Archive for category Easter

John 20:1-9 The Empty Tomb (Easter Sunday)

Today, the Christendom celebrates Easter, the feast of all feasts in the life of all Christians. Because of Easter, Christianity becomes a religion of joy, hope, victory and new life in Christ. St. Paul clearly affirmed the singular importance of the Resurrection in declaring: “If Christ was not raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Cor 15:17). This means that if Christ is not risen, Paul and all Christians would “then be exposed as false witnesses of God, for we have borne witness before Him that He raised up Christ” (1 Cor 15:15). In brief, if Christ be not risen, we are all idolaters! But the truth is: Christ is risen!. Indeed “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it” (Ps 118:24).

There are at least five meanings and salvific relevance we can attach to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead:

First, his resurrection confirmed everything Christ has done and taught. It fulfilled both Jesus’ triple prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection in the Synoptics (cf. Mk 8:31; 9:30; 10:32), and his triple prediction of being “lifted up” in John’s Gospel (cf. Jn 3:14; 8:28; 12:32). Christ’s exaltation vindicated all he claimed to be, as he himself asserted in his trial before the high priest (cf. Mk 14:61f; CFC 621).

Second, through his Resurrection, Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies promising a Savior for all the world (cf. Ps 110; Dn 7:13). The history of God’s self-revelation, begun with Abraham and continuing through Moses, the Exodus, and the whole Old Testament, reached its climax in Christ’s Resurrection, something unprecedented, totally new (CFC 622).

Third, the resurrection confirmed Jesus’ divinity. St. Paul preached that Jesus was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4; cf. Phil 2:7-8). Upon seeing the Risen Jesus, Thomas cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28; CFC 623).

Fourth, Christ’s death freed us from sin, and his resurrection brought us a share in the new life of adopted sons/daughters of the Father in the Holy Spirit. “If then we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Rom 6:8; CFC 624).

“Finally, the Risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection” (cf. 624). Jesus’ resurrection is a source, a proof, a guarantee, and a pledge of  a future glory. “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all thing into subjection to himself” (Phil 3:21). “In Christ all will come to life again” (1 Cor 15:22).

By itself, the tradition of the “empty tomb” does not prove anything. But when linked to the Risen Christ’s appearances, it is confirmatory of the resurrection (cf. CCC 640). Let us remember, however, that appearances did not remove all doubts nor the need for faith (cf. CCC 644). Some doubted that the one who appeared was really Jesus of Nazareth, others he was the Christ. A real change of heart, a conversion, was needed to “see” the Risen Christ as the Apostle Thomas and the Emmaus disciples clearly show (cf. Jn 20:27; Lk 24:13-35). Matthew describes how “those who had entertained doubts fell down in homage” (Mt 28:17). This confirms the fact that faith is truly a gift. “No one can say: Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). St. Thomas Aquinas explains that “the apostles saw the living Christ after his resurrection with the eyes of faith: (ST, III: 55, 2 ad 1m).

Yes, since Jesus was risen from the dead, more reasons and meaning for us to heed his call for conversion, faith, and discipleship.

Think about it: “The redemption which our Lord carried out through his death and resurrection is applied to the believer by means of the sacraments, especially by Baptism and the Eucharist: “We have buried with him by baptism and death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we might walk in newness of life” (Rm 6:4). The resurrection of Christ is also the rule of our new life: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2). Rising with Christ through grace means that “just as Jesus Christ through his resurrection began a new immortal and heavenly life, so we must begin a new life according to the Spirit, once and for all renouncing sin and everything that leads us to sin, loving only God and everything that leads to God” ( St. Pius X Catechism”, 77).

 

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Mt 26:14-25 The betrayal of Judas

“The story is told again of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas. This time the account is from Matthew. We must listen again and let it pierce our hearts. Before the Passover Judas goes to the authorities and asks what they are willing to give him if hand him Jesus over them. This is a business transaction, a deal. Jesus is a commodity, and money changes hands. 

Meanwhile, Jesus is making his own plans for the Passover meal, sending his disciples on  ahead into the city to arrange a house for a dinner. An anonymous donor lends Jesus his house. And dinner begins. As it grows dark, Jesus speaks: “I give you my word, one of you is about to betray me.” The rest of the group is distressed and each asks Jesus the same question: “Surely it is not I, Lord?” Jesus replies them with this harsh word: “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is he one who will betray me.  The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Mt 26:23-24). 

It was a custom among the tribes for either host or guest, or one of two close friends, to take a piece of  bread or meat and dip it in oil or wine and feed it to the other as a sign of closeness, of kinship. In fact, once a person had eaten at the  table in a Bedouin’s camp and shared food he literally was considered kin for the seventy-two hours that the food shared was in his body, bound even closer than by blood ties. Judas takes the food, and even bound as close as that to Jesus, he intends to betray him.” (Megan Mc Keena, Lent 1998, The Daily Readings, Orbis Books Maryknoll). ). By doing so, Jesus successfully shows to his disciples the horror of betrayal (committed by Judas) in the face of his act of hospitality (see JBC 61:176). Here the treachery of Judas is seen at its worst. He must have been the perfect actor and the perfect hypocrite. If the other disciples had known what Judas was about, he would never left that room alive. 

Table fellowship is a celebration of friendship and oneness of mind and heart.  Hearing Jesus accusing one of them being a traitor is indeed disturbing and shocking. Trying to lift the veil of gloom caused by Jesus’ words, each tried to assure him by asking, “Surely, it is not I Lord? Note that they address Jesus as “Lord,” a title that expresses their acceptance of the power of Jesus over them. 

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the ineffable Hebrew name YHWH, by which God revealed himself to Moses (cf. Ex 3:14), is rendered Kyrios, “Lord.” From then on, “Lord” becomes the more usual name by which to indicate the divinity of Israel’s God. The New Testament uses this full sense of the title “Lord” both for the Father and –what is new-for Jesus, who thereby recognized as God himself (cf. 1 Cor 2:8). 

Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord.” This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing (cf. Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al.). At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus. In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: It is the Lord!” (Jn 20:28; Jn 21:7). 

Judas Iscariot is the only one who addreses Jesus as “Rabbi”” which is also used by Jesus’ enemies and critics.  What makes Judas betray Jesus is more than just the love for money. Judas’ belief in Jesus’ person and mission has weakened or ceased altogether. He is scandalized, that is, he stumbles and loses faith in the Master.

“Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: ‘Wage the good warfare, holding faith and good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made a shipwreck of their faith’ (1 Tm 1:18-19). To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end, we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith” (CCC 162). 

Officially, today is the last day of Lent. Our Journey is complete. Now we go to celebrate Easter. Alexander Schmemann, a great liturgical scholar, writes: 

Even though we are baptized, what we constantly lose and betray is precisely that which we receive at baptism. Therefore, Easter is our return every year to our baptism, whereas Lent is our preparation for that return-the slow and sustained effort to perform, at the end, our passage into new life in Christ…Each Lent and Easter are, once again, the rediscovery and the recovery by us of what we were made through our own baptismal death and resurrection. 

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Mt 13:24-43 The Parables of the Weeds among the Wheat

Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). In the story Jesus used the parable to explain the wise ways of the Kingdom of God concerning the mystery and problem of evil not only in the world but even in the Church which is the seed and the beginning of the Kingdom of God here on earth that will be fully and perfectly established in heaven.

The parable Jesus used is popularly known as the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.The type of weed referred to here is commonly recognized as the darnel (Greek zizania) which is troublesome poisonous plant in the grainfields, closely resembling the wheat in the first stages of its growth. By the time the grain appears and the difference becomes obvious, the roots of the weeds are entwined with those of the wheat. Thus uprooting the weeds would simultaneously cause uprooting of the wheat.

This parable reflects the wise ways of God’s kingdom (which already starts with the Church) concerning the problem of evil even among the believers. It is unwise to get rid of unworthy members which may have the unhappy consequence of driving out also some of the worthiest. Therefore, weeds and wheat must be allowed to grow together for the time being. The task of separating the evil from the good must be reserved for the last judgment.

The Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat teaches us several lessons:

  • First, there will always hostile power in the world (Satan, the world, concupiscence or evil inclination) seeking and waiting to destroy the good seeds that represent the children of the Kingdom who received with joy the word of God that will eventually bear fruits of good works, holiness and evangelization in their lives. Hence, this is an admonition to all the Children of God to be forever on their guard. This vigilance should be continuous and unflagging, because the devil is forever after us, prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Watch with the heart, watch with faith, watch with love, watch with charity, and watch with good works” (cf. Augustine, “Sermon”, 93).
  • Second, the world including the Church is composed of both saints and sinners, good and evil. The world is a mixture of the children of God and the children of Satan. And how hard it is to distinguish between the good and evil, the saints and the sinners. Someone may appear to be good and may in fact bad; and someone may appear to bad and may in fact be good. Some call good evil and evil good. Sometimes people change too according to opportunities and graces. Hence, let us not too quick to condemn, to classify people and label them good or bad without knowing all the facts. Remember our human judgment is as good as our information, Limited information make us prone to error and mistakes in making judgment.
  • Third, in the end there comes the judgment of a just and all-knowing God. A God who will never deceive us nor can be deceived by us. He alone has the right to judge. He alone can discern the good and the bad. He alone can rightly administer the ultimate justice for humankind which seems to be impossible in the world governs by the law, judgment and wisdom of man. This is a warning to the evil doers who seem to be rewarded in life in this world and a consolation to the righteous who seem to be punished in life in this world.

In summary, Jesus calls us to patience and faith — patience with those who fail to meet the standard (this is the concern of the parable itself — vv. 24-30) and faith that God will deal with them at the right time (this is the concern of the interpretation — vv. 36-43).  Jesus calls us to withhold action lest we create more problems than we solve — lest we destroy the good with the bad — lest we “uproot the wheat along with (the weeds).”

Think about this! “First, do not fret over evildoers, for neither their present nor their future is your responsibility; and second, God will bring history to a close with justice, and the saints finally will be freed from abuse and oppression.  The parable…is therefore not a threatening but a comforting word” (Craddock, 372).

 

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Easter Sunday

Easter is the greatest feast in the Christian liturgical calendar. The feast of all feasts. The night of all nights and the day of all days. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad” because the Lord is risen from the dead.

On this Sunday, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For us Catholics, Easter Sunday comes at the end of 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving known as Lent. Through spiritual struggle and self-denial, we have prepared ourselves to die spiritually with Christ on Good Friday, the day of His Crucifixion, so that we can rise again with Him in new life on Easter.

Easter is a day of celebration because it represents the fulfillment of our faith as Christians. St. Paul wrote that, unless Christ rose from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without Christ risen from the dead we remain in our slavery to sin, we remain under the dominion and oppression of Satan and the evil ones, we remain blinded by ignorance, we remain alienated from God whose wrath awaits us on the day of judgment.  Without Christ risen from the dead, there is no Church, there is no sacrament, there is no priest, there is no Mass,  and  there is no reason for us to gather today with great rejoicing and gladness.

Through his death, Christ saved mankind from bondage to sin, and He destroyed the hold that death has on all of us; but it is His Resurrection that gives us the promise of new life, both in this world and the next.

That new life began on Easter Sunday. In the Our Father, we pray that “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven.” And Christ told His disciples that some of them would not die until they saw the Kingdom of God “coming in power” (Mark 9:1). The early Christian Fathers saw Easter as the fulfillment of that promise. With the resurrection of Christ, God’s Kingdom is established on earth, in the form of the Church.

That is why people who are converting to Catholicism traditionally are baptized at the Easter Vigil service, which takes place on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter), starting sometime after sunset. They have usually undergone a long process of study and preparation known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Their baptism parallels Christ’s own Death and Resurrection, as they die to sin and rise to new life in the Kingdom of God.

Because of the central importance of Easter to the Christian faith, the Catholic Church requires that all Catholics who have made their First Communion receive the Holy Eucharist sometime during the Easter season, which lasts through Pentecost, 50 days after Easter. (The Church also urges us to take part in the Sacrament of Confession before receiving this Easter communion.) This reception of the Eucharist is a visible sign of our faith and our participation in the Kingdom of God. Of course, we should receive Communion as frequently as possible; this “Easter Duty” is simply the minimum requirement set by the Church.

Allow me to end my homily with this story:

Patt Barnes came upon an old lady selling flowers on a busy city street.

Her face was old and wrinkled, but radiant with an Easter smile.

Patt took a flower, paid her, and said:

“How happy you are this morning.” The flower lady replied, “Why not? Everything is beautiful.” Patt was
startled by her reply, because she was dressed so shabbily and looked so frail.

Patt said:  “You surely wear your troubles well!

Again, her reply startled Patt: “When Jesus died Good Friday,” she said, “that was the worst of days. Then, 3 days later–Easter!  So when troubles come my way, I simply wait three days. Then and everything gets all right again.”

How do I handled my troubles?

How might I better handle them?

We are Easter people; and Alleluia is our song!
Saint Augustine

 

Easter Prayer

O Lord Jesus Christ, who upon this day did conquer death and rise from the dead, and who are alive for ever more, help us never to forget your Risen Presence forever with us.

Help us to remember,

That you are with us in every time of perplexity to guide and to direct;
That you are with us in every time of sorrow to comfort and console;
That you are with us in every time of temptation to strengthen and to inspire; That you are with us in every time of loneliness to cheer and befriend; That you are with us even in death to bring us to the glory of your side.

Make us to be certain that there is nothing in time or in eternity which can separate us from you,so that in your presence we may meet life with gallantry and death without fear.

You turn our darkness into light, in your light we shall see light.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. Christ the Lord is risen today!
ALLELUIA

— Adapted from ThisIsChurch.com

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