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.
Lukes Resurrection Narratives
Now, after the long narrative of Jesus crucifixion and burial, comes the resurrection.
No one knows exactly when Christs resurrection took place, only that it was sometimes between his burial late of Friday and the discovery of the empty tomb early Sunday morning. There were no eyewitnesses to describe the resurrection itself. Instead, there are descriptions of appearances of the Risen Lord after the resurrection.
The account of the Passion is one continuous narrative, very similar in all four Gospels. Not so with the narratives of the resurrection appearances. There are isolated scenes and, while there are some similarities, each Gospel has its own stories to tell.
Lukes Gospel account can be divided into five episodes all taking place on Easter Sunday:
(1) the finding of the empty tomb at dawn.
(2) the appearance of the Risen Christ to two disciples walking to Emmaus.
(3) the appearance to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem.
(4) the commissioning of these disciples to witness and preach in his name.
(5) the end of the visible appearances as Christ.
The Last Chapter of Lukes Gospel
At daybreak on the first day of the week the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24:1-3
One of the most familiar phrases in the Apostles Creed is We believe in the resurrection of the body.
Resurrection is not the same as resuscitation (the act of reviving from apparent death or unconsciousness.) This human existence isnt simply continued. Its transformed. This human existence, which for some may not have been so good at all which may have been plagued by mistakes or just bad breaks this human existence will be transformed into something magnificent. The seed will blossom into what it was meant to be.
Thats why the crucifixion means so much. The body that was put in the tomb was a wreck broken, beaten, bloody, ruined. But Jesus went through death to a new transformed, impossible-to-describe human life. On Friday he was a wreck, and on Sunday this broken body was glorious.
We believe in the resurrection of the body. Thats my body were talking about.
Lukes Two Volumes
The New Testament is a collection of 27 books. Luke wrote two of them, which together make up over one-quarter of the entire New Testament.
Volume I: Lukes Gospel, which tells the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Volume II: The Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the Holy Spirit guiding the young Church
The bridge between the two is the resurrection of Christ, and the pouring of his Spirit upon his people. These events flow into one another and are described at the end of Lukes Gospel and the beginning of Acts.
While the women were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. Luke 24:4-5
The dazzling garments suggest the other-worldly character of these two men. When the two disciples on the way to Emmaus later talk about this incident, they will say that the women reported that they had seen a vision of angels.
At the beginning of Lukes Gospel an angel explained to shepherds about the birth at Bethlehem.
Now, at the end of Lukes Gospel, angels will explain to these women what happened at Calvary. What happened there was also a birth.
The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem brought joy. His terrible death at Calvary to everyones surprise also brought joy.
God seemed absent during the crucifixion, but God was very much present. Through it God brought about a new day, a new time in history, an unprecedented continuing presence of the Spirit on this earth.
Through the resurrection and sending of the Spirit, God is present and active in our world in a new way.
God is present and active in my life now, and will be all day. Today, what I need to do is turn off the mute button and listen to God's voice as He speaks to me.
Like right now.
The Ancient Easter Season
Records show that, besides celebrating Easter Sunday, an Easter Season of 50 days was celebrated as far back as the beginning of the third century. There was to be no fasting or kneeling. It was not a time for penitential practices. It was a time to exult in Gods goodness.
Why is the Easter Season so long? Because the resurrection is just too big and too important to celebrate in only one day, or even one week.
Why 50 days not 10 or 20? Because the Jewish feast of Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover, and this 50-day stretch between Passover and Pentecost was already in place.
For Christians, it became no longer simply a time between two Jewish feasts. It became one great feast, the longest feast ever. They called it one great Sunday. They also called it a week of weeks because it lasted seven weeks.
They said to them, Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day. Luke 24:5-7
The message of the angels is clear: Jesus is the living one.
Jesus didnt come to have a deadening effect upon the world, or upon anything. He came to bring life Gods life. This life isnt something that switches on after we die. It pulses within us now. Paul put it clearly.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:11)
The Christian way of life has its challenges, but it is never meant to be dull, listless, blank, stale, flat.
Thats something worth remembering, especially on a bad day.
Gods life Gods own life is pulsing within me.
Now. This very moment.
The Easter Outfit
In the early days of the Church, adults baptized at Easter emerged from the baptismal waters and changed into new clothes their baptismal robes. These were not ritual-type robes, but fine clothes expressing their new life.
It was customary to wear the baptismal clothes throughout the Easter Season to dress up as proud members of the Lords disciples.
It was this practice that gave rise to the custom of getting new clothes for Easter.
Mystagogia means to go deeper into the mysteries. i.e. the truths of the faith. It is an ancient custom of spending the first week of Easter with the newly baptized, helping them experience the depths of the truths they had accepted in their baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. Luke 24:8-9
These women were among the disciples of Jesus that Luke described back in the eighth chapter
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, the wife of Herods steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (8:2-3)
Luke then describes how Jesus began to tell his disciples that he would suffer, die, and rise from the dead. These women had heard all this, but they dont really understand. The angels had to remind them.
The Scriptures, the truths of our faith, our customs and traditions arent brand new to us. But we need angels to remind us of their meaning, to help us see them with fresh eyes, and take them into the changing circumstances of our lives.
Going over the same truths is not like going around in circles. It is more life a spiral staircase. We are in a different place every time we come around again, and we see familiar truths from a new perspective.
There are truths we learned as children that are worth turning over in our minds time and again. There is a god. God loves me. God cares for me. God will take me through death to the other side. God will take me through today.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new Gregorian Calendar for the Christian world (which is still used today), and the New Year fell on January 1. Some people either didnt know about the change or refused to follow the new calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1. People played tricks on them and called them April Fools.
Peter, along with his brother Andrew, was part owner of a fishing business. His name was Simon, but Jesus renamed him Rock. It was not a word used at that time as a proper name. Jesus coined it for him. (The Greek word for rock is petros from which his name has passed into most other languages.)
After the resurrection Peter emerges as the leading figure in the Church at Jerusalem.
According to ancient tradition, he eventually went to Rome, became the leader of the Christians there, and was martyred during Neros persecution (64 or 65 A.D.). Early writers tell of his being killed by crucifixion, and that he asked to be put on the cross upside down since he was not worthy to imitate so closely the death of Christ.
Testimony from the end of the second century indicates that he was buried on Vatican Hill. Constantine built a church there in the fourth century and the present St. Peters Basilica was built on the same site in the 16th century. Recent excavations beneath the main altar revealed an honored grave there, and the bones (dating to the first century) are thought to be those of Peter.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. Luke 24:10-11
Can you beat that? These women disciples report what happened and the apostles dont believe them. Because they were women? Well, in Johns Gospel, Thomas wouldnt believe the male disciples who had seen the Risen Lord.
We dont live in a culture that automatically supports our faith. Our decision to believe in Christ is more radical than it seemed 50 years ago. The theologigian Karl Rahner said that faith today requires the lonely courage of the first century martyr.
In the end our faith can only be based, not on what others tell us not on indoctrination not on public opinion not on reasoned arguments not on second-hand date but on our own firsthand experience of God.
This is not something that we accomplish. We must simply open ourselves to receive it as a gift when it comes usually in prayer, but other times too.
My own firsthand experience of God?
Feast of St. Francis of Paola
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Paola, the patron saint of sailors. Born in 1416, his parents named him after St. Francis of Assisi. At 14, he decided to become a hermit. Over the years, others were attracted to his austere lifestyle, and eventually he founded a community which became known as the Franciscan Friars, meaning the least of all religious.
Many centuries later, a cloistered community of monks in the Bavarian Alps produced a heavy, dopplebock beer to sustain them through Lenten fasting. Today, Munichs Paulaner brewery derives its name from that monastery which was dedicated to St. Francis of Paola.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened. Luke 24:12
The Greek word here translated amazed might also be translated. he went home wondering at what had happened. Luke uses the same word several times throughout his Gospel:
After the birth of Jesus, when Simeon took the child in his arms and spoke of his destiny, Joseph and Mary were amazed/wondering at what was said about him.
When, at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth, all were amazed/wondering at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were filled with awe and amazed/wondering
We should allow ourselves to experience the wonder of the truths we hold. The last words of the prayer said over those being confirmed are: Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
We need to enjoy the wonder and awe of the truths about our God: There is a God. God became part of the human family. Christ died, rose, ascended. Christ sends his Spirit upon us.
These are colossal truths. Someone who never heard of them before would say, You believe what?! In this Easter Season, we spend 50 days stepping back and experiencing the wonder and awe of the truths weve gotten used to.
Take the passage, above, and walk home with Peter as he thinks, ponders, wonders, is filled with amazement.
The Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation (sometimes mistakenly called the Book of Revelations) was written about 95 A.D. for Christians living in the part of the Roman Empire that is modern-day Turkey. The Roman emperor had ordered his subjects to worship him as a god. When the Christians resisted, they were persecuted.
The author of the Book of Revelation, intending to encourage these persecuted Christians, vividly describes visions of how God would overcome the evils they faced, and ultimately all evil.
Because of these visions and the symbolic language used, many people read the Book of Revelation as though it gives secret information about future events, including the end of the world. But the Book of Revelation was not intended to give coded messages about actual people and events in later times. The author was only concerned about the people and events at that time, and was given no privileged information about the future.
Yet the Book of Revelation is timeless because whatever time in history, it is the same struggle between good and evil, and the same God.
This is an unusual time in the liturgical year. The only Old Testament reading that is used at Mass is from a Psalm.
In todays Gospel, belief is a main theme Jesus urges Thomas to be believing, not unbelieving, and the author also urges us to believe.
For many years now, people have been drifting away from regular Mass attendance. People speculate on the reasons for this and there is probably a combination of reasons. But one possibility is: They dont believe any more, or at least their belief has weakened.
It may be harder to believe today because of the conditions of society. For a long time, people took faith for granted. We assumed that we all believed in God, and Jesus Christ, and life after death. We spent our time talking about what we do, not what we believe.
We need to take a hard look at our faith, because we cant take faith for granted. Faith is a gift of God, but it takes participation, courage and conviction to believe. You have to take a risk. You have to think about faith and reflect on it. You have to be attentive to it and wrestle with it.
Belief gives color and meaning to life and to death, and even to suffering. When you have faith, you are no longer dealing with a flat, dull world. It is luminous with the presence of God, and holds the promise of a destiny in Gods hands. It brings life and verve to our existence. And it is always within reach of everyone.
Dont ever take belief for granted. Think about it. Theres more to faith than simply coming to Mass, but, my, how it helps to gather at Eucharist. This is where we experience Gods presence in a unique way.
Its where we come together with other people who honestly admit their belief.
Feast of the Annunciation
For nearly 1,500 years Christians have celebrated the Annunciation on March 25. Besides being nine months before Christmas, it is also the time of the year when daylight gradually increases appropriate for the feast celebrating the conception of the Light of the World.
This year, however, because March 25 was Good Friday, the Church transferred the Annunciation to today, Monday of the Second Week of Easter.
A popular artistic portrayal of the Annunciation hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Created by African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), it depicts a simply-dressed Mary sitting on her bed, with the angel Gabriel represented as a column of light.
Tanner was the son of a Methodist bishop. A self-taught painter, he specialized in biblical themes.
|The Annunciation, 1898
by Henry Ossawa Tanner
(American, born 1859, died 1937)
Oil on canvas
57 x 71 1/4 in.
Excerpt from the back of the poster
This painting is an unusual version of one of the oldest themes in European art, the Annunciation (which means announcement). In this New Testament Bible story, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus. Traditional paintings of the Annunciation show Mary wearing fancy blue robes and seated in a European palace or cathedral, as she listens calmly to an angel with glorious wings and a halo
Let's Look Again
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.
Then they said to each other, Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us? So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem.. Luke 24:32-33
Interesting, We have in this passage an example of the power of the Scriptures.
Scripture is unlike any other kind of literature. It is never a dead word, a relic of a past era. Rather, it is something like reading our mothers or fathers letters long after they are fone. We feel our hearts burning within us because what were reading flows into our own life and is alive in us.
Scripture is even more than that. It is a graced word. God is active in the words as we read them. (Or hear them.)
The risen Jesus looked back and opened up the Scriptures for these two disciples. It is from this same perspective that the Gospels and the other New Testament books were written. Looking back after and through the resurrection to all that had taken place earlier.
The Word of God is always live, and we sense the Lords comforting presence. Gloom and doom turn into faith and hope.
When we read the Scripture, God is active, speaking to us. Spend a few moments with any of the Scripture passages on this thread, and let God speak to you.
Blessed Fr. Damien
Damien De Veuster, a young Belgian priest, asked to serve at the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. He hoped to instill in the patients a sense of self-worth and dignity. His first task was to restore dignity to death. When he preached, he called the people not my brothers and sisters but we lepers a salutation that would eventually become true.
Damien died of leprosy on April 15, 1889. He was beatified in 1995 by Pope John Pail II.
Despite his work among the lepers, Damien was not without detractors, one of whom claimed he contracted leprosy because of his relationship with women patients.
Deciding to learn the truth, author Robert Louis Stevenson (whose novels chronicled life in the South Seas) went to Molokai to investigate.
Over and over, Stevenson listened to firsthand reports of the priests courage and work among the lepers. When Dr. Charles Hyde, a former missionary to Molokai, wrote a letter saying the evil rumors were true, Stevenson leaped to Damiens defense by writing Father Damien; An Open Letter to Reverend Dr. Hyde of Honolulu.
So the two disciples set out at once and returned to Jerusalem, where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon! Luke 24:33:34
Remember that this same morning, the women had told the other disciples about the empty tomb. But the disciples thought it was nonsense and they did not believe them.
Now theyre all bursting with good news. Before these two disciples can get a word out, theyre told: The Lord has truly been raised! Quite a switch in 12 hours.
The two disciples are told that the Lord appeared to Simon. This appearance is not described in any of the Gospels. But Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians (written before any of the Gospels) says that Christ appeared to Kephas (Peter), to the Twelve, and to many others.
The Lord has truly been raised! Thats all we have to hear. Which appearance was first, when did this one or that one happen it doesnt matter. Its true! He has appeared!
Thats why the accounts are so different in all four Gospels. The evangelists werent interested in tracking a sequence. Theyre bursting to tell the good news in all directions: The Lord has truly been raised!
These are the last words of the disciples in Lukes Gospel. Maybe I should spend these last 30 days of the Easter Season letting them echo inside me: The Lord has truly been raised!
St. Bernadette Soubirous
St. Bernadette was born in 1844 to a poor family in southern France, the oldest of six children. To help support her family, Bernadette worked as a shepherdess.
Our February 11, 1858 (Around the time of her First Communion) the 14-year-old had a vision of the Blessed Mother near a cave along the Gave River in Lourdes. The Blessed Mother appeared to her 18 more times in the next two months.
During one vision, Bernadette was led to a spring of healing waters. During another vision, Mary stated she was the Immaculate Conception, and that a church should be built on the site. Authorities tried to shut down the spring and to delay construction of the chapel. But Empress Eugenie of France, the wife of Napoleon III, interceded and construction continued.
In 1866, Bernadette entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in Nevers. After a prolonged illness, Bernadette died on this date in 1879. She was 35. When her body was exhumed 30 years later, it was perfectly preserved.
Lourdes is second only to Paris in having hotel rooms for visitors to France.
More than six million people visit Lourdes each year. More than 2,000 sick or crippled people have reported being cured, but only 66 cases have been certified as miraculous by a medical board.
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the braking of the bread. Luke 24:35
The two disciples who just returned from a round trip to Emmaus finally get a chance to tell their story what happened on the road and, most of all, at the supper table.
You can imagine what that room was like as they all try to talk at once about the turn of events. Today it would be high fives all around.
After all, these were no fools. Mary Magdalene was no fool. The disciples on the road to Emmaus were no fools. Peter and Andrew and James and John were no fools. The doubting Thomas was certainly no fool.
And Paul. He could tell his own story about meeting the Lord on the road to Damascus. He wasnt out looking for an experience of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was out looking for Christians to throw in jail.
Yes, it does help to know that these people believed and staked their lives on it.
We believe because we ourselves have experienced the risen Lord, especially at Eucharist.
Come, Holy Ghost
The most popular hymn to the Holy Spirit in English is the familiar :
Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest,
And in our hearts take up Thy rest
The words for this hymn were composed in the ninth century by Rabanus Maurus, a Benedictine monk, who became the Archbishop of Mainz, Germany.
Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit
The Bible, originally written in Hebrew and Greek, began to be translated into Latin in the late second century. By the fifth century, largely through the work of St. Jerome, there was a standard Latin text known as the Vulgate (from a Latin word meaning popular). In this version the Greek for Holy Spirit was translated as Spiritus Sanctus.
When the Bible began to be translated into English in the 16th century, Spiritus Sanctus was translated as Holy Ghost. The word ghost comes from an Old English word that means spirit. Gradually, however, this translation of the Bible in the 20th century shifted from Holy Ghost: to Holy Spirit.
Good Shepherd Sunday
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. On the fourth Sunday of Easter no matter which of the three cycles it is the Gospel is about Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Todays Gospel draws the image everyone loves Jesus as the Good Shepherd, going out to the lost sheep and putting it on His shoulders the shepherd who gives his life for the sheep the sheep who know him and He knows them.
But Jesus also talks about himself as the gate to the sheeps pen. He says, I am the gate for the sheep .Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
We all have closed gates in our life. Jesus says The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice .I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
Think about the closed gates in your life: Hatred (or bad blood). Jesus says, Do you think I was never hated? I know what thats like. Ill show you how to open that gate its called forgiveness.
Health. Jesus says, Do you think I dont know what its like to hurt in your body? I can take you through that gate. Dont be afraid.
Addiction. Jesus says, Do you think I never had to break away from something? Do you think it was easy to leave my home? Ill take you through that gate.
Maybe opening the closed gate means facing up to truth for the first time admitting it to yourself or telling somebody else who ought to hear it. Jesus says, I had to speak the truth. I know what its like to say a hard truth.
Sometimes a closed gate is accepting who you are This is me. These are my life circumstances. And Jesus says, You know what I love you anyway. Ill take you through that gate and you can accept who you are. I do.
The Greeting of Peace
In both Luke and John, the first words of the risen Jesus to the disciples are: Peace be with you.
This became a greeting among Christians and is used often in the New Testament letters. Some samples:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. [The beginning of Pauls letter to the Romans]
The God of peace be with all of you. Amen. [The end of Pauls letter to the Romans]
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3) [This same formula appears in eight other letters of Paul.]
May grace and peace be yours in abundance through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Peter 1:2)
Peace be with you. (3 John 1:15)
These are the words used in the Sign of Peace at Mass. Its a prayer, a blessing on one another, and can be exchanged sincerely even by two people who have their differences. They have a bond in Christ that goes far deeper than any differences.
While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, Peace be with you. Luke 24:36
We come to the last of the appearances of the risen Lord in Lukes Gospel, all of which took place on Easter Sunday. This one comes directly on the heels of the celebration after the two disciples returned from Emmaus.
The fist words of Jesus in this scene are the same as in Johns Gospel when he first appeared to the disciples Peace be with you.
Thats a striking touch of kindness to a group that had abandoned him when he was arrested a group whose leader had denied him three times.
Those are his first words to us every time we come before him to confess our sins: Peace be with you.
Jesus did not come to the disciples to get even. He came to help them and most of all, to help them believe He always, always comes to us the same way.
This is the same Jesus who ate and drank with sinners, cured the sick, raised the dead, blessed children, told his disciples at the Last Supper that he longed to share this meal with them.
This is the same Jesus who longs to share this meal with me every Sunday.
This is the same Jesus who is with me now, and says, Peace be with you.
Jesus Second Appearance in Luke
The Gospel writers couldnt include everything. They had to pick and choose their material. Their focus was the particular community for whom they were writing.
This is one reason why each Gospel has different material and different emphases. Their choices were affected by the questions, problems, needs of their audience.
With that in mind, one way to read a Gospel passage is to say: This is a response to a particular question in their community. If this is the response, what was the question?
Applying this to Lukes description of Jesus second appearance, one could ask: Why wasnt the Emmaus story enough? To what questions did this second story respond?
Probably by the time Luke wrote his Gospel, some Christians had begun to think of the resurrection in foggy terms. Jesus sort of lived on after death.
Luke wanted there to be no mistake on this one. Jesus is not a bodiless person in some shadowy existence. Jesus lives as a full-fledged transformed human being!
Luke wants Christians of all generations to hear Jesus say: Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet. See that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.
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