the Last Supper (in Lukes Gospel), the disciples squabbled about who was the most important. Jesus, using the image of a waiter, said to them: Who is greater: The one seated at table or the one waiting on him? Yet, I am here among you as the one who serves.
Thats exactly what hes doing now. He cooked their breakfast.
This is the Jesus who died, rose from the dead, and ascended to glory. And here he is, like a mother taking care of her children.
Jesus constantly reaches out to me, extends his graced love to me. He wants only to care for me, help me, heal me, forgive me.
There are times when I especially need to be cared for.
The four Gospels give nine narrative descriptions of the appearances of the Risen Lord. (In some cases, the same appearance is described in more than one Gospel.)
What is remarkable about these accounts is their sobriety. They are not eerie, mysterious, bizarre, sensationalized, as in some of the apocryphal gospels, or as often in accounts of visions.
For example, in Lukes account, the disciples wonder if they are seeing a ghost. But Jesus doesnt go in that direction. He shows them his hands and feet, and after that he asks for something to eat.
This contrasts with the accounts in some of the pseudo-gospels, which tend toward the secret and sensational. For example, here is how the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (written between 150-200 A.D.) describes the resurrection replete with a cross that walks, two angels as tall as the sky escorting Jesus, and Jesus even taller.
The soldiers saw
three men come out of the sepulcher, with the two supporting the other one, and a cross following them, and the heads of the two reaching up to heaven, but that of the one being led out by them going beyond the heavens."
Marks Gospel presents a negative picture of those who would later emerge as leaders in the Christian community the disciples in general. Peter in particular, and even the relatives of Jesus who early in his ministry set out to seize him because they thought he was out of his mind (3:21). Even in todays passage, the disciples fall short.
Why does Mark present such a negative portrait?
It is thought that Mark wrote his Gospel for the Christians in Rome just after they had experienced a terrible persecution under Nero. Some of them, under torture, gave up their faith and even betrayed other Christians, costing them their lives. After Nero died, some of the deserters wanted to rejoin the Christian community, but there were hard feelings. Some even questioned whether a person who disclaimed their baptism could ever be reinstated.
Mark wanted to remind them that the disciples failed too including Peter. But they were able to emerge from failure to greatness, even giving their lives in martyrdom.
We can all think of our failures. And we can all take heart from Mark he meant his Gospel for us too.
Mystagogia described the ancient custom of spending the first week of Easter with the newly baptized helping them experience the depths of the truth they had accepted in their baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
Mystagogia described the ancient custom of spending the first week of Easter with the newly baptized helping them experience the depts. Of the truth they had accepted in their baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
Great painters and great musicians can study the principles of art and music, but the beauty they produce doesnt come from being able to recite principles. Artists have to take these principles inside themselves, and also be taken by them, so that the principles live in ways that no one could put into words.
Well-prepared seven-year-olds who receive First Eucharist have much, much more to learn about what they are receiving. One would hope that the growth would last a lifetime.
The Easter season is a time of mystagogia for everyone new Christians and old Christians.
The God-life given as a gift by Christ has inexhaustible and enjoyable implications.
The passage in the next post is sometimes used as the basis for the question, Are you a born again Christian? This usually means, Have you, in your adult life, had a conversion experience in which you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?
But thats not exactly what todays text says.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that a person must be born from above. The phrase from above" in this sentence is a Greek word which can have two meanings: from above and again.
Nicodemus takes it to mean again. He asks, How can a person once grown old be born again? The again here is a different Greek word than the one on the lips of Jesus. Its a word that always means again.
Jesus corrects Nicodemus by saying explicitly that he means born from above that is, of the Spirit. In other words, the question is about baptism. John the Baptist had said that he was giving a baptism of water, whereas the one to come after him would baptize with the holy Spirit.
With all out technology, we have not yet been able fully to control fire, air, earth and water. Fires break out every day. The air can become terribly turbulent there are tornados, hurricanes. Earthquakes cause great destruction. Water brings floods, drownings.
In todays Gospel Jesus uses the analogy of the wind its something we cant see or control. So it is, Jesus says, with the Spirit. We cant see the Spirit or fully understand the Spirit and we certainly cant control the Spirit.
But to be born of flesh rather than the Spirit is to stay within a world that I can control and think only in terms of what I can accomplish on my own.
To do that is to stay within a small world. Even to believe in God is not something I can accomplish. If I believe in God it is because of Gods initiative toward me.
Ive got to stop confining myself within the limits of my own resources. I need to let God work within me.
In Johns Gospel, Nicodemus comes on the scene three times. (The other Gospels never mention him.)
(1) Toward the beginning of Johns Gospel, Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night wanting to learn more about him. (The passages quoted in the next post and other posts this week.)
(2) Later in the Gospel, at a gathering of the chief priest and Pharisees who were speaking against Jesus, Nicodemus speaks up: Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?
(3) Toward the end of Johns Gospel, Nicodemus helps Joseph of Arimathea bury Jesus. (Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 100 pounds.)
Nothing further is known about Nicodemus. (There are legends of course. Some say that he was martyred. St. Nicodemus was even given a feast day August 3rd.)
Nicodemus was also said to be the author of the Acts of Pilate (also referred to as the Gospel of Nicodemus.) This apocryphal work describes the trial of Jesus and his resurrection. (It was actually written in the fourth century.)
Jesus is not just another prophet and miracle worker. He alone has seen God face to face. Which means that he alone can reveal heavenly things.
Johns Gospel particularly emphasizes this right from the beginning. In his Prologue, John writes:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God No one has ever seen God. The only son, God, who is at the Fathers side, has revealed him.
Why doesnt Jesus tell us more about God? What does God look like? What is it like when God speaks? What does heaven look like?
Because this is all beyond every category we know. Its breadth and depth is wider and deeper and more wondrous than the earthly mind can even begin to take in something like trying to explain to a one year-old what its like to have a child. You simply let the child experience your love. You cant explain it.
So, Jesus says things like, As the Father loves me, so do I love you.
And I get a hint of what God is like. Because Jesus is the Son of God, and he loves me.
On this date in 1649, the Maryland Toleration Act, which provided freedom of worship for all Christians, was passed by the Maryland Assembly.
The previous November, 140 men and women including three Catholic priests had boarded two ships, the Ark and the Dove, and sailed from England. They sought a place where they could be freed of the restrictive laws in England, and practice their religion freely.
Maryland was an area in the new world that had been chartered to George Calvert, Lord of Baltimore. It was one of the few of the original 13 colonies that was committed to religious tolerance. This made it attractive to Catholics who, in most of the colonies, were not welcomed.
Light and darkness. In Johns accounts of the personal encounters of Jesus with different people, the issue revolves around whether the person recognizes Jesus as the true light or whether the person will prefer darkness.
Nicodemus, who significantly came to Jesus at night, will ultimately choose light. Pilate, on the other hand, will choose darkness.
Were wary of letting someone look at that place within us that is our center the place where all lies naked our motives, our loves and hates, our best and our worst. We sometimes protect our center with false fronts, and we tend to shield it from the light. Not only can I shield it from the gaze of others, but from myself too. Do I even allow myself to look honestly at myself?
That would be a good start. Try it for a few minutes. But you dont have to go it alone. Invite the Lord to go with you, and the two of you talk it over.
He doesnt come as an inspector. He comes as someone who loves me.
The first thing to say about Johns Gospel is that it is very different from the other three Gospels.
In John, Jesus does not often speak in parables and short sayings, but rather in long discourses. John emphasizes the divinity of Jesus who came from God, who will return to God, and along the way reveals God to us. Johns Gospel is sometimes called the spiritual Gospel.
Johns Gospel is a story of dramatic personal encounters with Jesus, and they are some of the longest passages in his Gospel. These past days the second part of the posts has been describing the conversation with Nicodemus. Later in the Gospel Jesus has an extended conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. Then, there is the lengthy story of the man born blind who gradually is able to see Jesus through the eyes of faith. In the Passion Narrative, there is a very long encounter between Jesus and Pilate.
The symbol of Johns Gospel is the eagle, because it soars to such great heights.
That phrase catches ones eye: He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
Jesus isnt miserly with his gifts. Hes like a grandmother serving up a Thanksgiving dinner, with enough food for an army.
We see it everywhere in the Gospels. Look at Johns Gospel alone. At Cana, Jesus doesnt dole out the wine (and good wine at that). He provides over 20 gallons. In the miracle of the loaves, 12 basketfuls are left over. When the disciples cant catch any fish, he miraculously provides not a pail full, but over 150 fish. And when the woman anointed Jesus at Bethany with costly perfumed oil (over 300 days wages worth), he defends her largesse.
No, Jesus isnt miserly. Neither is his Father, who gave his only Son. Neither is the Holy Spirit who floods Gods life upon us.
God doesnt dole out gifts on the basis of quantity or even the quality of the recipient: He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
The Easter Season is one long celebration of Gods goodness. Todays time with the Lord might well be a time of thank-yous. Its a beautiful (and sometimes overlooked) way to pray. And so easy.
On this date in 1725, Gerard Majella was born at Muro, Italy (near Naples). When he died 30 years later, he was known as the greatest wonder worker of the 18th century.
Because of his fathers death, Gerard became the familys breadwinner at the age of 12. He was apprenticed to the local tailor. At the age of 19, he set up his own tailor shop. It was a successful venture, but he had little to show for it since he gave most of his money away.
At 23, Gerard tried to join the Redemptorists as a lay brother. He was turned down because of his health. He persisted, and when he was 24, a priest sent him to the novitiate with the note: I send you a useless brother.
He worked hard at his assigned tasks and showed remarkable signs of holiness. It was said of him, Either he is a fool or a great saint. St. Alphonsus Liquori, founder of the Redemptorists, thought he was the latter.
Gerard began to manifest unusual gifts the reading of souls, bilocation, healings. His holiness drew hundreds of people to him for spiritual help.
His poor health and his many labors eventually caught up with him, and he died just before midnight on October 15, 1755, having foretold the time of his own death.
Bilocation (seeming to be in two places at the same time) is usually explained not as a physical presence, but as a spiritual phenomenon. The person is bodily present in one place, and represented in the other place in the form of a vision.
This miracle is told in every Gospel (Mark even tells it twice!) The details vary, but all of the accounts describe the disciples telling Jesus that it is a hopeless situation and theres nothing they or he can do about it.
The problem was that the disciples couldnt go beyond their own expectations. We know how the story ends, and so we know what a mistake it was for them to confine themselves within such narrow boundaries.
We sometimes confine ourselves within expectations that are too narrow because they depend solely on what we can accomplish on our own. Can I be a better person? Can the hungry of our world be fed? Can we eliminate war? Can racism be overcome? Can women achieve equality? And most of all can I really do anything to make any of this happen?
The answer is: Yes. Simply put God in the equation.
To shake me out of my limited expectations, I need to hear God say to me, [Your name], I expect a little more out of you. And Ill help you do it.
It can be helpful to sort out these three titles: (1) Disciples, (2) The Twelve, (3) Apostles
Disciple: This is from a Greek word that means one who is taught, a learner, the follower of a master. In the Gospels the word designates those specifically called by Jesus to follow him, and who actually traveled with him. Some of them were women. It is not known how many disciples there were. Luke, in his Gospel, speaks of Jesus sending 70+ disciples to preach, but it is assumed that there were more than this.
The Twelve: From among the "disciples" Jesus chose a distinct group to become "the Twelve: -- symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel in the new covenant. Their names are listed in three of the Gospels and in the Acts of the Apostles, although there are some variations in the lists.
Apostle: This is from a Greek word that means to send officially as, for example, an ambassador. The term applies to The Twelve, but goes beyond them apparently designating those specially sent. Paul, for example, calls himself an apostle. In his letter to the Romans, he also refers to a woman as an apostle: Greet Andronicus and Junia they are prominent among the apostles. (John, in his Gospel, never uses Apostle.
Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, is the first to extend the term disciple to refer to people who became Christians after Christs death and resurrection.
The Sea of Galilee is about 12 miles long and 7 miles wide and generally quite deep. Sudden changes of weather can create strong winds, and the gorges between the high hills surrounding the area can tunnel the winds onto the sea and create dangerous conditions, especially at night.
Some would say that Mark and Matthew include this story in their Gospels because they see it as a reassuring lesson for Christians after the resurrection and ascension. The boat represents the Church. The darkness and wind represent evils that threaten it. Jesus, who seems to be absent, comes to them and calms the wind and the waves.
In Johns account, the whole point of the story is simply the unexpected presence of the Lord there is no miracle other than that (no calming of the wind and the waves). His presence is enough.
As individual Christians, and as a Church, we face crises from time to time. Some come from within, and some come from the outside. Both can bring fear and panic.
We need to hear the reassuring words of Jesus: It is I. Do not be afraid. Let him speak those words to you now.
The Easter Season weekday readings make particular use of two large sections of Johns Gospel. They are generally referred to as: (1) the Bread of Life Discourse, and (2) the Last Supper Discourse.
In Christian tradition, the Bread of Life refers both to the Word of God and the Eucharist. This may come as a surprise to some because of the apparent emphasis of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist. However, traditional Catholic theology considers each, in its own way, the real presence. The Vatican II document on the Word of God says this:
The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since from the table of both the Word of God and of the Body of Christ, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the Bread of Life. (#21)
In renovating church space, there has been a trend toward the design of the lectern as a table rather than the usual speakers rostrum. It has a flat top, smaller than the altar but similar in design
thus visually conveying the parallel: The table of the Bread of Life.
[On Sundays were reading accounts of people being raised from the dead in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles. They are signs of the Lords power over death.]
Found only in Luke (7:11-17), this story is well known and needs little re-telling. It takes place just outside a small town called Naim. Jesus and his disciples are just approaching the town when a large funeral procession is coming out, headed toward the cemetery. Theyre carrying the only son of a widowed mother.
This is very sad. The widow has just been deprived of her only son. And, her only means of support.
No one approaches Jesus and asks for help. The Gospel simply says that he saw this and had pity on her. Everything that follows is at the initiative of Jesus. First he goes to the widow and says: Do not cry. Then he goes to the bier and tells those carrying it to stop. They do.
Picture the scene. Everyone is standing still. There is hushed silence. Then Jesus says, Young man, I tell you, arise.
And he does. The young man sits up and begins to speak. Luke then says, And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
One can only guess what went on after that. The sad tears of the widow are now a joyous flood as she throws her arms around her son, and then throws her arms around Jesus, and the townspeople dance around, and .
Its too good for words. Just picture it and enjoy it.
In the years after his death-resurrection-ascension, Christians applied many titles to Jesus e.g., Messiah, Lord. But during his earthly ministry, what titles did Jesus apply to himself?
The one that appears most frequently seems strange: Son of Man as in the passage in the next post. It is used over 80 times in the Gospels, and only on the lips of Jesus. No one else ever addresses him this way.
But what does it mean?
Unfortunately, no one neither Jesus, nor any of the New Testament writers provides an explanation.
In some cases it seems that it could simply mean a mans son that is, truly human.
However, at times it appears to be related to a passage in the Book of Daniel: As the visions during the night continued, I saw One like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. In this case, it suggests a messiah-like person in whom and through whom God brings salvation.
It is a mysterious phrase that conveys the mortal condition of Jesus and his special dignity and his eventual coming in glory.
However mysterious its meaning may be, it is a title Jesus used of himself.
[Beginning today, we start reading from what is called the Bread of Life Discourse in John. We will continue reading it through the rest of this week.]
After the miracle of the loaves, the crowd saw the disciples get into a boat to head for Capernaum, ad Jesus wasnt with them. Eventually the people take boats to Capernaum. When they arrive Jesus is already there.
Jesus says that they're looking for him because they enjoyed the bread he gave them. This was food that perishes and was meant to be a sign of a food whose effects never perish the divine revelation he brings, and the Eucharist. This food is forever.
Its the old problem, Breaking our necks to get perishables, and overlooking the gifts that last forever.
Connecting with God (prayer), being fed by truths that come down from heaven (the word of God), sharing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (the Eucharist).
When my life on earth is coming to an end and for sure it will it wont be fine cuisine that I cherish, but rather the food that lasts forever. Am I eating properly?
Born in Portugal 12 years before Columbus crossed the Atlantic, Ferdinand Magellan became well educated in astronomy and nautical sciences. As a young man he participated in expeditions to India and Morocco.
Wanting to make a name for himself as a an explorer, Magellan offered his services to Charles I of Spain to find a way to sail westward and arrive in the far east and the wealthy prospects of the Spice Islands. Columbus had sailed westward to the great land mass of the new world. The question was, could one sail through or around this land mass to get to what is today Indonesia?
In September 1519, Magellan led a fleet of five ships carrying 270 men and sailed west. Reaching coast of South America, he said southward looking for a sea passage that would enable them to go westward. On October 21, just south of what is today Argentina, he saw a waterway that looked promising. (It would one day be called the Strait of Magellan.) After five weeks of storms and winding, tortuous sailing, he emerged onto a great expanse of water which seemed so calm that he named it the "peaceful sea (Pacific Ocean).
Months later, not yet at the Spice Islands, he stopped at the Philippines. There, on this date in 1521, he was killed in a fight with the natives.
It was over a year later when the one remaining ship of this expedition, with only 18 survivors aboard, finally reached home port in Portugal providing the first practical proof that the world was round
The Passover from Egypt to the Promised Land was the event for the Jewish people. They were led by the great prophet, Moses. In the desert, they received the unfailing gift of the manna, which kept them alive they called it the "bread of life. They received the Torah (the Law the first five books of the Bible), which they also referred to as the bread of life. Moses, the manna, the Torah these were their foundations.
Jesus, with full respect for these traditions, is taking the people to a new level. He is giving them the bread of life that truly comes down from heaven and gives life to the world his Word and his own Body and Blood.
There is nothing temporary about this food: Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
Not only does it last forever, but here and now it fulfills my deepest needs.
Really? Are those just words? Or are those my core beliefs?
There is a lot riding on this.
Born in 1803 in France, Peter was ordained a priest in 1827. Because of his poor health, he was assigned to a parish in the healthiest climate of the Swiss mountains.
But Peter Chanel wanted to be a missionary. When he was 28, he learned of a new missionary order the Marists and he decided to join.
The society was entrusted with the evangelization of the Pacific Islands, and Peter was among the first 20 Marists sent there. He and one other priest were assigned to the volcanic island of Futuna, near Figi, where no Christian missionary had ever set foot. Cannibalism was still practiced there, and the island was torn by warring factions.
Chanel learned the native language and customs, and because of his work among the sick and dying, he began to gain the peoples trust.
But the tribal chief gradually felt threatened as more and more of his people put aside their idols for Christianity. When his son was baptized, the chiefs anger toward Chanel increased.
On this date in 1841, the chief sent a band of warriors who entered the hut of Fr. Chanel, and killed him with clubs and knives. But martyrdom brings its own grace, and within a few months the whole island was Christian.
Peter was canonized in 1954. He is the first martyr and patron of the South Seas.
The I am sayings of Jesus (there are over 30 of them) are one of the characteristics of Johns Gospel. We have an example in todays passage when Jesus says, I am the bread of life. When Jesus speaks this way he isnt talking about who he is like someone pointing to himself and bragging.) Rather he is describing what he does
I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the good Shepherd.
I am the resurrection and the life.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
When we recognize that Jesus is talking about his action upon us, these statements come alive with new meaning. He is the bread of life not simply to be a real presence, but to act upon us, bring us health, strength, satisfy our deepest hungers. He is not simply standing there like a phenomenon to be admired. He is bread for me.
Take some time to go over the above statements, and hear him address each one to you personally. When you do that, they have a different ring to them.
Not only does it last forever, but here and now it fulfills my deepest needs.
The theme of manna the bread from heaven plays a major part in Johns Bread of Life Discourse. Manna provided miraculously in the desert for 40 years was considered the greatest miracle that God worked through Moses. The crowd challenges Jesus to work a similar miracle so that they can believe in him. Jesus responds that he is the true bread that comes down from heaven.
It appears that the manna was a sweet resinous substance that oozed from some desert trees and shrubs. It was edible, but not normally used as food.
The Israelites were only to gather enough for each day, trusting that God would not fail to provide it for them the following day. On the day before the Sabbath, they were allowed to gather twice as much so tthat they could observe the Sabbath rest and not have to perform the work of gathering the manna on the Sabbath.
The Israelites saw the manna as an expression of Gods special care for them. Moses told them to put some manna in an urn and place it in the Ark of the Covenant so that they could show it to later generations. Their descendants would then have evidence of how much God loved them.
Manna can still be found in the Sinai peninsula today.
Listen to these words very carefully the Father draws us near to Jesus.
Actually, there is no other way to get there. On our own, we cannot connect with the Lord. It is a grace given to us by God.
God doesnt act upon us physically, dragging us to the Scriptures, or to the Eucharist, or to prayer. God acts upon our hearts, loves us as daughters and sons. And because of that, there is a pull in us toward our brother Jesus.
Its not our own doing. Were drawn to Jesus. There is a pull, and internal movement toward Christ.
Think of it a pull in me toward Christ, put there by God. Have I sensed it? And when I sense it, in whatever form, do I respond to it?
The only other option is to resist it.
Augustine said it well: Our hearts were made for you, O God, and they will not rest until they rest in you.
From the beginning of the Church, and continued for 12 centuries, receiving Communion meant receiving both the Bread and the Cup. Not to do so (except for special reasons, such as sickness) was considered an abuse.
By the 13th century, a number of things came into play that would change this traditional practice. One factor was an emphasis on seeing and adoring the Eucharist at Mass, rather than receiving it. Thus, there was more emphasis on the Bread. You could see the Bread, but you couldnt see the wine because it was in the chalice. (The elevation of the Bread after the consecration was introduced in the 13th century.) Receiving communion became so rare that the Church eventually legislated the requirement of Communion once a year and Communion meant the Bread.
By the 15th century, lay reception of the cup had all but disappeared in the Latin Church. In 1415, the Council of Constance forbade the laity to take the cup thus making into law what for the first 12 centuries of the Church had been considered an abuse.
The rest of the Church (the Eastern Rites) continued the traditional practice of both the Bread and the Cup.
This became an issue at the time of the Reformation with many of the separated churches restoring the tradition of the Cup. In the latter part of the 16th century, the Council of Trent took up the question, but made no decision.
The restoration of the Cup in the Latin Rite would thus await the 20th century and the Second Vatican Councils Constitution on the Liturgy.
Passages about the relationship between Jesus and the Father can seem complicated at first, but if we take our time with them, we discover very simple truths.
Jesus is truly a human being. But he is a human being who is also God. He is one with God the Father, from whom God-life flows. The Opening Prayer on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord says: May we who share his humanity come to share in his divinity.
Jesus is the bridge to a relationship with God that we could never acquire on our own. (He will later give us a simple image He is the vine; we are the branches.)
Jesus is not just a helper. He is the mediator, the link between God and human beings. There is no other no saint, no bishop, no mystic. He alone is the bread of life.
What a gift. So simple. So profound.
Too many words can get in the way. Just let it sink in.
Kate Smith, the songbird of the south, was born on this date in 1907.
Over her career, she recorded almost 3,000 songs. Her theme song, When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,sold over 19 million copies. But Kate Smith was best known for her rendition of God Bless America.
Composer Irving Berlin first wrote, God Bless America in 1918 as part of a musical review. The song never made the cut, and he tucked it away.
In 1938, as the world moved closer to war, Berlin rewrote God Bless America. and it was introduced by Kate Smith during her radio broadcast on Armistice Day, November 11, 1938. It became an unofficial national anthem during the war years, and its popularity continues down to the present day.
In 1965, after attending Roman Catholic liturgies for 25 years, Kate Smith became a member of the Catholic Church.
In her later years, because of her renditions of God Bless America. at Philadelphia Flyers hockey games, Kate Smith was regarded as their good luck charm inspiring them to two successive Stanley Cups (1974-1985)
Do you also want to leave?
Why would Jesus even ask the Twelve a question like that?! He should have been positive, something like: let the rest leave I know I can count on you guys. I need to have the courage to let Jesus ask me the same question: Do you also want to leave?
No fair fudging by saying something like, Lord, I accept you, but I no longer want to be part of this group of disciples. So, Ill just keep it personal, between me and you.
No good. At the last Supper Table, Jesus said, Do this in memory of me. And the this was a meal celebrated with a group, not one persons private meal with the Lord.
I, too, must face the question Jesus put to his disciples, Do you also want to leave?
And then Jesus and I can have a good talk.
Friday of this week is First Friday a devotion to the Sacred Heart that developed in the latter part of the 17th century. There is a difference between devotion and liturgy.
The word liturgy applies to those prayers and rituals and seasons that are in the official books of the Church, regulated by the Church and celebrated on behalf of the whole Church. It refers to more than the Mass. The celebration of any of the sacraments is a liturgy. The Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) is another example. The calendar of the Church with its seasons and feasts is also part of our liturgy.
Devotions on the other hand, are prayers and practices that are optional, for example, the rosary, forty hours, novenas, scapulars, first Fridays.
No matter how widespread or publicly celebrated a particular devotion may be, it is not part of the core prayers and rituals of the Church, nor is it celebrated on behalf of the whole Church. Many devotions are quite private a person can make up their own.
People are free to make use of whatever devotions they find helpful. A general principle is that no one (especially a pastoral leader) should attempt to impose his or her devotions on others. Devotions are something like a dessert tray a person may choose whatever they like. However, should a devotion develop that is contrary to the faith (for example, devil worship) the Church would step in.
This is the longest of all the miracle stories in the Gospels, and one of the best known. While there is no need to retell it here some details deserve a close look.
The miracle takes place in Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem. Jesus had just been in Jerusalem for a feast, but he had to leave because, when he said to a group of people, I and the Father are one, they wanted to stone him. John says, He escaped from their power.
When Lazarus is ill, his sisters ask Jesus to come and heal him which meant a return to dangerous territory.
By the time Jesus returns, Lazarus is dead. He has been in the tomb for four days. In that climate, his body would have been in a state of advanced decay. He is very dead.
Jesus speaks to Martha with utter clarity: I am the resurrection and the life everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. And Martha replies by speaking words very similar to the profession of faith that Peter makes in the other three Gospels: I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.
Before calling Lazarus to come out of the tomb, Jesus prays aloud to the Father, showing that God is made known through the words and actions of Jesus.
In Johns account, this is the miracle that sets in motion the decision to have Jesus killed. One might be tempted to say Jesus will not get out of there alive. But to say that is to have a very limited view of life.
There is an easy-to-miss statement by Jesus toward the end of Marks Gospel.
Jesus, at the sight of the withered fig tree, says to the disciples that if they have faith, they can move mountains. Thats familiar enough. But then he says:
When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance.(Mark 11:25)
Thats an interesting way to start ones prayer. (Standing, by the way, was the normal posture of prayer for the Jews.)
Note that Jesus isnt talking about forgiving people who have a grievance against you. He says to begin the prayer by forgiving anyone against whom you have a grievance.
The Easter Season is approaching the half-way mark. What would happen if, each day from now on, whatever the topic of prayer, this prayer tip of Jesus were followed by everyone using these posts?
When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance.
It might actually create a blip on the radar screen of world peace.