The Second Sunday of Easter ~ 2018 ~ “Peace be with You!”
When Jesus appeared to the apostles after the resurrection, he would greet them with the words, “Peace be with you.”
They were very distressed and fearful, huddled together in the Upper Room behind locked doors. They were sad and distraught that the One they had come to love had been murdered. They were afraid that the religious leaders would crucify them as well.
William Barclay, the Scripture scholar says that “they met in something like terror.” They knew the envenomed bitterness of the Jewish leaders who had plotted his execution and feared they would be next.
They very much needed some peace. So the first thing Jesus says when he appears to them is “Peace be with you.”
Thus, peace is an Easter gift. It’s a gift that we can claim and pray for.
I’m not talking about peace between Israelis and Palestinians or Republicans and Democrats.
We usually think about coming to peace with others. But we have to seek peace within ourselves first.
The question is: How do we come to peace within ourselves? If our mind is racing, if we cannot sit still for a few minutes, then we’re not at peace. Something may be askew in our environment that’s causing us to be unsettled and anxious. Something in our life may be causing us to not enjoy our own company.
But the real problem for many is that we may not like ourselves! We may choose to avoid our own company by watching TV or drinking or going out to a bar or a club to avoid being alone.
Yes, peace is a gift that every one of us needs. Peace within ourselves.
Being able to be calm and peaceful is a good indicator of our soul’s health. We should be at peace. And if we’re not, then we have our agenda laid out for us ~ to find out what’s causing the lack of peace. Usually lack of peace is caused by something going on the spiritual level. We learn to deal with our lack of peace by making deliberate efforts to be alone and to enjoy our own company.
I found this article in the Magnificat liturgical magazine . . , ,
The quest for interior peace is much more than the search for peace of mind. It’s really about something else: opening ourselves to God’s actions. It’s important to understand a simple but spiritually important truth: the more we reach toward peace, the more the grace of God is capable of acting in our lives. Like a tranquil lake perfectly reflects the sun, so a peaceful heart is receptive to the action and movement of the Spirit. Only a peaceful heart is capable of truly loving.
Remaining calm in the face of trouble, uneasiness, and interior disturbances is necessary for God to act in our lives.
And the only time we have good discernment is when we are at peace. When we are preoccupied by worry, disturbed by events in our lives, our emotions can get the best of us and we don’t have an objective grasp on reality—we are tempted to see everything in black and white and question everything in our life. On the other hand, when we are at peace we see life clearly.
We should adopt the following rule of conduct: when a problem has robbed us of our peace, the most important thing is not to solve the problem in the hope regaining our peace, but to regain a minimum of peacefulness , and then to see what we can do to face the problem.
~ Father Jacques Philippe / A French Priest, and a renowned spiritual director
Today’s gospel teaches us that peace is a gift of the risen Lord. We ought to pray for that gift.
I have known both peace and anxiety; I have known a terrible fear that would give me no peace, even though I desperately sought it.
In 1982, I was hospitalized and the medication they on made me want to crawl out of my skin. I couldn’t settle my limbs for more than a couple of seconds. But then, finally, something happened inside my soul — a religious experience I had in a dream — that calmed me as if a terrible storm had abated. From that moment on, I knew what peace is like.
The experience of peace is soul-embracing. You feel free, you feel content and settled. You feel connected with your loved ones, your environment, with God, indeed with the whole universe.
And you feel worthwhile. You feel that your own connectedness helps form the connection with others, with the whole world. That’s why it is so important to be at peace.”
Whenever I used to at preach at funerals, I often asked the question — Would you be content to feel the way you feel at this moment for all eternity? Would you be at peace if God called you to himself in the next moment?
I could sometimes answer my own question and answer: Yes, I would be content to feel as I feel at the present moment for all eternity.
The Apostles were very disturbed after the crucifixion. Their life with Jesus ~ their hopes and dreams for the future ~ seemed to be totally shattered. They were afraid that the leaders would come for them and crucify them as well.
These issues were so strong in them that they could not bring themselves to believe the message that the Women brought them that Jesus had been raised. They were not at peace.
. . . . Until Jesus appeared to them. They no longer had to rely on faith, which was lacking for all of them, not just Thomas. They had to experience the Risen One for themselves.
Then enter Thomas. He is not at peace. He says that unless he puts his finger in the nail-marks and his hand into his side, he will not believe.”
Thomas is honest.
Thomas needed to be convinced. He absolutely refused to say that he understood what he did not understand or to say he believed what he did not believe. There was an uncompromising honesty about him, says our scripture scholar friend William Barclay.
But when he was sure, he went all the way, My Lord and My God,” he proclaimed!
At this point, Thomas is overwhelmed.. a week earlier he had said he would not believe. The truth of it all came home to him, this man so full of mystery, so different from other men—he is the same one they used to be together with, who was put to death a short time ago. And Thomas surrendered. “You are my Lord and my God!” Thomas believed.
But then Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
These words are really extraordinary, according to Bread and Wine author Romano Guardini. Thomas believed because he had been allowed to “see.,” to see the hands and the side and to touch the blessed wounds, yet he wasn’t blessed.
“Blessed indeed are those who have not seen, and have yet learned to believe!” Those who ask for no miracles, demand nothing out of the ordinary, but find God’s message in every day life. Those who require no compelling proofs , but must remain in a certain ultimate suspense, so that faith may never cease to require daring.
And those are called blessed who make the effort to remain open-hearted. Who seek to cleanse their hearts of all self-righteousness, obstinacy, presumption, and inclination to “know better-than-others.”. Who are quick to listen, and are humble and free-spirited. Who are able to find God’s message in the gospel of he day, or even from the sermons of preachers with no message in particular, or in phrases from the Law they’ve heard a thousand times, phrases with no charismatic power about them, or in the happenings of every day life that always end up the same was: work and rest, anxiety—and then again some kind of success, some joy, and an encounter, and a sorrow.
Blessed are those who can see the Lord in all those things!
~ Romano Guardini / Bread and Wine “Believing is Seeing” pp.. 119- 123,
I consider myself a Witness to the Resurrection. I KNOW Jesus lives. He is not just a historical figure who lived in the past. He lives and reigns in the universe today. I KNOW his love for me in the present moment.
I praise and thank God and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord for the gift of his peace
THE PEACE OF THE LORD BE WITH YOU!
Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. It is originally based on the Devotion to the Divine Mercy that Saint Faustina Kowalska reported as part of her encounter with Jesus, and is associated with special promises from Jesus and indulgences issued by the Church. Jesus associated with this devotion.
And now, here is a powerful song to pull all of this together ~ , Click here.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen, and there’s another great song just behind it.
And, finally here are the Mass readings for today. Click here.
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord
April 1, 2018
Christ is Risen, Alleluia, Alleluia!
Over the few years, I’ve only shared an Easter poem I wrote, but today I want to offer a more nourishing reflection on the impact of Christ’s resurrection upon Christian people and upon folks like you and me. I hope inspires you and brings you joy to celebrate the feast with renewed faith and hope.
I’m going to cull together excerpts of several of the great articles in the Lenten book Bread and Wine similar to the Jurgen Moltmann I quoted in the Good Friday blog . . . .
Our first article by Brennan Manning states that over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase common in our Christian culture today the term born again was seldom used. Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into personal relationship with Jesus Christ were:
“I was seized by the power of a great affection!”
It was a profoundly moving way to indicate both the initiative of the almighty God and the explosion within the human heart when Jesus becomes Lord. (p. 224)
Now that, dear friends, is an amazing description of what should take place in the soul of our catechumens baptized at the Easter Vigils in churches all over the world and anyone who wishes to “become a convert”—as we used to say.
To continue the same theme in our second article by E. Stanley Jones brings out a theme that I’ve always stressed “The Christ of Experience.” The early disciples had little ritual but a mighty realization. They went out not remembering Christ but experiencing him. He was a living, redemptive, actual presence then and there. They went out with the joyous and grateful cry:
“Christ lives in me!”
The Jesus of history had become the Christ of experience. Some have suggested that the early Christians out-thought, out-lived and out-died the pagans. But that was not enough; they out-experienced them.
We cannot merely talk about Christ—we must bring him. We must be a living vital reality –closer than breathing and nearer than hands and feet. We must be “God-bearers.” (pp.346-9)
As a priest—and in my younger days when I taught young people and adults, I would use the phrase: “Experience precedes understanding.” The point I was trying to get across was the same as Mr. Jones—the only true experience of our faith is to have Jesus in one’s heart. To know him, not just know about him. When I was growing up, all that was required was to regurgitate Catechism answers.
And in the 1980’s, when I first when to study about how the ancients conducted their Catechumenate—what we now call the “RCIA—or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, I was amazed to find out that they did not teach them about the sacraments until what we call the Mystagoia Period which is after Easter!
Again, the point is that experience precedes understanding. You see, in the early Church, they guarded their experience of the Holy—the Eucharist. In fact, the catechumens today are still supposed to be dismissed from the assembly after the Liturgy of the Word and at that time they are taught about the Word and only at the Easter Vigil do they come into the presence of our sacraments. But I’m not going to win that argument. Oftentimes priests settle for the minimum and, sadly many “converts” are not converted at all. They are not “seized by the power of great affection.” They do not experience the Lord Jesus in their heart and become “God-bearers.”
But let’s move on to the third one ~ second article by Jurgen Moltmann. . . .The resurrection faith is not proved true by means of historical evidence, or only in the next world. It’s proved here and now, through the courage for revolt, the protest against deadly powers, and the self-giving of men and women for the victory of life.
Christ’s resurrection imparted the movement of the Spirit “who fills the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in the fire of your love . . . and you shall renew the face of the earth.” The movement of the Spirit is the divine “liberation movement,” for it’s the process whereby the world is recreated.
So resurrection means rebirth out of impotence and indolence for the “living hope.” And today “living hope” means passion for life and a lived protest against death.
Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s rebellion. That rebellion is still going on in the Spirit of hope, and will be complete when together with death, “every rule and every authority and power is at last abolished. (1 Cor. 15:24)
The resurrection hope finds living expression in men and women when they protest against death and the slaves of death. But it lives from something different—from a superabundance of God’s future. Its freedom lives in resistance against the outward and inward denials of life. But it does not live from this protest. It lives from joy in the coming victory of life. (pp. 368-9)
Did you ever think of the resurrection as the beginning of God’s rebellion? Well, think a moment. The resurrection of Jesus Christ turned the world on its head, didn’t it? So the resurrection, in other words, was the beginning of God’s rebellion. How ‘bout that?
Now here’s more on the same theme by N. T Wright . . . . Listen to what St. Paul says taking the brutal facts of the cross and turning it inside out:
“God cancelled the bond that stood against us, with its legal demands: he set it aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Col 2:14)
That is to say: The world, and the rulers of the world, had you in their grip. But Jesus took that bondage upon himself: it is all there in the charge that was nailed over the cross and in Pilate’s cynical us of his authority: “What I have written, I have written.” ~ INRI Jesus took it on himself: and, being the one person who had never submitted to the rulers of this world, who had lived as a free human being, obedient to God, he beat them at their own game. He made a public example of them; God, in Christ, celebrate his triumph over the prince of the world.
The cross is not a defeat but a victory. It’s the dramatic reassertion that God’s love is sovereign, that the rulers of the world don’t have the last word, that the kingdom of God has defeated the kingdom of Satan, that the kingdoms of the world, now become, in principle, the kingdom of our God, and of his Messiah and he shall reign for ever and ever and ever! (pp. 388-90)
Now here’s the poem I wrote to celebrate this great feast . . .
First day of the week now come
The dawn, now dawning
Women rushing with their spices
Quaking earth trembling, trembled
An angel dazzling, dazzled
Rolling back the stone
Do not be afraid! he said,
Do not be afraid! he said,
He has been raised!
He has been raised!
Jesus is risen!
What did he say?
Do not be afraid?
Does that apply to us?
To people struggling to pay their rent?
To old people wasting away in nursing homes?
Immigrants afraid of being deported?
Syrian children in bombed-out rubble?
To your neighbors, to America, and all the world!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
JESUS IS RISEN!
Before you go, here’s the Australian young people’s group Hillsong singing “Worthy is the Lamb” Click Here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and be sure to enter full screen.
Now here are today’s Mass readings if you’d like to reflect on them Click here.
Bread and Wine / Plough Publishing House / Walder NY 2003
Like a sapling he grew in front of us,
Like a root in arid ground…
a thing despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering ….
And yet ours were the sufferings he bore,
ours the sorrows he carried.
But we thought of him as someone punished,
struck by God, and brought low.
Yet he was pierced through for our faults,
crushed for our sins.
On him lies a punishment that brings in peace
and through his wound we were healed
–excerpted from Isaiah 53.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion ~
March 29, 2018
I was blown away by an article I pondered in the volume of Lenten readings that sustain me every year called Bread and Wine. This one is by a German theologian Jurgen Moltmann who was a prisoner of war in WWII. It’s entitled Prisoner of Hope . . . .
The night before the Romans arrested him, Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane, taking only three of his closest friends with him and “became greatly distressed and troubled” as Mark writes. “My soul is very sorrowful even to death,” he said, and begged his friends to stay awake with him.
Often, Jesus would withdraw at night to pray alone in order to be united with God whom he so intimately called “my Father.” Here, for the first time he doesn’t want to be alone with God. He seeks protection among his friends. Protection from whom?
And then comes the prayer that sounds like a demand, “Father, all things are possible to you, remove this cup from me.” (Mark 14:16)—spare me this suffering.
Christ’s request is not granted. God, his Father, rejected it. Elsewhere, we are always told “I and the Father are one.” But here Christ’s communion with God breaks down. Christ’s true passion begins with the prayer in Gethsemane that was not heard.
Of course, there was the simple human fear of pain, But Moltmann believes it was a quite different fear that the only begotten Son could be “forsaken’, “rejected”, even “cursed’ by the Father. He’s not afraid for his life. He’s afraid for God and the Father’s kingdom whose joy he had proclaimed to the poor.
This suffering from God himself is the real torment of Christ’s passion. Martin Buber called it the eclipse of God. Who cannot be paralyzed by it? His friends were protected from it by a profound sleep.
Moltmann says the Luther bible heads this chapter with the title The Struggle in Gethsemane. The struggle with whom? Christ’s struggle with himself? His struggle with death? It’s the struggle with God. This was the real agony. He overcame it through his self-surrender.
That was his victory—and our hope.
At the end of Christ’s Passion, on Golgotha, the place of execution, we hear a despairing cry to God . . .
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice ‘Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani
MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME!’”
For three hours he hung nailed to the cross, apparently in silence, locked in agony and waiting for death. And then with this cry, that expresses the most profound abandonment by the God on whom he pinned all his hopes and for whom he was hanging on the cross.
What Christ was afraid of, what he wrestled with in Gethsemane, what he implored the Father to save him from, was not spared him. It happened on the cross. The Father forsook ~ abandoned the Son and “God is silent!” The Son was forsaken by the Father, rejected and cursed, as Professor Moltmann suggests in this article. He bore the judgment in that everyone is alone and in that no one can stand.
(If you’re getting bored with this reasoning—please hang in there! I think you’ll be astonished how it will apply to you personally!)
Is there an answer to why God abandoned him? Is there an answer to the agonizing questionings and disappointment of death: “My God, Why? Why?”
As a priest I know that a real answer to that question cannot be a theoretical answer beginning with the word “Because . . .”. It has to be a practical answer—an answer from experience.
At the center of the Christian faith is the history of Christ’s passion. At the center of the passion is the experience of God endured by the godforsaken Christ. Is this the end of all human and religious hope?
Or is it the beginning of the true hope, because it is the beginning of a life that has death behind it and for which hell is no longer feared!
At the point where men and women lose hope, where they become powerless and can do nothing more, the lonely, assailed and forsaken Christ waits for them and gives them a share in his passion.
The passionately loving Christ, the persecuted Christ, the lonely Christ, the Christ despairing over God’s silence, the Christ who in dying so totally abandoned—for us and for our sakes—is like the brother or friend to whom we can confide, because he knows everything and has suffered everything that can happen to us—and more.
In our hopes about life, in our love in living and our activity, we participate in his passion for the kingdom of freedom
Our disappointments, our loneliness, and defeats don’t separate us from him; they draw us more deeply into communion with him. And with the final unanswered cry, “Why, my God, why?” we join in his death cry and await the resurrection.
This—is what faith really is: believing, not with head or lips or out of habit, but believing with one’s whole life.
Good Friday is the most comprehensive and most profound expression of Christ’s fellowship with every human being.
In him the despair that oppresses us becomes free to hope. The arrogance with which we hinder ourselves and other people melts away, and we become open as vulnerable as he was.
What seemed so meaningless and irreconcilable—our hope and Christ’s cross—belong together as a single whole, just as do the passionate hope for life and the readiness for disappointment, pain and death.
Beneath the cross of Christ hope is born again out of the depths. The person who has once sensed this is never afraid of any depths again. His hope. Has become firm and unconquerable: “Lord, I am a prisoner—a prisoner of hope!”
As I said when I introduced this article, I was blown away by it, and I hope you have been nourished by it as well. It has changed my whole perspective on Good Friday and my own understanding of Christ’s passion and my own participation in it. I will help to deepen your faith.
And now my prayer . . .
Today everywhere in the world there are people
who are forsaken, abandoned, alone, afraid, dying, mourning the loss of loved ones.
And we cry: “Why, God, Why?” Be with them, Lord. Help us to help them.
And this Good Friday I feel closer to you because of what I’ve read, Lord.
May it deepen our to faith and strengthen our solidarity with my sisters and brothers.
Thank you, Lord, because you’ve did it! It’s done! You saved us. Thank you ever so much!!!
And now, before you go, here’s the hymn from Bach’s Passion “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded” ~ Click here.
Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.
And here are the readings from today’s service of the Word, including the Passion story according to St. John. Click here.
Jurgen Moltmann / “Prisoner of Hope” / Bread and Wine – Readings for Lent and Easter Plough Publishing House / Walden NY / 2003