Skip to comments.Easter Reflections -- 50 Days of the Easter Season
Posted on 03/27/2005 8:35:18 PM PST by Salvation
Easter Reflections -- 50 Days of the Easter Season
Let everyone fast for the 40 days of Lent, the early Church writers urge, but let no one fast during the 50 days of Easter.
The Easter Season is the Churchs most ancient and beautiful season. For the next 50 days until Pentecost, in the Sunday Gospels, well find the Risen Christ by a lakeshore on a mountain top coming through closed doors. The Paschal Candle will burn brightly in our church as we, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, feel our hearts burning within us and experience the fire of his love.
Now, a new resolution may be in order not a Lenten resolution, but one for the rest of the year. To keep to your pattern of six minutes of prayer every day.
Through these postings, you have been experiencing one of our oldest traditions of prayer called Lectio Divina holy reading. You may have discovered that the Lord talks to you, personally , through the words of Scripture.
Now is the perfect time to think about making this a regular part of your day.
Give it some thought.
There are two posts for each day. The second one each day (except Sundays) is the key to the daily reflection. Well walk through Lukes resurrection narrative and on into the first part of his Acts of the Apostles.
The first post is different. Its like a buffet table with information about the Easter Season, or various traditions and customs, or the saint whose feast is celebrated on that particular day.
On Sundays there will be a reflections basked on the days Gospel reading.
Start with either post, as you wish. The main thing is to spend some quiet time (6 minutes) in prayer each day.
It is in us to pray. We were made for it, and were physically healthier and happier when we pray. Its been said that when we begin praying regularly, coincidences begin happening.
But sometimes its hard to find a time and a place for prayer. These little posts will give you a time and a place.
Six minutes right here on your screen! Access it anywhere!
On Monday, March 28, we will begin walking through Lukes resurrection narratives.
Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. Luke 24:13-14
Having told the story of the empty tomb, Luke concludes his Gospel by telling of three appearances of the risen Christ on Easter Sunday.
The first is to two disciples on their way to Emmaus. In this story we see an outline of the Mass.
The disciples meet Jesus and begin a conversation with him (Introductory Rites).
Jesus explains the Scriptures to them (Liturgy of the Word.
They share a meal (Liturgy of the Eucharist),
The disciples depart to bring this good news to others (Concluding Rite).
Luke is writing some 40 or 50 years after the death and resurrection of Christ. Already, the basic structure of the Mass was beginning to take shape. Luke wants us to know that this is where we especially meet the risen Christ.
When we participate in the Mass, we are connecting with a ritual that is not a modern or medieval invention. It goes back to the very beginning of Christianity. And the leader of every Eucharist is still the same the Risen Lord.
These two disciples might wonder why we would take it for granted. For them, it was worth a seven-mile walk and another seven-mile walk to tell the others about it.
Am I willing to spread the good news of the Risen Christ?
Luke says Emmaus was a village about seven miles from Jerusalem, but he doesnt say in which direction. There is no known village called Emmaus at the time of Jesus and still called that today. That leaves the door open for speculation. There are three main contenders:
(1) At the time of Jesus there was a village called Ammaous. Its name has changed several times since then. But Ammaous is about 20 miles from Jerusalem hardly possible for two disciples to travel that far on foot and then come back the same day.
(2) Another village called Ammaous at the time of Jesus is 3.5 miles from Jerusalem. Thats only half the distance Luke describes, unless he was giving the figure for their round-trip. In the course of history, different names were given to this site. It was destroyed in the 1948 war.
(3) Since the 12th century (the time of the Crusaders), the town known today as el-Qubeibeh has been identified as Lukes Emmaus. It lies almost exactly seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. But the existence of this site at the time of Christ cannot be verified.
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. Luke 24:15-16
This is the first time in Lukes account that Jesus is seen alive after his death.
These are not two strangers he meets. These are two disciples, but they dont recognize him.
Everybody knew who Lazarus was when he came out of the tomb. Yet few seem to know who Jesus is. Why?
Because Jesus didnt go into the tomb dead and then simply come back out alive again, like Lazarus.
Jesus went through death to the other side, and was wondrously transformed, and it is from there that he appears. It wasnt as though he came out of the tomb that morning, walked around a bit and decided to go over and walk with these two disciples. He went to God in a new form of human life, and is with God, and also with us.
These disciples can no longer have him the way he was. The good news is that all of us can have him the way he is: Alive, present always, present everywhere.
Present here. Now. For me.
Bishop James A. Healy
James Augustine Healy, the first black Catholic bishop in the United States, was born on this day in 1830, on a plantation near Macon, GA., the son of a mulatto slave and an Irish soldier. His parents believed in the value of education so James and his nine bro6hers and sisters attended school in the north, where they werent considered slaves. James attended a Quaker school on Long Island, and then was part of the first graduating class of Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA,
He entered the seminary in Montreal, and then went to the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris. In 1854, he was ordained at Notre Dame Cathedral.
For 21 years, Fr. Healy served in the Diocese of Boston. Then, in 1875, he was named bishop of a diocese which then consisted of the states of Maine and New Hampshire.
Bishop Healy died on Aug. 5, 1900. His grave is marked by a tall Celtic cross.
Known for his work among the poor, Bishop Healy refused to live in the bishops mansion. Rather he lived at the cathedral.
He asked them, What are you discussing as you walk along? They stopped, looking downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, said to him in reply, Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days? And he replied to the, What sort of things? Luke 24:17-19
Luke knows how to tell a story.
Jesus asks his question and the two disciples who were walking with him stop. Everything comes to a halt.
They are astounded and ask Jesus, Are you the only one in town who doesnt know whats happened?
How ironic. They are talking to the only one in town who really does know whats happened.
Its a great scene, perfect for meditation.
We can put ourselves in Cleopas shoes, summon all our frustrations, and say to the Lord:
Are you the only one who doesnt know what I go through how I really feel what my days are like the things I have to put up with?
And the Lord asks me: What sort of things?
Take it from there.
The Four Evangelists
The Book of Revelation (4:7), with its highly symbolic language, describes four winged creatures around the throne of God. The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third has a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight.
As early as the second century these figures were used to symbolize each of the evangelists, based on how each began his Gospel.
Lion -- Mark because he begins with John the Baptist crying out in the desert, the abode of wild beasts.
Calf -- Luke because he begins with the Jewish priest Zechariah in the Temple where such animals were sacrificed.
Human-Faced Figure -- Matthew because he begins with the genealogy of Jesus.
Eagle -- John because of the soaring flight of the first words of his Gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God
They said to him, The thing that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. Luke 24:19-21
Its interesting to listen in on two disciples talking about Jesus to Jesus.
They talk of him in the past tense. Theyre disappointed. They miss Jesus.
Of course, they dont know about the resurrection and the sending of the Spirit. They know only about Jesus death, which is why theyre so gloomy.
Somber Christianity is a contradiction, which is why the Church spends 50 days celebrating the joy of Easter.
We dont preach the death of Jesus. We preach the death resurrection ascension. Those who preach gloom and doom have missed the point. Theyre like these two disciples on the road to Emmaus before the learned about the resurrection and its implications for us and for all creation.
There are times of sadness in life and suffering too. And death. But not pessimism.
Sometimes I need to check the gloom and doom factor in my life.
St. Julie Billiart
Today is the feast day of St. Julie Billiart, who founded the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
As a teenager, Julie devoted herself to works of mercy and the religious instruction of the poor. One day she was struck by a disease that left her paralyzed, unable to speak.
But Julie refused to be deterred. During the French Revolution, her holiness and work in hiding fugitive priests soon made her a target for the revolutionists. At one point, her supporters help her flee for her life, hiding her in a hay cart!
Eventually, Julies speech returned. In a vision, God showed Julie her future work would be the foundation of a religious congregation marked by the cross. In 1804, she vowed herself to God as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, and promised to educate young girls, especially the poor, and to help train teachers.
Her paralysis lasted for 22 years, until one day she was miraculously cured. She died on this date in 1816 at the age of 65.
Simplicity resembles that beautiful flower, called the sunflower, which follows the sun and ever turns towards it. So, too, the mind and heart of the one who possesses simplicity are always turned towards God.
~St. Julie Billiart
And besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place. Some women from our group, however, have astounded us: they were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; they came back and reported that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who announced that he was alive. Then some of those with us went to the tomb and found things just as the women had described, but him they did not see Luke 24:21-24
Its not hard to see the irony of what is going on here:
They talk of him in the past tense. Theyre disappointed. They miss Jesus.
Earlier this same day some women disciples found that the body of Jesus was no longer in the tomb.
Angels at the tomb announced to them that Jesus was not in the tomb and had been raised from the dead.
Angels reminded these women that before they left Galilee, Jesus had told them of his crucifixion and of his rising on the third day. (This is the third day.)
The women come back and report this to the other disciples who decide that its nonsense.
Two of these same disciples are now telling all this to none other than the Risen Jesus himself.
These two disciples had testimony from angels from other disciples from what Jesus told them earlier and they missed it. They were walking with the Risen Lord himself and they missed it!
We have the Scriptures. We have the Risen Lord. And still we can miss it.
We need the Holy Spirit. At our side. To help us see and believe.
The Two Disciples
Why did Luke name one disciple on the road to Emmaus and not the other? Probably because he didnt know the other. He was writing nearly 50 years later and passing on the tradition as he received it. The name of Cleopas was embedded in the story; the other disciples was not. Some have suggested that this could have been the wife of Cleopas, but there is no way of knowing.
A common Greek name for men at the time was Cleopatros (Cleopatra for women). Cleopas was a shortened form of the male name.
He is described as a disciple, but is not one of the Twelve for his name doesnt appear on any of the lists in the Gospels.
What is known is that Cleopas and his companion were among the disciples who did not yet believe Jesus had risen. Their disappointment is clear: We were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. Further, although they had heard the womens report of the angels message at the empty tomb, they were leaving Jerusalem, the very site where this event was said to have happened. They simply didnt believe it.
And the risen Jesus said to them, Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory? Luke 24:25-26
The risen Jesus puts his finger right on the problem whether it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory.
Our initial reaction would be: What kind of God would require the torture and death of his Son to make up for the sins of the human race? Lets look at this.
For starters, (well come back to this on Monday), eliminate the image of a fist-pounding God demanding that the human race pay back in full the debt they owe him because of sin. That would be a cruel god, and thats not the God revealed in the Scriptures.
The starting point is not Gods anger but Gods love, which we learn from Jesus who said: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. (Jn 3:16)
Jesus came to break through death to the other side, so that death would no longer be a dead end. The only way to get to the other side resurrection is to go through death, and thats why he died.
It was an act of love for us, not payment to an angry God.
Wed do well to turn Jesus words over and over. They have a good ring to them God so loved the world ..
The son of the governor of Illinois, Lew Wallace was born on this day in 1827. He served in the Mexican War, was a lawyer, was elected to the state senate, and was a major general during the Civil War successfully squashing Jubal Earlys raid on Washington D. C. in 1864. He also was governor of the New Mexico Territory and later minister to Turkey
Wallace was a prolific writer of military novels, but perhaps he is best known for a novel written as the result of a bet.
One day, Wallace and his friend, atheist Robert Ingersoll, got into a discussion about the divinity of Christ. Ingersoll challenged Wallace to prove that Jesus was the Son of God.
Wallace accepted the challenge. After years of researching in libraries around the world, Wallace (an indifferent Christian) changed his mind about Christianity.
In 1880 Wallace published his novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. By 1889, 400,000 copies had been sold more than the popular Uncle Toms Cabin. For many years, Ben-Hur was only outsold by the Bible. Wallaces novel has never been out of print since it was first published.
Lew Wallace died February 15, 1905.
Luke wrote his Gospel 40 or 50 years after the death and resurrection of Christ, for people who had never met Jesus. Luke carefully put this Gospel together, deliberately adding parallels to the Liturgy.
His sequence is exactly what happens in the Liturgy. Presentation of the Scriptures, then the breaking of the bread. But it is presided over by Jesus. Therein lies the difference, and it is all the difference in the world.
Those two men had walked that road before. They had read the Scriptures before. They had had sacred meals before. But not like this, because this was presided over by the presence of Jesus.
They didnt recognize him in some dramatic meeting, as when Peter spotted him on the shore. They recognized him in the breaking of bread. That is the kind of presence we experience. He is here, he is our priest, and we recognize him in the Eucharist.
Luke is answering the question that must have been asked back then and has been asked ever since: Why should I go to Mass? I can read the Scriptures. I can pray. Why go to Mass?
I can read the Scriptures, and I should. I can pray, and I should. But there is something different, something unique, in the Liturgy, and it is the presence of Jesus.
There are different levels of presence. That is the distinction. God is everywhere and God was everywhere for those two men. But there is a distinctive, more intense, more active presence of Jesus as in this incident. And we believe that when a sacrament is performed, that is the kind of presence we experience.
Stanislaus was born July 26, 1030, near Krakow, Poland. As a priest, he was a popular preacher and spiritual director.
In 1072, he was named Bishop of Krakow. Stanislaus was not afraid to speak his mind. He even drew the anger of King Boleslaus the Bold when Stanislaus denounced the Kings cruelties, injustices and other crimes. Stanislaus excommunicated the king and even stopped services at the cathedral.
The furious king ordered his guards to kill the bishop, but they refused. So Boleslaus himself killed Stanislaus on this date.
St. Stanislaus is the patron of Krakow.
Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:27
Jesus continues to explain why it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things.
We sometimes ask the same question: Why did Jesus have to die such an awful death? Couldnt he have just had a heart attack and died?
Its not that Jesus had to die the way he did as though God said, You have to go and die a horrible death to pay me back for the horrible sins committed against me. Jesus had to live the way he did.
To live that way in this imperfect world is sometimes to get hurt, and sometimes to get hurt bad. In the end, that is what happened to Jesus. But it was his way of life, not the sufferings in themselves, that was important. He showed us a way of life, a way to life, taking on whatever sufferings came along the way.
As for why a good God would let his own Son suffer so dont put distance between Jesus and God, as though God sent someone else to do it and was up there watching comfortably while Jesus suffered. Jesus is God. It is God who took flesh and suffered with us.
Thank about that. God did this for us.
the Holy Spirit Shell
People say that the shellfish (called the sand dollar) teaches the story of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ.
If examined closely, the four holes at the edges of the sand dollar are said to represent the four nail wounds of the crucifixion. A small slit in the shell represents the wound in Christs side.
On the top side of the sand dollar are markings that look like the Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection. At the center of the lily is a star, signifying the star at Bethlehem. On the other side is the outline of the Christmas flower, the poinsettia, symbolizing Jesus birth.
When the shell is broken open, five tiny white pieces fall out, resembling the wings of a dove, symbols of the Holy Spirit that Christ sends upon his followers. Thats why the sand dollar is sometimes called the Holy Spirit Shell.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over. So he went in to stay with them. Luke 24:28-29
These two disciples still dont know who this stranger is. But in the Mideastern culture, hospitality even to a stranger is important. So, having arrived at the house of one or both of them, they invite Jesus to stay overnight and rest before he travels on. Jesus accepts the invitation.
Theyre in for quite an eye-opener.
The same invitation is one that wed all like to extend to the Lord: Stay with us.
During this 50-day Easter Season we celebrate that the Lord is alive and promised to dwell with us all days, even to the end of the age.
We need to do what the disciples at Emmaus did: Invite him into wherever we are reading this our home, work-place and rest with him for a while. He wont turn down the invitation.
The truth is, hes already here.
Rest with him for a few minutes.
Catherine de Medici
Catherine deMedici was a convent-educated orphan who went on to become wife of a king, queen of France, and the mother of three kings. Her great uncles were Pope Leo X and Cardinal Giulio deMedici.
Born on this date in 1519 in Florence, Italy, Catherine was orphaned at one month old, and placed under the guardianship of the ambitious Cardinal Medici. Later, when he had become Pope Clement VII, he arranged a marriage for her with the future Henry II of France to fortify his political influence. Catherine was only 14.
For most of her married life, Catherine played a quiet, non-assuming role in politics. But after her husbands and then her eldest sons deaths, she became regent for her young son, Charles IX, who was too young to rule. Catherine began to assert her influence, particularly when it came to protecting her childrens interests.
As a Catholic, she was determined to limit the Huguenots (or French Protestants) power in France. But she also occasionally played one side against another, especially if it meant preserving her sons power.
She died January 5, 1589.
And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Luke 24:30-31
After settling in at the house, they took their places at the table to eat. Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them the same actions he performed at the multiplications of the loaves, and at the Last Supper.
After this, Jesus vanished. It isnt as though he got up from the table and went out the door. The literal Greek means he became invisible. He was still present, but they were no longer able to see him visibly present.
Its not hard to see why Luke spends so much time on this story his longest account of any of the appearances. The two disciples faith in the risen Lord was not based on the empty tomb, or a message of angels, but on an actual encounter with Jesus.
Luke was writing for people who lived 50 years after the Ascension and for us living much later. They (and we) could say: Just once Id like to see him.
This story is Lukes answer. Do you want to experience the risen Christ? Well, these two disciples who didnt recognize him for seven long miles, came to know him in the breaking of the bread. Come to the Eucharist. Let God open your eyes to the person who truly hosts this gathering and listen to him speak and take the bread and the cup and you will experience the risen Lord.
The Whole Story
How would our faith be different if we didnt know about the resurrection?
St. Paul, when he first came to Ephesus, met some Christians who apparently didnt know about the resurrection. They had been taught by Apollos who spoke and taught accurately about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John. When Paul asked about the Holy Spirit, they said, We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. (Acts 18-24-28)
No details are given as to how this happened, but it could be interesting to imagine this scenario: Lets hypothesize that Apollos was a disciple of Jesus from the beginning. But about a month before Jesus made his final trip to Jerusalem (where he would die), Apollos moved to Ephesus (600 miles away as the crow flied.)
In Ephesus, Apollos preached about Jesus the kind of person he was, the kind of life he led, his miracles, his teaching on forgiveness, the great Sermon on the Mount. Apollos had been there for everything except the last month of Jesus life.
What would be missing from his teachings? What would be missing is what this whole Easter Season is about: the death, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Spirit and the Eucharist of the Church.
These are more than isolated facts, additional anecdotes. They are the heart of the story.
That, again, is the reason for the 50-day season. To make sure the heart of the story is the heart of the story.